The Genie Bottle Battle

Posted on May 24, 2010


My young friends raising wild children who think you are alone … this one’s for you. I feel your pain, but it doesn’t last forever. I announced bedtime 10 minutes ago and the house is absolutely silent. It does get better. I promise.

Here is an entry from our days in a 2-bedroom condo when we first moved to Utah a few years ago …

Why yes, we are going to discuss bedtime with five kids in one room, why do you ask?

Because I love you, and because I have been hired by Planned Parenthood International to share my experiences as a hapless mother, I share my evening.

Bedtime is 8:30. This is because, for unknown reasons, I have a meltdown if the house (or more precisely, the indoor space that I inhabit) is not quiet at 9. There have been no scientific studies to explain this. I don’t even have to be facing a clock, but within-seconds accuracy I can tell you when 9:00 rolls around. I could be a grandfather clock. “BONG! BONG! BONG!…” I could be the atomic clock. As in global thermonuclear destruction. You get the idea.

At 8:30 we all pray together. This may include desperate silent requests on my part that people be struck with hypoglycemic attacks rendering them barely cognizant and nearly comatose. I believe that the good that I do outweighs any inappropriate prayers I may or may not offer. Please do not write to correct my theology.

As we get up from our warm, bonding, family moment I hug them all and they hug me. This is so that we will all be love-innoculated when in 35 minutes we want to kill one another. I remind people that it’s lights out in 20 minutes. This has all the effect of a tornado siren in Kansas. Only people who don’t live there bat an eyelash. Any spend-the-night guests always head for the bathroom at this point. My children just “go back to your lives, people.”

Because I have the wisdom of years and took a 6-week Active Parenting class when I was 22, I realize that anger will solve nothing, and instead begin musing aloud. “I wonder if the people who are in the living room in ten seconds would rather scrub the bathroom floor or clean the oven?” Because my children have the hearing of hawks when I’m musing, they scramble. Into the bathroom. Where, without the benefit of percussive absorptive materials (stone tile, can you hear me in the ECHO CHAMBER, stone tile) they begin to simulate a ride at Disneyland.

Since I am certain this is contributing nothing to their dental health, I enter the fray and choose any person looking like a chimpanzee and usher him or her or them out, possibly with my teeth gritted.

Within two and a half hours they have congregated in their bedroom, teeth clean. Of course, I jest. It only takes 45 minutes.

We then begin the “lights out” routine. Here is a sample, well-sprinkled with tonight’s quotes.

Me: “Lights out.”

Bedroom: Laughter, conversation, beds squeaking.

Me: “Lights out, right now.”

Bedroom: Light goes out, laughter, conversation, beds squeaking.

Me: “In beds, breathe in, breathe out.”

Bedroom: “Alright you guys, be quiet.” Laughter, conversation, beds squeaking.

Me: “I am going to walk in there and whoever is making noise gets to go to bed 30 minutes earlier tomorrow night.”

Bedroom: “Be quiet, mom’s coming!” Beds squeaking.

Me: in doorway, “Alright, I better not hear anything but breathing.”

Bedroom: Beds squeaking, hushed giggles.

Me: “Laughter after 9 is evil, punishable by death. Be forewarned.”

Bedroom: Beds squeaking, conversation.

Me: “Deep breath in, deep breath out.”

Bedroom: “Would you guys be quiet, I have to get up early in the morning.” Beds squeaking, laughter.

Me: “Bedtime is an important preparation for a good night’s rest. My offer to murdify any of you will negatively impact your nighttime recuperation.”

Bedroom: “If you don’t shut up I am going to pound you.” “That’s a banned word!” “I’ll show you banned…”

Me: “Let’s have a song. Who wants to sing something?”

Bedroom: “Heavenly Father, are you really there…” “Too high, you sound like the mice on Cinderella.” “Fine, you sing.” “Fine just shut up.” “That’s a banned word!”

Me: “Okay, forget it. Just breathe in, breathe out.” In with the good thoughts, out with the murderous ones, I mutter.

Bedroom: “It’s a whole lot faster to pound them.”

Me: “Thank you from the witty peanut gallery. 30 minutes earlier tomorrow night?”

Bedroom: Beds squeaking.

Me: “Alright, if that bed squeaks again I am not feeding anyone on it for a week.”

You got it; it’s 9:00.

Helpful people might be tempted to write me and encourage me to put everyone to bed earlier, since my chemistry does the Mr. Hyde thing at 9. I am closing my eyes patiently right now. Yes, this thought has occurred to me, upwards of 14,238 times in the past few years. I suffer from short term memory loss, and at 8:00 the following night the memory kicks back in and I suddenly realize I’m on a countdown with my doom. Within the hour I will have to stuff five genies back into their bottles.

I love parenting. Bedtime, not so much.

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