NOTE: The following Vintage Berry Wine never appeared in print; this is the original publication. However, it really did happen, on any given night of the week, between the years 1990-98.
For years I had the same problem. It didn’t matter if I was married or single, although it has gotten worse since I began tucking the kids in alone, but bedtime is a real chore around my house. It is the one thing I think I dread more than anything else.
My kids, as with most children I know, have something I do not – limitless energy. In fact, their energy levels peak around, oh, 8 p.m. That’s when they’re supposed to be taking their baths. Instead, I will find them bouncing off the walls (and each other), or chasing a sibling around the house. It takes me at least 15 minutes to persuade them that taking a bath really does have some health advantages – in addition to being a good habit to get into. Then they hop in the tub and I leave the room, with strict instructions that bath time is 15 minutes ONLY.
When I first became a single parent, this rule wasn’t yet established in our home. At that time, I was happy to leave a kid in a tub and turn my attention to something else. I found that when I did this, one of two things consistently occurred. Either, 1.) One of them ran the tub full of water, causing flooding in the bathroom (and irritation to the landlord), or 2.) The guilty child kept the shower going full blast, on hot, for 30 minutes, building up enough steam in the bathroom to make me feel like I had stepped into a sauna when I finally went to see why he (or she) wasn’t finished bathing. This also had the unwanted side effect of leaving the rest of the family without any hot water for their baths. That definitely promoted problems! Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to put the “15 Minute Rule” into effect.
Now I have learned that if I wait 15 minutes I would find – the same thing I find after three, four or even 10 minutes. A child, laying perfectly still, covered in hot bath water – waiting for the soap and washcloth to magically make him clean. So I go in periodically and check – to see if the washcloth has soap on it (or if the soap is even wet), if the shampoo has been used (or if the head was just quickly dunked under the spigot, in an attempt to make it appear as if the hair had been washed) and if the ears are clean (they usually aren’t).
Assuming I find the child has, indeed, taken a complete bath and is now ready to go onto the next step – that of brushing his teeth – I leave with instructions for him to hang up his towel, let out his water and put his dirty clothes into the hamper. I leave again, returning to a call of “Mom, I’m ready for a goodnight kiss.”
Sure, I tell myself as I mount the stairs again. I know ahead of time what I’ll find – and they never fail to disappoint me. The dirty clothes are laying, sopping wet from where my offspring has stepped out of the tub and directly on top of them, the washcloth is bunched up into a ball and has been thrown onto the floor, making another puddle of water, the soap is now invisible, laying beneath the dirty, cloudy bathwater, and the toothbruth is – you guessed it – dry.
The opposite of finding the toothbrush dry is, of course, finding it wet. If this is the case, then I am guaranteed to find gooey globs of toothpaste spattered all over the sink – and maybe on the mirror. (I think I prefer finding it dry.)
The standard response to my question of “Why don’t you ever wipe up the toothpaste?” remains the same no matter which child replies. “It’s yucky.” So what? I think to myself blackly. (I’m thinking about inventing a magnetic toothbrush. It would magically hold the toothpaste on the toothbrush, making it impossible to drop in the first place. And while I’m at it, I think I’ll conduct a survey to see how many other people have this same problem. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that I never have a problem getting the stuff to stay on my brush.)
This next step takes somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on which child I am with at the time. I have to convince him his life depends on him getting out of bed (where he lays, reading) and doing what I told him previously. Then I have to go through the 10 reasons we should brush our teeth and how God won’t give us new teeth to replace our old ones if we don’t take care of the ones we have now.
By then I am laying crosswise at the bottom of any one of the four beds, waiting for the “chosen child” to hop into bed. Usually there’s a question, designed, I am sure, to keep me from getting out of the room too quickly. (Heaven forbid that I actually get to do some household chores before I turn in, or have a few quiet minutes of peace and quiet for myself.) At this point, depending on how tired and irritated I am, I do one of two things – I snappishly refuse to answer the question until tomorrow, or I attempt to be a good mother, while slowly trying to explain the answer. Invariably, I end up being the first one to fall asleep.