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The (Endless) Rites of Bedtime

OK, self, repeat after me: I will not introduce or encourage any new bedtime rituals, no matter how cute or endearing, ever again.

And maybe someday it really will just be some bedtime stories and snuggling, followed by tucking in, kisses, I love you, and good-night. Ah, how delightfully simple — yet tender — that sounds!

But when the girls were three-ish, we got into this thing — I’m not even sure how we got there — where every night before bed I gave them a “rub back,” as they called it (which was actually a tummy rub), a kiss, a “chew” (that was us chewing up the kiss — long story) and an eskimo kiss (self-explanatory) and three to five “silly flarfels.” (Bronx cheers to the belly).

It sounds simple (and adorable) enough. The problem was, if any item in the sequence was done even the tiniest bit wrong — for example, the Eskimo kiss was too fast or too slow, or the flarfels weren’t enthusiastic enough — the entire sequence had to be repeated. And woe to the parent who dared take a stand and say, “Look, kid, those flarfels were perfectly adequate. Enough.” Because repeating the damned ritual was far simpler than the fight that would ensue if we didn’t.

Eventually, somehow, that routine was phased out, and replaced by “secrets” — little silly things whispered in the girls’ ears: “Giraffes eat muffins for breakfast” or “If you poke a monkey in the nose, he’ll poop a banana.”

Again, kind of fun. But the number of secrets kept growing (secret inflation!) and they wanted to tell secrets too, and it became harder and harder for both them and me to think of the things (wait, did I already say something about a giraffe and poop?) and eventually it became a five minute thing.

Then came the “massages.” Elsa was having trouble “calming her body down” (as we put it) at bedtime for a while, and I found it was helpful to give her a mini-massage — feet, hands, head, back. Which, of course, led to Clio wanting a massage, too. And after two or three nights, Elsa was convinced she couldn’t sleep without a massage.

So suddenly what had been a temporary solution to a real problem became part of the bedtime routine. And a time-consuming part, at that. Not to mention a little indulgent. I mean, jeez. I’d like a massage every night before bed.

BUT the upside was, this became an excuse to lose the “secrets.” I made them choose: massage or secret. Massage won. And we were down to just a quick massage/back-rub and kiss good night. Totally do-able!

And then — how could I be so stupid? — a few weeks ago, Elsa was scared to go to bed (she claimed) because she had had a bad dream the night before. So, I put a few “good dreams” in her head, via pinch of imaginary somethings from my hand, applied to forehead: Christmas. Puppies. Playing with your friends. “Annie” (the movie), etc.

Well, that did it. Clio wanted dreams too. (Duh.) And now, they don’t even let me pick the dreams. Or, if I give them something they don’t like, they ask me to pull it back out of their heads.

So every night, post-massage, I’m siting there, waiting for them to think of the dreams they want, when what I really want to do is shut the door behind me, go downstairs and relax. And herein lies the crux of the issue with all of these rituals: I want to get out of there as quickly as possible, while they want any excuse to delay bedtime and keep me in the room.

Part of me thinks, it’s not a big deal, and I should cherish these little rituals. The other part of me think a nice little kiss and “I love you” would be PERfectly adequate, thanks.

Never again, Jane. Never again.

DOUBLE TIME, my memoir of twin parenting (among other things) is available for pre-order!

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Photo: AndyNor

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