A look at the other side of getting kids to go to bed

When I get ready for bed, I take a shower, put on pajamas, brush my teeth, get in bed and go to sleep. It’s a matter of minutes.

That’s now.

Twelve or so years ago, going to bed was a big production. It would take me hours to get in bed and asleep. Not that the actual process of going to bed takes long, but when you are little, you’re in no hurry and can find no reason why you shouldn’t stay up to party with the adults.

I’m not the only one who was like this. I realized that when trying to put my niece and nephew to bed.

You’d think a straightforward instruction like "Wash your hands" could be quickly followed. No such luck when your audience is six and four. No, washing your hands involves scouring the sink with a washcloth, spitting water at your big brother, tattling to your mother (several times), wearing your sister’s glasses upside down and being chased for your troubles, and decorating the counter with upside-down disposable cups. Man, what a production.


Pajamas are also a problem. When my niece and nephew were supposed to put on their pajamas, they ignored the request the first seven times they heard it, then, only when threatened with no bedtime snack, tried putting on everyone else’s pajamas until they found their favorite pair. (I know now how important it is to be specific with kids.)

When the pajamas (I mean the right pajamas) came on, I tried switching tactics and asked them to brush their teeth. The outcome was even more complicated than getting on pajamas (if that’s possible). It involved opening every drawer in the bathroom, examining the other attractive toothbrushes, and running the faucet and testing out its levels of water pressure.

But the fun doesn’t end there! Once the hands were clean, pajamas on and teeth brushed, the real tricks start. "But I’m hungryyyyy," or "I didn’t finish my dinner," and my favorite, "um, I think I need to go get something … downstairs … I think … okay?" Yeah, right. Nevertheless, I humored my niece and nephew as best as I could do while still having the upper hand (kind of). We went downstairs, and I listed every possible snack for them from the cupboards, fridge and freezer. "But what were the choices again?" "I want what she’s having." Then, after it’s ready, "Actually, I think I want something else."

And so on.

Eventually satisfied with their snacks, my niece and nephew went upstairs to go to bed. At least that was my understanding; I should have known better than to think they would give up and go to sleep without more effort.

The rest of the getting-to-bed process all kind of mushes together in my mind. It was long and eventful. When I finally was successful and my niece and nephew were asleep, I wasn’t and still am not allowed to forget that trying to get me to bed when I was little happened in exactly the same way. My family just smiles and remarks that my niece and nephew are just like I was — they’re easier to get to bed, even.

The moral of all this: what goes around comes around!

Caitlin Johnson is a junior at Century High School. To respond to an opinion column, send an e-mail to

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