In my opinion, of all the parental tasks I've undertaken with my two boys, the bedtime ritual is easily one of the most arduous. The older boy nearly always whines, fights, and claws whenever it's time for his bath. Meanwhile, the younger will scream, cry, and moan when we tell him that his bathtime is over! So, while the eldest is jumping out before we can even rinse the soap off of him, sending waves of water spilling out onto the bathroom floor, the youngest will play and splash around with the roughly 10,000 assorted toy vehicles he's dumped into the bathtub until the water is freezing cold.
Teeth brushing often ends in an effluvium of spit and toothpaste coating the bathroom walls and sink fixtures which is just a lovely thing to clean up later in the evening and even better when we (almost always) wait until the next day to clean it. Then, of course, there is the inevitable argument of going to the bathroom before bed. When we finally shepherd them into their room after wrestling with them to wash their hands (soaking everyone involved) they persist to find excuses not to climb into bed. This is obviously not uncommon for any child. I need a drink of water. I need to pee again. I need my (insert toy fascination of the day here). And of course, the real delay before storytime... "Where's Peter?" the youngest boy asks, as he throws all the once neatly tucked sheets and comforter off the bed in a heap. Ugh. Peter, in case you’re wondering, happens to be a small blanket that has the head of a rabbit on it. It was once his brother’s, but since he took possession of it as a baby, it has been the one thing he never seems to get sick of.
"You tell me," I say. “Where is he?” "He's downstairs!" I sigh. "Where downstairs?" "I don't know. He's...somewhere... oh, I miss my Peter." He says that last bit with a small pout that would be cute if he didn't do this every single night! Lord, help me. We try to placate him with the "backup Peters,” but he throws them both back to the floor post-haste. He knows which one is "his" because it has both of its ears chewed to nubs from when he was teething.
With a fair bit of irritation, I traipse downstairs to embark upon the upcoming hunt. I use the word, hunt because the boy doesn't just play with his little rabbit. Throughout the entire day, he will proceed to cram the poor little stuffy into every nook and cranny in the house and then eventually forget where he last hid him. Or at least, he'd have us believe he'd forgotten. As I veraciously scan the downstairs for any signs of blue, I hear little footsteps patter down the stairs. My heart sinks. "Daddy," the eldest calls. "I'll help you find Peter." I sigh heavily, dropping my shoulders impossibly low in a reverse shrug of defeat. But I agree because I don't have time to convince him that he will be of little help to me. The boy’s idea of aiding in my search consists of following me around the house and literally re-checking everywhere I have previously investigated. Confirming that there is indeed, no Peter there. I survey the entire downstairs twice over with my little “sleuth” attached to my heals, to no avail. I check my wife and I's bedroom, because he shows up there sometimes, and all the bathroom sinks—no Peter. I sulk up the stairs because I have to explain to the boy that Peter went on vacation to the farm again to eat carrots with the farmer. He's not dumb. He knows what this means. And he doesn’t like it. We fruitlessly try to console the boy until he gets too tired to complain anymore and settles in. Finally! But alas, this tale is not over. Now begins storytime, which I normally enjoy, but it’s been a treacherously, long night that I just want to end. The oldest wants Peppa Pig, a request I deny. I‘m simply afraid that if I have to read one more Peppa story, I just may roll my eyes so hard they could potentially fall right into the back of my skull. Instead, I line up an array of Dr. Suess and Berenstein Bear books to reading, hushing them at least 20 times before they are still and listening. As I’m about to finish reciting, "The Lorax," (one of my personal favorites) the wife gives me the thumbs up that the boys are asleep. I look at my watch, 8:30. Not great, but it could be worse. We creep to the door, but as we quietly file out of the room...a rustling. Sweet, Lord. Please let him be just rolling over. We’re not that lucky. The oldest boy’s head pops up from under the covers like a Mere cat. "More stories," he whines, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
A collective and very audible groan escape both of our lips. God, we were so close! Instead, another book is impatiently yanked off the shelf.
By the time both of the kids fall asleep, it’s well after 9 p.m.-almost time for me to go to bed myself. My five a.m. alarm always comes way too early for this former night owl. (All you morning people said I’d get used to waking up early. It’s been 16 years, not used to it. Fake News!) That said, I still don't go to bed. No, that would be the smart thing to do, but I’m not always smart. Instead, I pour myself a Jim Beam and Ginger-ale to wash away the frustration of the evening, and because I'm a glutton for punishment. I tell myself that I’ll deal with the repercussions later–which are growing increasingly more severe as I am now into my 40s. For now, I just need a drink. STAT. Oh, and we found Peter jammed behind the couch, resting on the baseboard the next day, in case any of you were hooked into the mystery. That was a first-time hiding place for him. I'm sure it won't be the last. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @rdhoyt Facebook@ www.facebook.com/rdhoyt