I loathe bedtime. Not mine - the kids'. Specifically, Finn: he fights bedtime with every weapon his 4 year old brain can dream up. He performs a nighttime filibuster that would shame even the most seasoned politician.
It started about eight months ago. Prior to this our simple routine consisted of brushing teeth, climbing into bed, reading a story followed by a kiss and a hug and then he'd settle in to sleep. Little by little, he introduced new elements into our bedtime ritual. First it was the addition of a back scratch, then he needed a sip of "fresh" water. He would track each element like a hawk - if I forgot one step he would pad downstairs, saying "you fahgot my backskatch, Momma."
Then he began a bizarre verbal exchange before I turned out the light and left the room. One night, as I was leaving to go downstairs, he shouted "MOMMA! Lipstick and makeup!!" I was understandably confused by this, but he tearfully explained I'm supposed to say whatever he says back to him. I dutifully reply "Lipstick and makeup!" before turning out the light. It seemed a small price to pay to get him to go to sleep.
But the beast grew. A couple of weeks later, giving him his back scratch, he says, "Please give me an 'itch' backskatch first, Momma, then a tickle one." More tears, until I figured out he wants me to actually scratch his back, followed by a light tickle with my fingers. Before I knew it, our bedtime ritual was almost half an hour long: brush teeth, climb into bed, read a story, a sip of fresh water, an itch backscratch, a tickle backscratch, kisses and hugs, and a cheerful exchange of "Lipstick and makeup!" before I creep downstairs and hope for the best.
For the past month, even with a flawlessly executed bedtime ritual, he just won't go to sleep. He comes downstairs several times, saying he is hungry, he heard a noise, he isn't tired or his water wasn't "fresh enough". He would get into bed at 7:30pm, and wouldn't actually go to sleep until close to 10pm. I look forward to the kids' bedtime like a madwoman, aching for those two or three hours of peace and quiet like a junkie waiting for a score. I am, quite simply, completely out of patience by the end of the day and it gets ugly. Greta endures all of this quietly from her perch on the top bunk.
I have tried everything I can think of to stop this craziness, and nothing deters him. I finally got him to the point where he wouldn't come downstairs anymore, but he just upped his game. He lies in his bed yelling for me.
"MOMMA!" he yells. "I just need to tell you one more thing!"
"WHAT! WHAT IS IT? YOU NEED TO GO TO BED!" I yell back from the bottom of the stairs.
"I just wanted to say I love you, Momma!" he says, completely disarming me. I know I'm being manipulated, and it works every freaking time.
"I love you too, Finn. NOW GO TO BED!"
Twenty minutes later, just when I think he might actually be sleeping, he yells to me again.
"I weally, weally need you Momma! PWEASE!"
I have learned that if I ignore this, he can keep it up for a good twenty minutes. This keeps Greta awake, so I tromp upstairs, furious.
He is peering at me over the top of his covers. "I wanted to tell you you're a good Momma," he says with an impish gleam in his eyes.
I've had it. Something in me snaps. I'm forty years old, I'm supposed to be in charge, and I can't take it for one more second. I'm silently counting to ten so I won't explode, and fantasizing about duct taping him to the bed when Greta sighs and leans over from the top bunk. She looks meaningfully at Finn.
"Santa is watching," she says. "If you don't go to sleep you'll get coal for Christmas."
His eyes get wide. "Oh yeah, I fahgot about Santa," he says. "G'night Momma." He rolls onto his side and closes his eyes.
"Goodnight, Mom" says Greta, with a big grin.
I walk downstairs, muttering to myself: and Cupid on Valentine's Day, then the Easter Bunny... I can get all the way to APRIL...