My daughter put herself to bed last night.
Which is insane. I still remember lying in a room with a box-fan blaring at full-blast just to dull the intensity of her screams at the very idea that it was time to go to bed. It's one of the general lies of Perfect Parenthood that most people can put their kids to bed easily. Almost everyone I've spoken with endured some sort of struggle. They tried The No Cry Sleep Solution. Or inversely they try the 1950s method of closing the door and trying to muffle out the screaming until the child falls unconscious. They tried all sorts and it was just painful. I will never forget my brother-in-law confessing to us after he had his own kids that he thought our daughter had something wrong with her based on how much she yelled at bedtime - but now that he had his own two kids he is actually kind of pissed off that it isn't a well-known fact. I know a few people who simply moved their bedtime forward to their kid's - just to avoid the mental anguish at the kid not sleeping and them feeling like a failure. My daughter used to scream until she threw up every single time we tried to put her to bed by herself. Mostly I know a lot of parents that gave up an idealized notion that they would take their child into their own bedroom - pop them into a bed - say "night then!" and the child happily smiles itself to sleep. Although I do know a few people that seem to have that good fortune. But I do mean very few.
But it's also true that once you all figure out a good routine for sleep (yes - it really is that boring, monotonous and true that this method is the one that works) sleep became easier. It took us years to get it right with her simply because the routine thing sounds silly on the surface. But once my daughter accepted the routine (which itself only took a month or so to put in place) she carried it out and it worked to get her ready. Giving up thirty-to-forty-five minutes to get my daughter to sleep was just the way it had to be. My daughter enjoys the whole routine now. She enjoys making a Choosefest (laying out three different sets of pajamas and picking the one's she wants that night). She likes reading two books on the bed before having one story made up about when I was a little (insert random absurdity here). And when we finish telling her a story she will roll over, close her eyes and try and sleep. It's like a finely tuned performance that 99% of the time achieves perfect results in what can be ten minutes, but likely will be around fifteen-to-twenty. Of course if you get up and abandon her too early then she wants to know why you don't love her anymore.
My son is the opposite. He will literally drag us upstairs to get the routine going so he can get his teeth brushed, read Curious George (his current book of choice), have a sip of water and then have me lie next to him for maybe five minutes while he dozes off. He wants to go to sleep. It's an absolute swizz. It's not because we learned a method that worked (eventually) with his sister and applied it to him. Nope - he just went to bed easily.
Which is why when my daughter announced that she was putting herself to bed last night that I obviously thought that was ridiculous. No way that would work out. But I was going to let her try because she seemed to really want to. I have been telling her on and off that Big Girls start doing that and it's okay. The important thing is that she prompted this by saying she wanted her friend to come over for a sleepover. And that she wanted to go to their house for one too. I reminded her that her bedtime routine is sacred and as long as she can accept it changing then I don't have a problem with starting sleepovers.
That's apparently where I went wrong. I have no idea when sleepovers start for kids. I have no recollection of my own childhood at all so can't say if I did that sort of thing. But I do know that some kids in my daughter's school class have sleepovers already. My wife instinctively said that 5 is too young for sleepovers and she thought it was weird they did that already. I should point out that the person my daughter wants to have a sleepover with is a boy. This made my wife recoil in horror. Obviously the very mention of it all had her to verbalize that my daughter is too young for sex. I pointed out that five year old's aren't even real boys. They have boy-bits and whatnot - but technically they're the same third-gender, sexless, androgynous thing that all five year old kids are.
I figured pointing that five year old boys aren't Ben Affleck in Mallrats - and that this five year old boy wasn't hoping to go into "an uncomfortable place" - would sway her. No. Instead this morning my wife had this exact conversation with her daughter.
Wife: Girls don't have sleepovers with boys.
Daughter; Why (lip qstarting to quiver)...?
Wife: Because at some point you'll start having sex.
Quality parenting there. Especially as the inflection in her voice suggested that the "sometime" would be around 10.30pm that first night if that grubby little boy and his filthy dirty mind wasn't supervised to protect our little, angel's honor. My wife quickly followed that up by pointing out that girls and boys alone in a room together is wrong because they'll try and touch each other. None of which made any sense at all to my daughter. It's not even remotely understandable to her. Especially when you consider that she said to her mother at dinner yesterday - about the same boy -:
"Do you remember when he and I were really little, and we were both inside you before we were born, and then we planted bombs in our heads and our heads and tongues exploded?"
See- none of that makes any sense at all. Even to my daughter. And yet when her mother hears that sentence she seems to hear, "So theirs me and this boy, people are making babies, there's a vagina involved - maybe even yours, then there's an explosion of some sort involving his amazing tongue." It's all just sordid and wrong when translated into her innate weird language. So the irony is that after a successful night of putting herself to bed for the first time alone that my wife believes the end goal of my daughter is so that she can go to bed with as many people as possible in one go.
In other words, I heard my daughter say she is ready to grow up. My wife heard her say she wants to grow up to be Annabel Chong.