It is 8.05 pm, and the mother is attempting to get her daughter to bed. Bedtime can be a bit of a challenge for some parents and their unruly offspring. But remember, this is the mother’s second child and by now she has some long-established bedtime rules. It is imperative that she follows them to the letter, in order to avoid what is commonly known as an absolute bloody meltdown.
Firstly, never under any circumstances should she say the words, “You’re tired” to her child. As important as it is to avoid these two words, it is equally important that she also steers herself away from using any derivative of them. Here are some examples of ill-conceived sentences that parents have stupidly uttered to their tired children.
“It’s very late, you must be tired.”
“I think you’re getting tired.”
“You look really tired.”
“Are you tired?”
“Christ, I’m so tired.”
“I am getting so flipping tired of this xxxxxx” insert child’s name.
And the more discreet, but equally off-limits:
“Wow, you’ve had such a tiring day!”
Saying any of the above could result in a number of different reactions from a child. Shouting, screaming, hissing, biting, crying, and producing vast amounts of snot are just a few of them. But rarely to never do they result in compliance. I mean has any child ever responded to accusations of tiredness with “Your right Mummy, I am tired, I think I’ll go to bed now. No, you don’t need to come with me, I think I’m old enough to get to sleep on my own now. A far more common reaction among children is to scream the words, “I’m not tired,” at you, whilst kicking their quilt off the bed and screaming the house down
Ironically, tears coupled with outright denials of fatigue are a strong indicator of tiredness. However, highlighting this to an enraged, beetroot-faced child will bring you nothing but grief. And also, quite possibly more screaming and so parents would do well to avoid saying this.
When you’re a mother, people can’t seem to stop themselves from offering you advice. More often this advice is uninvited and unwanted. On more than one occasion, friends had lectured the mother on how much easier evenings would be if she had an agreed bedtime for her children. The Mother has to watch her tongue when people bang on about this. What particularly irritates her is that this advice so often comes from parents whose children are quite frankly obnoxious and often feral.
Besides, Esme did have a specific bedtime. Esme’s bedtime is between 8.00 pm and 10.30 pm, after all, parenting is not an exact science. What’s more, the mother knows another magic ingredient for a smooth transition to the land of slumber namely the bedtime routine. In the evening, the children have their tea and then usually play together. When they make so much noise, and mess and have ‘played’ with the cat for so long that one of them has been scratched across the face, then it’s almost time for bed. Then, when the shouting gets even more shrill, and someone starts slamming doors then it’s definitely time for bed. There may or may not also be some crying.
(Christ I feel like I’ve said the words tired and bedtime an awful lot) This particular evening the tipping point was reached just after eight, “Come on Esme, pyjamas on, it’s time I got you to bed.” After a little bit of arguing and another bedtime snack, Esme begrudgingly puts on something that loosely resembles pyjamas. Some nights, this in itself is a victorious moment for the mother, and its achievement is duly celebrated if not with a large glass of wine, then at the very least with a chocolate biscuit.
Tonight, Esme has chosen to wear her dad’s extra-large Walking Dead T-shirt, “Wow, that’s a big T-shirt, Esme.”
Esme rolls her eyes and sighs, “It’s got to be big, Mummy, for all the zombies.”
Of course, thinks the mother, a smaller T-shirt would probably only have enough room for two, maybe three zombies. God knows where they’d find the space for all the severed heads.
There are many parents out there who, for various reasons, aren’t fortunate enough to share a home with their children. The mother is a very lucky woman as not only does she get to share a home with her daughter. Even more fabulous, she gets to share a bedroom too! This is because she lives in the inner city, where there is a massive housing crisis and is therefore forced to live in an overcrowded flat. Imagine being a size 16 and trying to fit into a pair of size 12 jeans, (For some of us, that’s not too hard to imagine) and it’s very uncomfortable. Well it’s a bit like that
The mother knows many other women in a similar position to herself. One mother in particular that she knows, shares a room with both her daughters. Although not at the moment. Currently, that woman is having a nice little stay in her own fully furnished bedroom, at the Maudsley hospital. Lucky lady.
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of sharing your bedroom with a small child, I will try to paint a picture. Firstly, no matter how many times you tidy the room, it will never truly be tidy. Lego decorates every sutface, your quilt becomes a tent for cuddly toys. Children’s dirty underwear become a common sight on the floor and every item of make-up you own gets used by your child for their “art work’. Even your Clinique foundation ends up being used generously to create a lion’s mane. Secondly, you never get to have sex again, not even silently.
In a shared bedroom, even something as simple as reading a bedtime story can end in disaster. Last night in a rush to get a book, the Mother grabbed the wrong one. She’d reached for The Boy In The Dress but picked up Stephen King’s Carrie by mistake. (The girl in the pigs’ blood dress). This charming tale of bullying, supernatural powers and religious symbolism did not make for a good night’s sleep.
Tonight, the mother picks up The Guinness Book Of Records. Both she and Esme love this book, but for different reasons. Esme is fascinated by the woman with the longest fingernails. She also loves hearing about the man who can travel the fastest on a pogo stick while juggling. The Mother on the other hand likes looking at the fattest woman in the world because it makes her feel slim again.
The Mother squeezes in next to Esme in her little bed.
“Come on, Esme put the iPad away,” she says. “Books can be fun too, you know.” Now I don’t know If you’ve ever had the pleasure of removing an electronic device from the hands of a child, but it is not always a pleasant experience. Let me rephrase that, it’s never a pleasant experience. If I had to make a comparison, I’d say it’s a bit like pulling a splinter from the throbbing finger of a screaming hysterical 4-year-old. Except it’s more difficult and more painful and noisier for both parties involved.
But tonight, the Mother is in luck. Esme catches sight of the book and immediately gets excited. She is very keen to find out about the gentleman with the largest nose hair collection, fortunately, they never get that far. Together they learn about the man with the most piercings, a woman who could do the world’s fastest eyeball pop and the largest spider on the planet. The mother sometimes gets concerned about this book; I mean is it ok for a small child to be looking at flesh tunnels? Christ even Carrie wasn’t this horrific. This book reminds Esme of something she learnt at school and wants to tell her mother.
“Are you sure about this?” says the Mother.
The Mother’s memory is not as sharp as it once was, but she is pretty sure Usain Bolt is not the oldest woman in the world.
Soon, mother and child have finished looking at the book, and it is finally time for Esme to go to sleep.
“Mum, can I tell you a story from school today?”
It is now very late, and the Mother wants to say no, but a good mum would say yes. Esme looks at her tired mother and adds, “It’s a very short story, Mummy. It’s about my teacher’s goldfish.”
Esme tells her mother all about the teacher’s goldfish and how it nearly died. It is not a short story, it is the longest story the mother has ever heard, and by the time the goldfish is safely back in the pond, she is fast asleep.