The Truth About Putting The Kids To Bed

And you know how much I love telling the truth. The ugly, sticky, messy beautiful truth, which for some reason we have grown so afraid of in this country. Sometimes I stumble accidentally on a topic so charged with emotion, yet so rarely talked about, that I know that it is time to dig in and explore. I do not recall any time in the recent past when I have commiserated over bedtime with the kids the night before, with another mom. And yet, when I posted on Facebook about the shitty el Crappo bedtime I was enduring with my kids last night… Alone. Yet again. The hilarious and poignant firestorm of responses let me know I’d hit a nerve.

Kissy Dugan, an L.A. writer/comic/mom living in Italy writes, “I plan on developing a line of chloroform based wet wipes.” I believe she is only half joking.

Alisha Blanchard and Lisa Robbins, two moms I have known and loved well before they were moms, both recommended an earlier bedtime as a miraculous panacea for the evening crazies, and Alisha also recommended a cal-mag supplement. Intelligent and helpful.

Kissy and Dan Damage recommend melatonin, although the latter using it as “an ice cream topping. Tell them its ‘Sand Man Sprinkles.’”

Kara Edwards and Stephanie Scotti both say I make them feel less like a “mamamonster”, while Kara has been known to listen to my podcast in earbuds to drown out the bedtime screaming.(Whose podcast should I listen to?)

My most liberal friend Nicole Jones, advocates playing Sam Jackson’s audio version of the classic book “Go The Fuck To Sleep,” and in about another year, I’m taking her up on it.

My friends of another generation Barbara Mackey and Gerard Richter (who don’t know each other) both advocate holding the reins, instilling the “fear of G-d” or telling the kids to “put a sock in it.”

What all of this teaches me is that we are all alone dealing with something in our own isolated houses, instead of in a village when any one of these methods could work on our kids on any given night. Like so many pitfalls of motherhood, bedtimes can be beautiful or horrible, but are rarely neutral. Bedtimes are amongst my favorite and my most dreaded times of motherhood, what I hate or love most depending on a range of factors that are so arbitrary that it is impossible to predict on any given night which we are going to be stuck with.

Last night, for example, the seven year old started screaming because he played Monopoly too long and there was no time left for a shower. I calmly told him he would have one in the morning, and he screamed and cried… the very same way he did the other night when I was giving him a shower and water and shampoo got into his eyes by mistake. Last night Samson also then stepped in puppy shit with his bare feet and the toilet in their bathroom got blocked, and he tried to fix it by holding the brush end of the toilet brush after I told him six times in quick succession not to touch it.

When I was a baby, my parents, along with many other Soviet parents of their generation, were raising their kids according to the famous psychologist Dr. Spock. Amongst this crackpot’s theories (which he later rescinded) was that you should let a baby cry itself to sleep. Every night. This was his version of sleep training. So my mother sat outside my door stopping herself from going in, while I screamed hysterically for my mother/food and care machine. When I was a child I can count a handful of times when she stayed in the room while I fell asleep. Now I understand why… However as a result I have such severe attachment issues that ever since I was little I feel abandoned if the person I’m talking to leaves the room.

I do not remember my father putting me to bed (unlike my husband, who is sublime with bedtime.) Memory may be deceiving me, but regardless I am honoring my perception of the past, and I harbor little to no resentment over these things.

I get immensely triggered by my children’s tears, screams and whines because I haven’t yet figured out how to separate us, hold my center and contain their emotions without falling into them. I was not (and am not) given that by my family of origin, and my attempts to provide that to my children have been slow and painstaking and full of massive steps backward, like last night, when I lost my temper yet again, swore and retreated into my bedroom to sulk.

How tempting it would be to get through “the witching hour,” as parents commonly refer to the time between 6 and bedtime, with a glass of wine. A glass of wine may seem to make bedtimes easier but for me would end up in rehab. I am proud of doing it sober and yet I have learned to act out in other, potentially just as damaging ways.

“Don’t throw tantrums,” yelled mommy, throwing a tantrum. Sometimes when the toilet stops up and you step in shit, it might be time to consider that these are more than metaphors.




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