Bedtime in 21 Easy Steps

Bedtime in 21 Easy Steps

By Christine Alderman

21 steps to bedtime

To the Management,

Lately my bedtime has not been to my satisfaction and there has been some confusion about what I require. Here are just a few tips to help clear things up.

1. I prefer a bath that is warm, with some more cold water, and then some more hot water, and then some more cold water, with a little bit more hot water.

2. Only empty the bathtub after I am done playing. Which is never.

3. I try to make you proud by using the potty. I prefer to climb to the potty on my potty steps myself. Unless I don’t. Please know which one it is.

4. I prefer at least three books from each parent. And then one more from each of you so I don’t forget your voices all night. Because I love you. And then another one. Because I love books.

5. Please rock me in the big chair until I am ready to get in bed. I will indicate this by going stiff as a board.

6. I want to climb in my own bed. Do not help me. Except if I slip. Then help me. But don’t help me too much or I will need to do it again so I can show you I know how to do it.

7. I am hungry. I think I need dinner again now.

8. Thanks for the cold milk cup that is only cold enough if it waits in the fridge until the minute I need it. I will keep telling you I need milk until you get back upstairs in case you forget.

9. My bed feels nice. A clean sheet each night helps my complexion. Thanks.

10. My bed is too hot. I need a different blanket.

11. My bed is too cold. I need a different blanket.

12. My bed is not right. If I get out and climb back in that might help.

13. Please cover me up with almost all of my arms covered up, but not covered up too much, and my feet, but not my left foot.

14. Please fix my pajamas so that the footies don’t cramp my toes, but aren’t so loose that monsters can get in there and get my toes. Monsters love toes.

15. Now that I think about it my teeth are a bit sore. Medicine would be great. Purple would be great. I will say please over and over until you get back with it. You like it when I say please.

16. My mouth is sticky. I need water.

17. I need to go potty. You like me to go potty. You ask me all day. I will make you proud now and use the potty!

18. Please cover me up again with my blanket. But not this blanket. The other blanket. The one that is in the washing machine. I miss that blanket.

19. Please pat my back for a little bit. A little bit is the same amount of time as when you say we will be at the grocery store for just a little bit more.

20. Please put sweet dreams in my head. Only the best dreams. I have suggestions if you need them. Sit with me and I will tell you about them.

21. The door needs to be open a crack so I can hear you. Please don’t be too loud.

If I am not asleep please see above steps. You must have missed one. I can remind you of them if you want.

Please note that I have a separate issue with your naptime performance. I will address this in a separate memo.

Best Regards,

A. Toddler

Christine Alderman has worked with children, youth, and adults in juvenile detention, prison, and schools. Christine has a Master’s degree in Education from Harvard University. She lives in Texas with her husband and her threenage daughter.

How to Survive the Night

How to Survive the Night

By Ashley Lefrak 


9:36 PM

Walk your toddler back to bed for the twenty-seventh time.

Start reading on-line parent forums about what to do when a toddler keeps leaving his room after bedtime.

Read about people claiming to have solved this problem through the purchase of special sheets and fun tents! Read posts accusing these parents of either lying or having simple children. Read the sheet/tent parents telling the other parents to shut it about their kids’ intelligence.

Walk your child back to bed.


9:49 PM

Note the number of people publicly losing their minds online due to powerlessness in the face of toddlers. Commend yourself for not losing yours. Worry briefly about how you’d know if your mind were unraveling.

Read about those for whom calmly walking their child back to bed worked after two nights. Curse them loudly into the computer.

Read one woman’s post that says, “They grow up so fast cherish this time!” Admire her briefly. Accuse her of lacking an inner life.


9:45 PM

March your child back to bed.


Start counting something besides the number of times you, or your husband, have done this. Focus on the tiny hairs on your fingers or the not so tiny ones sprouting from your toes.

Don’t think too hard about toe hair and whether your amount is normal.


10:02 PM

Learn about people locking the door to their child’s room and wondering if it qualifies as child abuse and other people saying no it does not and still others claiming, “If you think it may be child abuse, it probably is child abuse.”

Notice your son, no longer standing in the doorway.


10:12 PM

Remember you have a husband. Attempt conversation with him unrelated to children or bedtime or exhaustion level. When this fails, contemplate his toe hair.


10:20 PM

In a sequence you can’t later recall, fall off your chair and realize you are asleep.


12:13 AM    

Startle-sit to the full upright position. Your baby has woken to find himself in the comfortable confines of his crib and is screaming as if someone just removed his liver with a soup spoon.

Try soothing him using the many methods you have devised. Listen to him wail and wonder what could possibly make anyone being held in the arms of a familiar, milk-scented giant this unhappy.

Imagine, for momentary comfort, that you are being held by a friendly milk-giant.


1:03 AM

When the only thing that gets the baby to sleep involves clutching him to your chest while bouncing in the dark, or spinning in a circle while rhythmically lifting your heels off the ground while trying not to fall, commend yourself. If you cried a little bit while bouncing or spinning, don’t worry. You will have another opportunity to not cry in less than hour.


2:12 AM         

Roll over. Grab your husband’s shoulder. If he doesn’t wake, start finger jabbing him directly in the rib cage.

If he still doesn’t stir, say something concise like, “Can you seriously not feel that?” If he still doesn’t move, there’s a chance he’s dead.


3:28 AM         

Have a delirious conversation with your partner in voices laden with misdirected accusation regarding whose turn it is to go to the baby.


4:32 AM         

Feel a sweaty palm, heavy as a wet towel, on your shoulder. Shove it away only to discover your toddler softly sobbing, clutching his arm to his chest like a wounded wing.

