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The Five Stages of Grief at Bedtime

The house is finally quiet.  The clomping boy feet and sniffling girl drama have given way to the swishing dishwasher and clicking ceiling fan.  My kids are so cute when they sleep, but the minutes leading up to that are often – what’s the opposite of cute?  Like how I picture what happens if you fall in the sarlacc pit in Return of the Jedi, where you’re slowly digested for a thousand years.  Excruciating.

Bedtime with small children.  It’s like playing whack-a-mole.  You get one down, another one pops up.  Down, down, down, down, stay down, kids, for the love!  (No children are actually whacked.  Or moles.  I’m really, really nice.  There are bedtime stories and sometimes even songs.  Cuddling abounds.  We talk about Jesus and pray bold and beautiful prayers over our kids.  Seriously, we are just so awesome at this.  And yet….)  After another rough night of bedtime shenanigans with my three-year-old, it occurred to me that small children (at least mine) go through the five stages of grief at bedtime when it’s time to lay their heads on pillows.


My littlest one spends about two hours contemplating dinner and whether the promised cookie is worth eating the icky bites of chicken congealed on her plate.  When I announce that her time is up and she needs to go upstairs, she calmly disregards me and lets me know that she’s still eating, and how can dinner time also be bedtime?  Clearly, it can’t, Mommy, so since I’m still holding this fork, it must be dinner time and not bedtime.  Good day, ma’am, thank you very much.


When I reinforce my bedtime announcement with logic and a clock, panic sets in.  She’s not finishing dinner, she’s definitely not getting that cookie, and she’s screwed herself out of any hope of an after-dinner activity, such as riding bikes or playing Sorry.  Awash with consternation, she goes for broke, clenching up, white-knuckling the table, and sounding her battle cry.  She can’t believe I’m forcing her to cut short her evening meal at two hours.  WTC, Mom, can’t you see I’m trying to freaking push my food around my plate?!?!?  As I head toward her, she starts shoveling food in her mouth, screaming that I owe her a cookie.  I get her upstairs, jammied up, peed out, teeth brushed, and in bed, and her anger gives way to…


Her:  Light on.

Me:  I’ll leave the bathroom light on and you have your nightlight.

Her:  Door open.

Me:  Door cracked.

Her:  Morrrrrrre crack.

Me:  Little crack.


Her:  Stay.

Me:  Goodnight, sweetie.

(Screaming ensues.)

(I close the door.)

(Screaming ramps up.)

Me:  Girl, if you want the door open, stop screaming.


(I crack the door.)


She blinks heavy tears away with her long lashes and sighs dramatically.  All she needs is a bonnet and a lace nightgown to pull off this rendition of Mrs. Bennet with a case of the vapors.  She whimpers and moans as she begrudgingly settles into her satin pillow and pink paisley butterfly comforter.  She might not survive the night.  Her parents are unfeeling monsters who don’t appreciate the honor of her presence.  She is alone.  (Whimper)  She is alone.  She is, sniff, alone.


I check on her minutes later and she is passed out like the conclusion to a Lunestra commercial.

And now it’s time for me to go to bed, and I’m experiencing my own stages…Denial:  I still have a few more minutes, mmm, Facebooooook.  Anger:  What happened to the last two hours?!?  Son of a – NOOOOOO!!!!  Bargaining:  If I go ahead and get the coffee ready tonight, then I can stumble to the pot tomorrow and just stick my head directly in the carafe.  That’ll buy me a few more minutes to read these posts.  Depression:  I’m going to feel like poo, like that one time I didn’t do yoga for four years.  It’s going to be rough.  Tomorrow will bite the big one.  I’m a terrible mother.  What was I thinking?  What responsible person stays up till 2am?  Acceptance:  Mmm beddd rowrf.


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