My kids are not babies. Far from it. At 10, and entering his final year at primary school, my eldest is more tween than toddler, and even my daughter’s toddler days are half a lifetime ago. But putting the three of them to bed is like turning the Titanic.
My husband, usually hovering in the background dealing with urgent work emails on his iPhone, says they don’t need ‘putting to bed’. Apparently they put themselves to bed. OK, so they can physically put themselves in and there’s no nappies to change, but I beg to differ that they put themselves to bed, because I do it seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
The aim is simple – my daughter to be asleep by 8 and my boys to have their story around 7.45, 8pm and then to have a bit of reading time and turn their lights off at 8.30. The process begins at 7, a ridiculously early hour for a 10 year old, and is never, but NEVER completed on time. And I still don’t know why.
When I get the kids in at 7 they moan, can’t they stay out a bit longer? I admit I feel a bit guilty. Sometimes I have even given in to temptation and left them until 7.30, but it’s never worth it.
They bath or shower every other day. I can’t take it more often than that. My daughter’s Rapunzel-like hair is washed only once a week as the whole process is so time consuming. The boys do everything together, and showering is no exception. 20 minutes elapse and they emerge, being careful to flood the bathroom as they do, still covered in shampoo. My daughter is wallowing in the bath in the other bathroom, washing herself at the speed of a snail with unbelievable care and attention and equally unbelievable quantities of soap.
While this goes on, I walk around the house and retrieve the piles or trails of clothes and sort out what needs to go in the wash (usually all of it) and what can be saved for another day. I extract their pants from the piles and put them out ready for bed, along with pyjamas for those who choose to wear them. My eldest NEVER wears them. My younger son won’t wear them in the middle of winter when there’s snow on the ground, but when it’s 28 degrees outside, he usually needs them.
Then I prepare the toothbrushes. They share a rechargeable toothbrush – one each would be too expensive – but obviously have separate heads. Less obviously perhaps, they also all have separate toothpaste. So I have to remember which toothbrush goes with which child and which toothpaste. My eldest also uses mouthwash so I carefully measure out the mouthwash into a cup and provide an extra cup of water to rinse his mouth out.
When they finally emerge from the shower, dripping all over the carpet, they are administered with vitamins, then liquids. My boys both have two cups of milk each. Each one separately microwaved to the precise right temperature. Inevitably the four pint bottle of milk will run out sometime during this procedure, so I will rinse it and put it out for recycling. My daughter, lactose intolerant, although milk-obsessed, drinks one and a half cups of orange juice. Like her bathing, and indeed everything she does, it’s at the speed of snail.
They finish their drinks, but somehow forget that they need to get dry and put their pants and pyjamas on and brush their teeth, so need continual reminders. My boys’ hair is quite long, so will often need a quick blast with the hairdryer. By Mummy. And if it’s my little girl’s hair wash day, I’ll be blasting and combing away for about 20 minutes. While one child is having their hair dried it would be quite possible, indeed sensible, for another one to be brushing their teeth. But they don’t. No matter how much I nag, er, remind them.
Usually number 1 son will forget to do his mouthwash, even though he does it twice a day. And I will have to chase both boys round to put deodorant on, even though they have had it on after every shower for nearly two years now. In an effort to save myself a very small job and encourage independence, I have asked my eldest to take the mouthwash and water cups into the kitchen (next to the bathroom!) when he has finished with them. He never does.
Eventually my boys will be ready, but my girl will still be sipping away at that damned orange juice. As she’s the youngest and therefore needs the most sleep, the boys’ bedtime is delayed by waiting for her.
It’s now after 8 and the final sip of juice has been swallowed. Just time for my daughter to brush her teeth and have a wee. Or, to be more precise, brush her teeth, forget to have a wee, be reminded, then go back to the bathroom. Then roll her sleeves back slowly and carefully to wash her hands with approximately half a bottle of soap.
At 10 past 8 she will look carefully through her books and select a story, which I will read to her and she will interrupt. At 20 past 8 she will finally get into her bed and I will wade into the hellhole that is my sons’ bedroom to read six pages of Harry Potter, usually preceded by an argument and maybe tears about who should sit on my lap first.
Finally I will take two pairs of children’s glasses and clean the smears off them.
The boys will have missed their reading time, but it doesn’t matter, because they award themselves talking time, walking out of the bedroom time, going to the toilet time, listening to the television time, getting a drink time and messing their room up even more time. If they’re asleep by 9.30 it’s a miracle.
And in the morning I do it all over again, in reverse, only with breakfast thrown in.