Bedtime is a war of attrition.
And with 5 kids, us parents are doomed to lose.
And so, one evening, in a fit of flabbergastion deeper than our pile of laundry, the “bedtime ticket” was invented.
Have I mentioned that my wife is a genius? Well she is. Every idea intuition she has on rearing kids is astoundingly spot on. This one hers.
We kick bedtime off after books, at 6:30pm. That's when our 10 year-old heads to bed, and I start corralling kids up the stairs to start brushing teeth. going potty. drinking water. being tucked in. getting hugs. getting kisses. getting flies out of rooms. going potty again. kissing again. going potty again. putting oxalic acid on warts.
And finally I make it back downstairs to await the next interruption.
What follows is an onslaught from all directions.
The creak at the top of the stairs presages a descending need “to find the library book I left in the living room.”
The sound of a sliding door creaking open to send up a pretty pair. One complaining their white noise machine is off, and the second, an adoring sibling tailing like a puppy.
Occasionally my heart lurches as I hear the front door opening. A half-proud / half-guilty kid (or pair of kids) slinks inside holding up a handful of freshly dug carrots.
“Look what we found!” is met with “Why are you out of your bed? Take those carrots to your rooms right now.”
And thus, in a characteristic stroke of genius, my wife said “You just used your ticket.”
“What ticket?” came the confused kid's response.
“Well, from now on, you get ONE bedtime ticket every night. If you forgot something... a book, a midnight snack, or an extra goodnight kiss... You get one chance to come to the living room. Then you've used your ticket, and are henceforth banished to your room.”
And somehow... it worked!
The scarcity begets a sense of hesitation which forces them to take stock “Is this what I want to use my ticket for?”
Now, of course, nothing is a perfect system.
As I've said many times, you can only baby-proof your house for kid you had YESTERDAY.
So there are inevitable relapses. Emotional breakdowns are met with hugs, and talking, regardless of ticket status. And some nights the tickets seem to have no magic power at all.
And, with 5 kids, as soon as they are all using tickets, that's 5 interruptions a night! Too much. So we are preparing the older kids that soon they'll be down to one ticket a week.
Assuming it all works as planned... that's less than one interruption a night (on average).
Of course I know how well plans work with 5 kids, so my expectations are tempered.
But any reprieve is gratefully accepted.