Putting kids to bed is a cross between lion taming and putting a drunk person in the recovery position. The sheer farce of bedtime is made even worse by the fact that it happens right at the end of the day, when your defences are down, you’re exhausted, and you need to do something undemanding – like drink a lake of Chardonnay and look at GIFS of kittens wearing little knitted jumpers.
But you must obey the ROUTINE. All the books tell you that a soothing bedtime routine is just the thing to make a child feel safe and loved. If you don’t do the routine, you are a bad mother - you may as well put your kid to bed in the back of a Ford Focus while you gun it to the pub at 100mph, drinking Blue WKD out of a Tommy Tippee cup.
Hang on a minute, though. It wasn’t always this way. When I was kid we had a bath every week, not every night. Victorian children didn’t get put to bed at all – they just fell asleep on looms and down chimneys. And Spartan children were forced to sleep outside on beds of thistles, because it did them the power of good. So what’s the point of putting ourselves through all this nonsense every night? Let’s consider the typical bedtime timeline for a moment…
Ask yourself this. Would you take a 2 year old swimming at 6.30pm every night? No. But you give them a bath, which is basically the same thing. If warm, Matey-infused water is supposed to soothe children, nobody has told them about it. Instead, they use it as an excuse to go completely bonkers. There are tears, tsunamis across the bathroom floor, injuries from flying plastic ducks and broken bones from trying to climb out onto slippery floors. Meanwhile, YOUR stress levels couldn’t be brought down if an army of masseuses ran you a bath full of Activia yoghurt and gave you a vodka.
A little bit of milk before you brush their teeth (more on that suicide mission in a minute) is a great way to settle their little stomachs and make them feel sleepy. Except that the lactose in milk has a sugar content of about 14%, so you may as well just chuck a bag of Haribo Tangfastics at them and watch as they re-enact Lord of The Flies in the living room.
7.15pm Brush teeth
There’s not a kid on God’s earth who likes having their teeth brushed, and no amount of friendly Disney toothbrushes and toothpaste that tastes like blue Slush Puppies can change that. They scream, they moan and they act like they’re in Guantanamo. Sometimes they make such a fuss that you just have to leave them to it – then 3 months later you have to go to the dentist and watch them have fillings in their baby teeth. The whole thing is more painful than getting a root canal with a pair of rusty wire cutters.
We all love a bedtime story. Although let’s be honest, some books are better than others. For every Tiger Who Came To Tea or Gruffalo, there’s a stinker that doesn’t even scan and has annoying illustrations. Or, worse, you could be reading these.
Awwww. Cuddles. They make the day worthwhile, don’t they? Except your child is climbing on your head, bopping you with a pillow and yelling ‘I DON’T WANNA GO TO BED NOWWWWW’
8pm Lights out
8.01pm Lights on
8.02pm Need a wee
8.05pm Lights out
8.06pm Can I have some water?
8.10pm Lights out
8.15 – 9pm It’s Dark. Will a Dalek come up the stairs?
9pm SLEEP BLESSED SLEEP (maybe).
Seriously, parenting gurus – is the bedtime routine all it’s cracked up to be? Surely there’s a better way to end the day with our children rather than spending all these wasted, anguished hours trying to get them to sleep.
Where did this routine idea come from anyway - Gina Ford? (Who has no children?). Are we all going to accept it, like it’s fact? After all, conventional parenting wisdom changes at the drop of a Terry cloth nappy. It wasn’t so long ago that you used to have to put them to sleep on their tummies with a dummy soaked in gin.
So I say we need to challenge the rigid bedtime routine with all our sleepy-headed might - otherwise the only routine we’ll be doing is our yard exercises in the mental unit in prison. Maybe we should take a leaf out of the Spartans book and arrange a bed of thistles outside in case they start playing up. Or failing that, skip the story and let them fall asleep in front of the telly every so often. After all, what harm can it do, really?
Do you think the bedtime routine needs to take a hike?