If there's one thing parents complain about it's bedtime! Who doesn't struggle with bedtime (unless you have one of those freaky robot children who put themselves to bed BY CHOICE at 7 p.m.)? When my kids were little, I loved and hated bedtime. Loved it because - at last - I would be ensured a few minutes' peace with no one demanding anything of me. Loved it because it was reading time - and reading stories is ALWAYS awesome. Loved it because it meant snuggles and jammies and damp heads fresh from the bath. But I also hated it. Hated it because it usually meant one (or more) of them would "give me grief". Someone would stall, someone would have a crisis, someone would forget they had a book report due tomorrow and pitch a full-on panic attack. And so, night after night, I'd either fall into bed exhausted from the mere process of "bedtime", or I'd stay up WAY too late doing some mindless web surfing just luxuriating in the alone-ness.
Well, now my kids are.....old. No longer do they shower at night (hairstyles past the age of twelve require fresh morning showers, apparently). Cute jammies have given way to old t-shirts and faded, too-small flannel pajama bottoms. No one needs stories read - instead they drift off to sleep texting their friends or listening to music. So, one would think this would afford mom a nice chunk of uninterrupted kid-free time in the evenings, right? Wrong. Just when I've "had it" with my day, when my energy bank is in deficit, when I just want to sit and zone out and forget about the bazillion things I need to do, one of the kids will, inevitably, show up in my room and need help with homework, or solving a life dilemma, or request money for something, or a signature for whatever's due tomorrow, or ask me if I want to see their dance, or decipher an essay question about Greek gods, or measure them for their aspiring modeling career. And I will oblige, because I'm the mom, but I will secretly wish I could rig my doorway to tazer them as soon as they cross the carpeted threshold. Because I'm TIRED damn it, and I've earned some zone time.
All day long I just go and go and then in the evenings, when I'm about to drop, I go some more, making dinner, fielding the after-dinner chaos and feeling guilty about spending what little "quality time" (heck, time at all, everyone's so busy!) with the kids. I have some sort of internal clock that allows me to go upstairs to the sanctuary of my bedroom no earlier than 8 p.m. and even then I've got one ear trained for whatever drama might unfold outside my (open) door. But by 9, I just want them all in bed. I NEED them all in bed so I can shut my door and know that things are "buttoned up". Problem is, most nights at least one of them is up later than me. If I wake up in the wee hours (as I did last night) it's not unusual to see lights left on and the remnants and dirty dishes of a late-night ice cream or cereal snack. And it's just weird because life is not supposed to exist outside my consciousness, right? When I'm asleep, this little machine I call my family ceases to run, slumbering with me until I charge it up again in the morning. No?
Clearly not. Now, the teenagers stay up way later than me, even though they have to get up way earlier than me. Sometimes I wake up to find (gasp!) that one of them has even forgotten to lock the front door after a late-night run to the car for some forgotten item, thereby leaving the entire family exposed and vulnerable to any number of unsavory characters lurking in the night. (Don't even put the idea in my head that the door might be unlocked because they actually LEFT THE HOUSE in the night. Besides, we have surveillance for that. No, really. We do). It's weird when the kids start staying up later than you, putting themselves to bed after they spend half the night working on a project (even if that "project" is Skyping the boyfriend, who also has to get up early and goes to the same school!), and having a life that exists past "bedtime". Where once I could tuck the whole family in and be the last one to turn out the lights, a world now exists beyond my "bedtime" and thus the parameters are thrown off. You know how when your significant other is away on business or something and the rhythms and routines of your household are thrown off a bit? I always find it odd to go to bed - what is my bedtime? It's when my spouse and I are finally both in the same room, and we climb into bed and read or watch TV and at some point, he dozes off and I continue reading a little longer, and then I doze off. And when he's not there to bounce his nighttime routine off me, I don't have the cue as to when to go bed. So, it feels odd to climb in, read, and turn off the light with no outside cues from that other person.
Similarly, with my kids, I go to bed with that unsettled feeling of things left undone when they are not all tucked in before me. Whereas just a few short years ago, I would close down the house, I now drift off to voices, TV shows, and the sounds of a late-night homework project, doors shutting, feet on hardwood floors - activity that does not involve me. And so, instead of being able to just finally go "ahhhhhhhh", I find myself constantly interrupted, distracted and revved up. Is it any wonder I woke up at 3 a.m. this morning. And it's ten p.m. as I write this? And I've been sick for the past five days, and I started a new job this week, and, and, and...........I long for the bedtime of yesteryear. Stories, jammies, and an ending time so specific I knew I could be eating cinnamon toast and a glass of cold milk by 9 p.m., guaranteed, every night. I miss bedtime.