The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

June 21, 2013

Battling a toddler for bed

By Scott Levine
Herald Associate Editor

---- — I must have missed the memo, but when did going to bed become such a battle?

My wife and I don’t have the problem. When I lay my head down on the pillow, I’m out, thanks to the exhausting effects of chasing around a 3-year-old girl all day.

However, that toddler seems to have warped into a night owl overnight, thanks to an overabundance of energy circulating through her body.

Despite the sun staying out much later, making it difficult for parents to put children to bed at normal times, we still stay within the 7 to 7:30 p.m. range for lights out. No matter how light it is, we still try to conserve a few hours of quiet time in the house.

Lately, though, when the lights go out, the party is just beginning in my daughter’s room.

First off, it’s a battle royale to get those lights off. We pick three books each night before bed, and once those are read, it’s time for bed. We’ve done that for the past two years, but for some reason, it’s a shock every night when we finish the third book that we’re done for the night.

“One more book,” she says to me each night. “Mom said I could.”

That’s interesting. Especially since Mom was the one who instituted the rule. She’s only 3, but she’s already starting to use my wife and me against each other.

But I’ve learned my lesson. In the past, I was weak, and let her rule the evening ritual, but not anymore.

She whines, but eventually lays down...for a moment.

Once she’s finished asking me to sing every song ever recorded, she has an epiphany that all of sudden she has to use the bathroom. That’s odd, especially since she went to the bathroom only a few minutes before.

But she knows how to the play the game. She knows I can’t say “no,” considering that she might actually have to go.

Finally, after using the restroom one final time and running into the living room to say good night to Mom for the eighth time, it’s time for bed.

A few more requests to turn off the fan and to grab Cinderella, and the psychological warfare of going to bed is over...until the sounds of singing sneak through the walls from her room.

A few minutes later, and “Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad,” makes its way to my ears, while I’m attempting to relax for an hour. I’ve tried to wait it out, but she’s persistent, and hearing my name uttered over and over again for 10 minutes is tiring.

Once I enter her room to see what her request is, I notice that she’s hiding — underneath the sheets with her doll Cinderella.

“Dad, can I tell you a secret?” she asks.

“Sure,” I reply.

“Mom is going to cook your hair,” she says.

Let that soak in for a moment. The first time she told me that secret, I can safely say that I wasn’t expecting that out of her mouth. But for the last few weeks, that’s the only secret she has for me, and I’m pretty sure she’s told that to other people, so the secret’s out.

I believe it’s in reference to her watching my wife straighten her hair, but regardless, it’s not something I need to know every night around 8 p.m.

Once I “lay down the law” and tell her to shut her eyes, she obliges, until I leave, and the party resumes with her having a detailed conversation with Cinderella. At this point, my wife and I discuss the merits of us going in again, or just letting her run the show and talk herself to sleep.

I can imagine my parents had similar conversations when my brother Jeff and I stayed up all hours of the night talking about sports and whatever else grade-schoolers discuss at night to avoid sleeping.

Just like my parents, we don’t give up easily. And for the time being while my wife is pregnant, that means I play the role of bad cop.

Usually by the third trip into party central, she gives up, but not before offering up every excuse in the book, like the clock’s ticking is too loud or that the monsters in the closet wouldn’t be quiet.

By the end of the night, I convince myself that it could be worse. I could be waking up multiple times in the night to feed and change a baby.

And before I can think about something else, I look at my pregnant wife, and realize that day is coming at any moment.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald.com.