Monday, November 19, 2012

Toddler Naptime

It's a challenge to get a toddler to go to bed.  There are four phases:  wind down, get ready, placate, and whack-a-mole.

The wind-down phase begins just after all the hustle for the day is over.  For us, that's usually after dinner is cleaned up.  If I can keep the kids from running outside or having pillow fights or wrestling matches, I'm doing pretty well.  We read books and play quiet games.  At least that is the goal.  Usually life is somewhat subdued by then, but not always.  The biggest challenges lie in the fact that mother is tired at the end of the day, and sometimes relinquishes her role as schedule-keeper.  Then we all fall apart.

Getting ready is pretty self-explanatory.  We change into pajamas.  We brush our teeth.  We visit the bathroom.  If I'm feeling especially tired, I find that the kids change from day to night mindsets easier if I change into my pajamas, too.  We brush teeth assembly-style: line up Angel and the twins and just go down the line.  I sing a Barney song while I brush.  Yes, I will admit to having watched Barney on occasion.  He's not my favorite, but I really liked this song - or at least the first verse of it.  Here.  Watch.  You can thank me later.

If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops, 
Oh what a rain that would be!
I'd be standing outside with my mouth open wide,
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah!
If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops, 
Oh what a rain that would be!

Of course, brushing is easier when the toddler is happily singing the "ah ah ah" part.  And it's just more fun.  They don't let me brush without singing now.  I have no idea how many times I've sung this song, or for how many years.  Another thing our family does in the "get ready" part is to gather together, read a chapter of scriptures, and say a family prayer.  It's just a nice way to end the day.

We give hugs and kisses all around, then lead the Angel off to bed.  Now it gets difficult.  She isn't ready yet.  She needs a drink of water.  Only Daddy can take her to bed tonight.  She wants three stories.  And two songs.  She can't sleep without the pink blanket Grandma made for her.  And her dolly is lost.  And can she sleep in someone else's room?  She might get nightmares if she can't sleep with someone else.  I tell her stories, let her recite the scripture she learned for Primary, say prayers with her ("bless me to have no bad dreams and only good dreams"), give her more kisses, and say goodnight.  I might get down the hall before she needs somethings else.  Usually I can do the whole process very briefly.  Daddy is more patient with his little girl.

The twins are a different story.  For a nap, I hold them on my lap and rock them while I tell quiet stories or sing gentle songs.  Sometimes Daddy will help, and we'll each hold one boy, rocking in the matched set of old, pink velvet upholstered rockers in their room.  Yes, pink.  They were a garage sale deal, and maybe one day I'll recover them.  Not any time soon.

When the twins have quieted down, I lay them down on the bed, and cover them with their blankets.  I often lay down between them to keep them from erupting.  I continue to sing, slower and more quietly, until Freddie starts to snore.  Sometimes I get a little nap in, too - until the snoring starts.

At night, we sometimes give them a cup of warm milk while we rock them.  The bedroom light is off, but the closet light has to be on, the door slightly ajar.  They will hop down and fix it just so if we did it wrong.  We always say prayers, with two little voices lisping every word after me.  Hugs and kisses for both - Georgie gives little kisses; Freddy's are strong and wet.  We don't lock them in anymore, just so you know.  I tiptoe out of the dark room, my mother-heart full of love for my babies.

On a good night - no, a wonderful night - that is the end of things.  I can read a book or take a bubble bath.  Let's be real.  I don't remember when I last took any kind of bath.  Usually, we begin to play whack-a-mole.  You know, the game where one thing pops up, and almost before you can respond, someone else has popped up?  Eddie gets up.  Daddy puts him back to bed.  The Angel needs something.  We escort her back to bed.  Freddie needs to go potty.  Now Eddie does, too.  Back to bed.  Up, down, up down.  I have a long history of playing the maddening nighttime game.

When Alec was about a year and a half, we had played this game with him for too long one night.  His daddy and I were trying to do taxes, and our patience was wearing thinner every time he got up.  I heard the tiny creak of his bedroom door, then the little shuffle of toddler feet.  Sighing, I turned away from the computer to get the little escape artist.  Our bedroom door slowly opened - two inches, six, a foot.  Unexpectedly, the head of a big black bear popped in the room.  Alec had his hand inside the stuffed animal puppet, and was making the most furious growling sounds he could muster.  It was all we could do to not laugh and encourage him.  I firmly took him back to bed, removed the toy, and left the room.  I did give him an extra squeeze, just because he makes me happy.

Being a mom makes me happy.  Even if I have to play whack-a-mole.

No children were harmed or whacked in the writing of this post.  Really.

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