Last night, Bill and I herded the last of the kids into the boys’ bedroom where the usual pre-bedtime melee was in full swing. We sat on the floor, since the beds were heaped with squirming, squealing lumps.

“Children, ” I said, “come sit down here. We have an important matter to discuss.” And dutifully, they all presented themselves in a line on the floor.

“Come sit here by me, Daddy,” said Katie.

“Oh, no,” he said, “I’m on this side of the discussion.”

And so I began: “You guys have been giving us a hard time for weeks now at bedtime. I’ve been thinking it over, and I’ve decided that perhaps you just don’t know what THE RULES are. So, I’m going to tell you all THE RULES, and then we will expect you all to follow THE RULES. In a few minutes we will say prayers, and then we will tuck you all into your beds and say goodnight. At that point, it is bedtime. THE RULES are that you will lie on your beds, close your mouths, close your eyes, and go to sleep. You will not talk. You will not go get a drink of water. You will not go to the bathroom. You will not stop by your brothers’ or sister’s bedroom on the way to the bathroom to see what they are doing. You will not come downstairs to tell us all the rule breaking your siblings are doing.”

At this point, Katie raises her hand. She is on the verge of tears, but she’s been on the verge of tears for five years now. She barely manages to squeak out her question. “But when are we supposed to go to the bathroom?” Katie happens to be our worst bedtime offender.

NOW, Katie. You see, when we send you up to get ready for bed, we expect you to get ready for bed: wash up, pajamas on, teeth brushed, bathroom, drink of water, all that. So when we tuck you in and say goodnight, you’re all ready to go to sleep.”

“But what if we really have to go to the bathroom, Mom?” Fritz is old enough to reason that we don’t really want wet beds either, so which “rule” is going to win? I know if you give a kid an exception to a rule, you will deal with exceptions for an hour every night, since that’s been the problem for the last few months.

“Going to the bathroom after bedtime is against THE RULES. If you have to go, I suggest you not get caught. And the best way to not get caught is to go right there, hurry up and get back to bed fast. If you take a long time, stop to admire yourself in the mirror, swing by your sisters’ room to tell them what you’re doing or invite your brother to keep you company, you WILL get caught.”

“Oh.” Hmmm…breaking THE RULES but not getting caught…interesting concept…

“OK, let’s review: after bedtime, are you supposed to stay in bed?”

“YES,” comes a chorus of voices.

“Will you talk to your brother or sister or sing or jump around or read out loud?”

“NO,” comes a chorus of voices.

“Good. Now, infractions are punishable – possibly by spanking. Everybody understand that?”

“YES,” comes a chorus of voices.

And so, after prayers there was a bustle of final preparations for bed that should have been done earlier and will be done earlier tonight, and then the kiddies went off to bed. Five minutes later, Bill passed through and did some remindings of the rules, and five minute after that, I passed through and chased a few kids back to bed. And we heard some thumping from the boys’ bedroom for about ten more minutes. And when we finally went upstairs, we found Katie in her usual spot – sleeping at the top of the stairs, because she’s scared of the dark in her room.

{We allow her to leave the bedroom door all the way open and she’s turned her pillow to be at the foot of her bed and right by the door – basically it is just as light by her head in her room as it is in the hall, but she prefers the hall. This photo was taken last month when she convinced Jenny to sleep with her in the hall.}

We did not spend an hour telling kids to be quiet, so I think it was a success, despite the minor infractions.

And thanks to Advil, the teething toddler made it all the way through the night without waking. Wow. I think I can take on the world after all this rest.

7 thoughts on “THE RULES

  1. My kids all have really cool beds that they really like…especially when we were shucking out the money for those beds 😦 However, they still prefer to have pallets in the floor all together in one room….WHAT is up with that? NONE of them like to be by themselves yet they are all asking if they will be able to have their own bedroom when we move….

  2. Hey Deanna – Iowa isn’t too far from Kansas where I’m moving this summer. Maybe we’ll meet sometime…I’ve never lived West of the Missippi before. Should be a neat experience.

  3. Mississippi…not Missippi…need more coffee…

  4. …taking notes… (as usual)

    (and glad we didn’t shuck out money for a cool bed)

  5. HA! Awesome! My kids HATE “the talk” that their dad has with them every couple of months and it works much like your hubs’ “talk” worked with your kids. For a couple of days, things are nice. I personally LOVE “the talk” and wish he had more of them in him. I don’t know what single mothers do. I pray for those ladies every single day.

  6. Good rules, and good luck!

  7. I have to hunt for the “baby” (two year old) here when I go to bed, because she never stays in her own bed. She is always climbing in with someone else. She does is oh-so-quietly, so as not to get sent back to her bed. No one really seems to mind here, though

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