Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Competitive Bedtime

When Zach was little, his bedtime was an elaborate production that included a bath, three stories read in exactly the same order using the exact same tone of voice, a bizarre script of "bye I love you night night" chanted in a well-rehearsed tempo, and placing a certain stuffed animal by the door. If any of this ridiculous routine was done incorrectly, all hell would break loose and we'd have to start the entire process over again. Needless to say, not many people jumped at the opportunity to get this kid to sleep.

Charlie, on the other hand, loved his bed and we never had the need to do a nightly bath or bedtime routine. He never made a single request for a glass of water or one more story, and would happily collapse into his bed and read Spiderman comic books. There were quite a few times when I snuck into his room after he was asleep to turn off his light and peel the comic book off of his sweaty face, leaving a faint outline of The Green Goblin on his forehead.

Zoe's bedtime usually goes fine, but since she knows that everyone else is still awake and having fun after she's in bed, she sometimes tries to stall. Since she is our third kid and I usually have other things to do after 8pm, I refuse to allot more than ten minutes from when the phrase "It's bedtime" is uttered to when I shut her door. Considering the fact that I've just spent most of the day with her and really need her to just go to bed, quite a few nights involve some raised voices. In fact, sometimes I even yell.

Since she is so competitive, I've decided to incorporate her hatred of losing into bedtime. All it takes is for me to say: "Hey, I bet you can't get your teeth brushed, go to the bathroom, get pajamas on, and get in bed without yelling or whining. I'll bet you end up being naughty at some point before I shut your door. And when you do, I'm going to be the winner. And I love to win."

"No way! I'm going to win! There's no way I'm going to be naughty!" The first night she said this, I thought I was a genius. Why hadn't I been doing this all along?

Sure enough, she let me chisel the hunks of Sour Patch Kids off of her teeth without objecting. She used the bathroom without me having to ask her four times. She put her pajamas on while singing a Lady GaGa song. When she was under the covers, she looked at me and said: "Ha. I win, you lose. Told ya so. Good night."

"Yep, you beat me. I lost. But tomorrow night I'm going to win." Six minutes, start to finish.

This continued for a few nights, and it started feeling a little too rehearsed. I decided to give the whole competition angle a break, and wanted to see if maybe she'd been conditioned into just behaving for the sake of being good, rather than just to win. When we got to the bathroom, she picked up her toothbrush, looked at me and said: "It's fine. You can win. I've already won a whole lot of times. Oh, and GIVE ME THE TOOTHPASTE I CAN DO IT MYSELF!"

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