July 30, 2015

The Bedtime Circus

I hate bedtime. I didn't used to hate it. My older two children always went to bed without much fanfare. No whining, no last-minute requests for drinks. There was bath time, a story, tooth brushing and hugs and kisses. I never realized how spoiled I was then.

I'm the Ringmaster AND the head clown.

As they got older they would add to the routine--get themselves a drink, find a lovey to snuggle. There were sometimes whiny requests to stay up later but the routine rarely went off the rails and it certainly wasn't the circus it is these days. Then came my third child.

When she was an infant bedtime was still easy. The big kids did for themselves and she could be nursed down. But when you have a baby when your youngest is seven, she becomes a toddler who grows up witnessing the independence of her older siblings there will inevitably come a day when she will seek to establish an autonomy of her own. Mine has declared bedtime her dominion.

The Bedtime Circus here isn't fun or entertaining for me. Every night I get intensely (and probably unreasonably) frustrated that it is not as simple as it once was and I loathe it's inescapable occurrence. I often feel an unbidden rage come over me as it nears and I frequently "lose my shit" during the process. It doesn't take much to push me over the edge.

It begins with the acrobatic endeavors of my youngest (now four) trying to escape capture and avoid the defeat of sleep. We can go from whining to downright refusals. There are often "forgotten" tasks--drinks, loveys, trips to the potty. Sometimes there is a concerted effort by all three to hide or to switch beds. Every next minute burning into the time I have to myself (and with my husband) before seeking my own restful respite.

Lately though, I have come to realize that it is probably becoming equally dreaded by my kids, and when you think about it circuses are meant to be fun and entertaining.

I love my kids. They are good kids and they mostly get along, despite the age differences and distinct personalities. I am trying to step back and appreciate the artful chaos of each evening. How it can be gratifying to see so much love between them even when they seem to be banding together in what feels like an effort to drive me mad. When the circus gets going, and the performers all do their parts, it should be thrilling and amusing and even breathtaking.

        It is three kids in effortless choreography around me and each other, getting a last drink of water, a dose of allergy medication, hugs and kisses. 

    There is the interpretive tooth brushing dance where the older two do-si-do around a small sink and a small sister who likes to make a spectacle of every task.  

      Clowning antics as they race each other back to their bedrooms:  shucking and jiving, playful shoving and lots of laughing and silliness. 

     It is the littlest one's gravity-defying climb to the top of a loft bed, perilously hopping up the ladder and once up there, leaning over the side to wave her long hair upside down. 

       For me a walk of fire across my son's bedroom floor littered with Lego bricks. There is gasping (and frequently cursing under my breath). 

       And finally the graceful swan dive of my very tall oldest daughter, down to her soft pillow-top mattress, falling into a deep pool of restful sleep. It is this I envy her. 

Our circus is probably not unique and it can be challenging--as all live entertainment is--but I have to appreciate the effort of the performers. Someday this circus will move on and I will be left with a dusty top hat, wondering what the next production will be.

Bedtime is a circus around here. #TheBedtimeCircus @notsosupermom_


  1. Yes, I also dread bedtime and have to take a few deep breaths. The "performance" keeps getting longer and the actual closing of the door is later...I used to wait to have dinner after bedtime just so I could savor and enjoy the meal, but realized that was making me way to HANGRY during the get-water-have-to-pee-read-another-book show . So now we eat as a family...and I guess that's a good thing (?).

    1. That is definitely a good thing! But I totally get your desire to enjoy your meal! I try to enjoy a glass of wine or a bowl of ice cream (or both) after the performers are sound asleep.

  2. If only our bedtime circus didn't involve so much screaming and crying! (not to mention the umpteen delay tactics that preceed the screaming). Still, a circus is a nice way to think of it.

    1. It is difficult to overlook some of the frustrations and try and remember that they're just kids. They're not supposed to WANT to go to bed, but the lengths to which they will go to drag it out are pretty maddening! I feel your pain!

  3. My middle bunch of kids ONLY get along at bedtime. The little two are getting more manageable and the teenagers have chosen fighting against the bedtime imposed on them only because they have younger siblings as their rebellion. It feels more like a prison riot than a circus here.

    1. We get that sometimes too, although not frequently. With all of the "forgotten" items and tasks (peeing, a glass of water, teeth brushing) it probably is MOST OFTEN like an old folks' home.


You share because you care.