Remember, oh, fourteen years or so ago when I published this piece on the horrors of trying to get Margot to go to bed, stay in bed and Go The Fuck To Sleep™?
Well, we're in it again. And side note: I just checked the date and I can't get over the idea that I wrote that less than a year ago. Does this never end?? I swore we'd been in an eons-long respite, but now I'm wondering whether I'm stuck in a vortex and a string of three or four nights in a row fooled me into thinking that girl of mine was a good sleeper after all.
Daryl was out all night last night, so I was solo-parenting. This isn't remotely out of the ordinary for us, and as a rule I'm absolutely okay with it — beyond, even — he's a social butterfly who also works long hours, and I'm an introverted bump-on-a-log writer with a penchant to binge-watch TV shows while I scroll mindlessly through my social media feeds until I put myself to bed sometime around midnight. I'm with Margot 24 hours a day five days a week, and on the other two I'm given respite to write for a handful of hours at a coffee shop down the street. It's not quite enough, I'll readily admit, but it's okay. It works for now, and it's not for forever.
Anyway; I digress.
Solo-parenting is all well and good in this house until bedtime rolls around. Margot isn't a morning person whatsoever — she'd prefer to stay up until at least 9 p.m., since she wakes up in the morning at around 8 or 9 anyhow. And if it weren't for the fact that my evening me-time is the most valuable part of my day, I wouldn't mind. But I do. Because it is. So we try to get the bedtime ball rolling at around 7 or 7:30, so that she's in bed by 8. And this feels like a perfect compromise! It works.
(Until it doesn't.)
Last night, it took two hours and fifteen minutes (and YES. I was counting.) before she finally closed her bedroom door for the last time and fell asleep.
I'll admit something here, and you can judge me until you're blue in the face if this doesn't sit well with you — I'm not going to stop doing it, though.
When she arches her back and refuses to go to bed, I threaten to eat the m&ms we bought her in a last-ditch attempt to bribe her to quit sucking her thumb. Those m&ms are gold to her; and every night up until last night, telling her that if she didn't go to bed right this minute I'd march downstairs and start eating her chocolate worked. (YES there was crying, and NO I didn't feel bad about it. YOU TRY DEALING WITH HER.)
Oh, but last night? She didn't give two shits. I ate four m&ms, one at a time on each of the trips I made downstairs to dramatically convey my exasperation and resolve; and each time, she stood boldly in the middle of the hallway with her hands on her tiny hips. She didn't care one iota. She was not going to bed, and that was all there was to it.
And don't get me wrong – I should make this clear – I don't even think our bedtime rules are that stringent. Margot has full license to turn her light on, sing, dance and read books all night long if that's what she's in the mood to do barring a single shred of fatigue — our only stipulation is that unless she's flitting down the hallway to go to the bathroom, she must be in her room with the door closed. Because I'm off-duty. And the last thing I need to know is that she's into the hair-cutting scissors again or getting into some other such trouble while I'm two floors down and completely out of earshot.
I tried everything. Nothing worked except for the gradual passing of time and the associated wearing down of our respective spirits.
"I have a secret sank down in your heart," she said, standing just inside her doorway. I knelt down, and into my ear she whispered, "I love you."
"I love you too, girl. More than anything on this planet," I replied.
She said goodnight and closed her door, but only for half a second before it cracked open again, and out came a tiny arm, fully extended. Her hand was in a fist, and her pinky was sticking straight out. I looped my own finger around it. She swore to me that she'd stay in her room; "...and don't eat any more of my m&ms," she said to me in whispered secret sank down into my heart again.
It didn't end there. I so badly wanted it to. It'd been an hour and a quarter at that point, and I stayed camped out at the foot of her door for about half an hour longer — I figured I'd maybe have to do it until a bedsore started forming on my ass, but I eventually snuck away and went downstairs.
An hour later, more m&ms eaten, more hands on hips, and at last, a white flag waving: she'd fallen, so to speak, and I had conquered.
I didn't even want that candy — I just wanted to be downstairs. But hell hath no fury like I do when I've been working all day, have made dinner, have child-wrangled solo and when I have an episode of The Handmaid's Tale paused at the opening scene and a glass of wine untouched on the covfefe table.