Let’s establish a few truths-
When young children get overtired and overstimulated, the chances of mayhem and meltdown increase a lot. Right? Seems pretty obvious...
When you’re on holiday with small children, it’s practically impossible to keep them on a regular sleep schedule. I gave up trying a while ago- it’s easier to let them run wild and free, because they’re not gonna sleep. New place that’s not home, lots of excitement- just the thing to get the kiddies overtired and overstimulated (see above).
We went on a family road trip to LA over July 4th weekend to stay with some friends in Santa Monica. They have a little boy who’s about 9 months older than my daughter, and the two of them get along brilliantly- playing, running, laughing, running, whining, eating, laughing, running. All day long. By 7:00 pm (my daughter’s regular bath time), she was completely wound up- way too jacked to even consider starting the bedtime process.
Fortunately, our friends’ son stayed fairly close to his regular schedule, which allowed our little tweeker some solo time to unwind a bit.
She would chill out with the iPad, while the grown-ups attempted to party as quickly as possible- trying to squeeze in some adult fun before we all got too tired and fell asleep in our chairs. Ah, the glitz and glamor of parenthood.
I would check in with my daughter every 5-10 minutes-
“Hey, sweetie, it’s gonna be bedtime soon, so just a little while longer with the iPad, ok?”
If we give her plenty of advance notice, things tend to roll a little easier.
“No, Dad, I pway Cookie Doodle.” Hmmmmm.
“Yes Sweetie, you can play Cookie Doodle, but after 3 more cookies it’s time for book and bed. Ok?” She pretended not to hear me.
“Aleena, 3 more cookies and then it’s bedtime. Ok, Sweetie?” She gave me a cursory glance and went right back to her Moose shaped pumpkin cookie. Right.
“Okay, you’ve got two choices- you can give me the iPad now and go straight to bed, or you can make three more cookies and have a book before you go to sleep. I hope you make the fun choice!” She looked me right in the eye while she weighed her options (I call it “The Cold Blue Stare”), and when she realized that I had somehow outsmarted her again, she acquiesced.
“I make fwee more cookies, Dad.”
“Great choice! And then you’ll give the iPad back to me.” I laid my best eye contact/The Force stuff on her when I delivered that line. Oh Great Santa, please make this go easy, Amen.
“Ok, Dad.” Nice! I took the first round! Pow!
Back to some adult time before the second round.
After the third cookie, she handed over the iPad as agreed (!?), but then asked for Mrs. Huttsez to read the bedtime book instead of me.
“No, Dad, I want Mom.”
Hmmmm, she was up to something. I had a feeling that Mrs. H was about to get worked. Because my daughter knows that her Mum is a lot more “workable” than me. And so we get to the crux of this blog entry.
I think a lot of parents naturally fall into a “good cop/bad cop” system with their kids. I’ve seen it a lot amongst friends and family, and it’s how I was raised. More often than not, there’s one parent who is not to be messed with. The one who wields The Mighty Sword of Discipline. The one who can bring an unruly child back from the brink with a quick word and sharp look. I guess this would be the “bad cop”, which is the role I have at Casa Huttsez. I may not like it at times, but if the shoe fits....
I gotta say, I’m not the biggest fan of the “bad cop” label, so last weekend I renamed/reinvented myself. Back to the story.
So, we were hanging out on the porch enjoying our adult time- talking, laughing, talking, drinking, laughing- while Mrs. Huttsez was alligator wrestling our daughter into bed. After about a half hour, my lovely wife burst through the door. She looked like she was trying to stop her brain from melting out of her ears.
“You’ve got to come in here right now. She’s totally screaming and freaking out, and she won’t calm down.” I think she even pointed at the room. And everyone thinks my daughter gets her bossiness from me. Ha!
Ok. I shifted gears in my brain, grinding the clutch once or twice, hopped up and said-
“Time to send in The Cleaner.”
I’d been feeling all Pulp Fiction, driving around LA seeing all the cool diners and kitschy 50’s buildings and Hiplings. So I channeled a bit of Harvey Keitel, and went in to clean up the mess.
Once I was in the room she went through the list of things she wanted instead of going to bed- water, food, iPad, another book, and bubbles. She was probably feeling uncomfortable going to sleep on her own in an unfamiliar place, and didn’t want to be alone.
“Well, we can’t do any of those things because it’s very late, Sweetie. But I have an idea, would you like to hear it?” Talking all gentle and shit.
“Ok, Dad.” She likes ideas.
“Well, if you can be quiet and not scream or yell, I’ll come back and check on you in a minute, and I’ll tuck you in and give you another kiss goodnight as well. And I’ll leave the door open all the way. But you have to be quiet, ok?” She took a moment. Or maybe she was farting.
“Ok, Dad.” What?! “You come back in a minute?” She was using her best heart-melting voice.
“Yes, I’ll uh be back in a minute.” I couldn’t believe my luck.
She stayed quiet, and I went back in after maybe 2-3 minutes, tucked her in and told her I’d be back in another minute. Then I waited 5 minutes, then 10, and by 15 minutes she was out. Wow.
I know I was lucky, I’m not gonna kid myself or you. But who cares how it happens when you end up looking like a total rock star, right? Hello Cleveland!
So no more “bad cop”- you can call me The Cleaner.
That’s it for now.
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Thanks for reading. See you soon.