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The Parent Trip
By Shelby Cain
When I had my first daughter, friends gave me a ‘hilarious’ book about getting kids to bed. To put it mildly, the book is harsh. I briefly flipped through it, cringing at the plentiful expletives, and then closed it with a grimace, giving the insincere “awesome, thanks”. In my head I was thinking, I don’t know what these guys are doing wrong, but I would never get this wound up about bedtime. They just gave each other these knowing looks and said “just wait…you’ll see.”
Fast-forward four years. As I stood at the top of the stairs last night, watching the door handle on Four’s room for even the slightest quiver indicating she might DARE to open it for the nine-hundredth time…I got it. Man, did I get it. Bedtime starts so innocently. As the guilt from the previous nights rage still lingers in my mind, I think…okay, tonight’s going to be better. It has to be. I’ll make sure they both get a healthy snack. Eat it. No TV. I’ll have infinite patience as they climb the stairs in newly creative ways, hanging on the banister and making sloths look speedy. These are my intentions. But I’m tired. And after I’ve repeated every request at least fourteen times, the rage starts bubbling. I think this must be what the Incredible Hulk feels like just before he rips off his shirt and turns green. I grit my teeth and try harder.
“Okay guys. Let’s get your teeth brushed.” There’s fooling around, giggling…no listening. I think to myself, relax a bit, don’t be so uptight. I manage to get most of their teeth brushed and stuff them into pajamas. Four thinks it’s hilarious to jump on Mommy’s back while I’m trying to wedge a pull-up on Two. Oh oh…Hulk’s coming. My veins start to pop out. They fight over which story to read and then we have hugs and kisses and songs and finally, finally…I close the doors. Ten seconds. That’s usually how long it takes for me to walk away and give one hopeful sigh before it starts.
“Mommy! I’m thirsty! I have to pee! I had a bad dream!” After all the work you just put in getting to this moment, it really feels like a slap in the face, doesn’t it? Why can’t they just blissfully drift off, the trace of a smile still lingering on their lips. The next blur of time is an orchestra of doors opening, footsteps, doors slamming, rage, tears, escalating threats and finally, sleep. It’s not the way I want to end the day, so then the guilt comes…what kind of a parent am I? I’m venturing to say, the normal kind.