Yesterday afternoon right before my wife came home I was taking a breather. I was supposed to be making a tasty dinner - that did not happen. I made a lousy dinner because some part of brain actually agreed with my eyes (the idiots!) who saw the words, "honey-beef taco" and thought that sounded nice. It was awful - but it did only take 10 minutes. So as the kitchen was already clean I sat on the couch with a handful of honey-roasted peanuts. A few minutes later and my daughter and I had this conversation -:
Daughter: Quick Daddy! I've hidden a peanut on Owen and you have to find it!
Me: I am definitely not playing this game.
I didn't find the peanut. And as things seem to have been going in and coming out of him without anything seemingly preventing that from happening I'm going to assume he ate it.
I'm guessing the swimming tired my daughter out. She's irritable and clumsy - and there's no way I'll believe she's just hungry. No one eats that much cheese in one go and can still be hungry. She just learned that there's such a thing as cheese-spray in a can and wants to try it. Not a chance. Not in my house. As a European it offends me enough that most of the cheese I tend to pick up is that bland, rancid, rubber crap. So spray-able cheese is out. I told her she should nap. She's refused but is lying on the living-room carpet wrapped up snugly in the Warmest Blanket In The World (courtesy of friends of my wife who picked it up in South America on their honeymoon) and will no doubt be driven to dementia due to heat stroke within the hour. Why can't she just take a fifteen minute nap? She'd honestly like that.
But then getting into a sleep routine with her took a lot of effort and patience. That's the downside of co-sleeping and raising your baby like a chimp. All the studies show that at older ages these kids tend to develop more confidence and autonomy. But the earlier period of separation anxiety is a living Hell. When she was younger than my son is we were living with our in-laws after moving back to the US. We would spend a good ninety minutes trying to calm down a rabid-screaming banshee of a child. And don't give me the, 'oh just leave the room, shut the door and they'll fall asleep eventually." She did not. Hours later she did not. And worse - she would get so worked up she would actually throw up and nearly choke. My sister swears she spent almost six hours listening to the screaming and then gave in to her daughter. So we would have to lie in the room and listen to the angry screams as she tried to stay awake. Luckily when it got so muggy and humid we had this gigantic box-fan on that sounded like there was a helicopter in the room. That created a kind of trance-like noise and helped speed things up. It also allowed my wife (mostly) or I to creep out of the room when we thought she'd fallen asleep.
Fast forward a few months and we had some sort of pattern. We were renting a ranch house (awful, terrible things they are) and my daughter had her own room. Which she didn't want to sleep in obviously. For a brief and very odd period our daughter told us to just leave her go to sleep in her room. And she did! That did not last long at all and it went back to lying down with her for 20-30 minutes and then trying to creep out. Forward a little further until we lived in the house we do now and we have the bedtime plan nailed. And the best thing of all was that I got to put her to bed, so my wife got a break. Until my son needed a bedtime that is.
Unfortunately for my wife the bed-time plan was designed by me. It consists of heading upstairs around 7 to 7.15 and getting cleaned/brushed/dressed in pajamas. Then my daughter will pick either one of us to put her to bed, and the other one gets to put my son to sleep. Whoever my daughter plumps for (let's say it's me) will read one or two books - one usually being the dire Geronimo Stilton books, if we have one loaned from the library. Then we turn the lights out and my daughter gets to hear two stories that are made up but must follow a certain pattern. The first starts off with her saying, "Tell me a story about when you were a little boy." Then I have to tell her a story I made up about racing my sister home from school so we could eat the last of the cake. I would take a short cut through a farm and have to dodge various animals. This story must include me excitedly stating that I slid under a cow and it squirted milk in my ear, and that I hopped over a chicken but squashed it a little bit, so it laid an egg. Then I race down the back garden and get to the cake first - complete with excited tense "will-I-win-the-race!!!" commentary.
The second story also has a firm pattern to it. My daughter will ask, "Tell me a story about when you were a little...." and then make up a random thing. It's usually a vegetable growing in the garden. Outside of that it's usually a farm animal.If it is a farm animal I have to recount the tale of being in the farm one day doing farmey stuff and then this weird little boy came belting over the fence- seemingly racing for cake by the look on his face - before getting milk in his ear and squashing an egg out of a chicken. Then he disappeared over the fence never to be seen or heard from again.
But mostly I'm a vegetable. And the story - after framing the scene and tellign her the name of all the carrot friends - proceeds in a formulaic, and increasingly odd way. It started off sweet. And then with my wife "helping" and me indulging it has become borderline mental. Let's say she makes me a carrot. It goes like this -:
Once upon a time a long long long long long time ago, there was a little carrot named...(she yells, "Daddy!"). Anyway, he was just hanging around in the garden, just being all orange and stuff like that. He had big green hair sticking out of the ground, but the rest of him was just plopped there right in the soil. He looked to his left and there was a worm. So the carrot said,..(she says, "Hey worm."). He looked to his right and there was a bee. So the carrot said....(she says, "Hey bee."). Anyway, not much of anything was happening, and the carrot was just fine with that. (Then she will ask me what the names of friends of the carrot, and I have to name three, including one who is the best-friend)
Then one day, when the carrot was just being all carroty a little girl named....(she yells, "Evelyn!!!") came running out of the house and walked over to the carrot. Then, without any word of warning, she grabbed the carrot by his hair and pulled him right out of the ground! Before he knew what was happening she had taken him in the house, washed him, cut his hair off and put him on a plate. Before the carrot knew what was going on she dipped him in ranch dressing, and ate him!!!
Originally the story ended there. But then my daughter added on two new parts - all of which she learned from my wife as explanations to questions she had - that I now must tell her or the story won't be over and she will not go to sleep.
So the carrot slid down her throat, and wiggled around into the little girls' stomach! (she says, "did he then take a rest!?" and I have to say, "Yes.") Then, a little while later, when the carrot was almost asleep, he heard the little girl yell, "I need to go to the bathroom!!" The carrot had no idea what the meant, so he tried to go to sleep. A minute later, the carrot heard a noise (at which point my cute little innocent girl will make a giant farting noise) and the carrot landed in the toilet. (she will yell, "Splash!!" and then ask, "did he get pooped out Daddy!!" and I have to say, "Yes.") Then, a little while later the carrot heard the little girl yell, "I need help wiping!" and a minute later he heard the toilet flush. The carrot then went down the toilet pipe, into the basement, along a bigger pipe into the street, and then it is carried off to the water treatment plant by sewage pipes owned by the town's municipal sewage and water authority. After being desalinated, cleaned and hydrological date has been collected at a gaging station the water then flows out to the ocean. Eventually the carrot ends up way out in the ocean with all his friends. (she says, "did he then take a rest Daddy!?" and I have to say, "Yes.")
Psychologically that is horrifying. My innocent little story about a carrot that she ate was nice. It was short too. Somehow that had morphed into her cannibalizing her carrot/father. That was bad enough. Then, due to my wife having explained both internal digestion and waste-water and sewage flow capacity processes for some bizarre reason it's become that mental story. That's not normal. But it works like a charm. Because now, after telling that story (and playing a quick game called Monday, Thursday, Sunday where I have to make up ludicrous stuff that happened on those three days - "Mommy had to go to work, but instead of going in the car she swam there in a canal filled with gravy") she falls asleep. Within five minutes. Sometimes my wife or I will as well (tales about where your poo goes is very relaxing) but we are usually both downstairs and free by 8pm.
At which point, if the night is right, I'm ready for a nice cup of tea, a back scratch and sixty minutes of Wipeout.