Walk him back to his bed. Stay with him until he falls asleep or you begin to drift off on the thin rug beside his bed indifferent to the feeling of your spinal column, disassembling.


4:50 AM         

Limp to the door while avoiding heel puncture from plastic toy anatomy strewn in your path.


5:20 AM

Tell the small child chanting, “Morning time! Want. Mine. Breakfast!” two inches from your bubbling saliva that it is, in fact, despite sunlight, still bedtime.


5:21 AM

Observe your toddler, bed height, exhaling CO2 directly into your mouth. Propose that he return to his room and make a tower out of his diapers, or play “eating breakfast” with his diapers, or any other task involving his diapers because you’re pretty sure he can reach them.

If he is still staring at you, give your voice the cadence of a new and exciting challenge. Ask if he wants to try something new and exciting. Come up with a developmentally inappropriate and therefore time-consuming task.


5:22 AM

When he says he “Don’t want to!” at a volume that explodes molecules formerly nestled in your brainstem, tell him he can do anything he wants.


5:23 AM

Contort yourself into an exaggerated “C” to accommodate the thirty-pound body now lying perpendicular to yours.


5:32 AM         

When the self-deception that you are getting anything approximating sleep ends, beg your husband to take the toddler to the kitchen. To Madagascar. Make wild and impractical promises in exchange for five more minutes of sleep.


6:12 AM         

Give the crying baby milk. Negotiate with him in your mind. I give you nutrients, you give me sleep.


6:19 AM

Briefly become a human hurricane powered by coffee strong as crack. Stay in motion or risk collapse.


7:02 AM

If you are waiting for a free moment, don’t. Go ahead and sit with the baby atop your thighs while trying to use the bathroom.



Prop the baby on a hip with one hand while jogging up your underwear with the other while flushing the toilet with your foot.


7:04 AM

Exit the bathroom to confront the mounting sounds of your toddler trying to speak over your crying infant trying to cry over your speaking toddler.


7:07 AM

Hide somewhere. Tell your toddler you are playing “hide and seek” but neglect to tell him what “seek” means.


7:12 AM

Overhear your toddler singing to the baby a lilting tune in his impossibly high voice about tinkle tinkle. About widdle. About tars.


Ashley Lefrak is a writer and photographer. Her work has been featured in n + 1 and The New York Times. She can be reached at

A Quiz For My New Mom Millennial Daughter

A Quiz For My New Mom Millennial Daughter

By Nancy L. Wolf




Question 1: Who do you think changed the great majority of your diapers when you were an infant?

A. The Tooth Fairy.

B. No one, you were toilet-trained at birth.

C. Not your dad who slept through the night with ease when you didn’t.

D. Me, your mom.


Question 2: If your answer to Question 1 was (as it should be) “D”, then Why Do You Feel the Need to Instruct Me Every Single Time on How to Change the Diapers of My New Grandson?

A. Because Diaper Technology has significantly evolved since you were born in 1984.

B. Because I failed to correctly apply the organic diaper rash cream.

C. Because I did not line up the diaper tabs with exact precision.

D. Because you have a Type A Personality (as you have had since you were born in 1984.)


Question 3: What is the optimal millennial mom approach to Baby Bedtime?

A. To sigh heavily because your mom should know without having to be told precisely what time the baby should be placed in his crib.

B. To tell your mom that the baby must be placed in his crib at exactly 7:00 p.m. or there will be consequences.

C. If you are out, and when you return, your mom is still playing with the baby who is not in his crib and it is already 7:10 p.m., to wag your finger and tap your watch in annoyance.

D. All of the Above.


Question 4: If your baby is “accidentally” fed a tiny bit of ice cream at age 7 months, what should you do?

A. Scold your dad.

B. Tell your dad that dairy products (other than breast milk) have not yet been tested on his new grandson.

C. Email your dad three scientific studies to read on the perils of giving ice cream to a baby.

D. Relax and say, “how sweet, Dad, look how he likes it?”

E. A, B and/or C but not D.


Question 5: If your baby is accidentally placed in his crib with his swaddling blanket not fully secured by parentally-related, Saturday night unpaid babysitters, your options include:

A. Promptly take an iPhone photo of the offending swaddling for evidence purposes.

B. Call your mom and dad early on Sunday morning to find out which of them was guilty of the improper swaddling.

C. Complain that the baby did not sleep well, even if he did, because his swaddling came loose.

D. All of the above.


Question 6: If you have (God willing) a second baby, you will learn from your experience with baby #1 and in the future will:

A. Not be upset at your mom and dad if they never figure out how to operate the latest model baby video monitor.

B. Try to understand that your parents actually managed to raise you without any assistance from mommy blogs, parenting websites or new mom list servs and look how well you turned out.

C. Realize that you are doing an amazing job as a new mother even if your son fails to appreciate the homemade kale, quinoa, avocado puree you keep trying to feed him—so Relax a bit!

D. Know that you have made your own mom and dad incredibly thrilled to be new grandparents.


Nancy L. Wolf is a Mom of Two Adult Kids, a New Nana and an Ecstatic Empty Nester who recently returned to writing after too many years spent as a Washington DC lawyer. You can find her Blog at



The Bedtime Routine

The Bedtime Routine

By Kelly Hirt
0-13Yesterday, I sent the following tweet:  When I look at my son lying in his bed, it is as if I have forgotten all the rough parts of the day.  That is some Mama Amnesia!  It’s true, isn’t it?!

We could have a challenging morning filled with, “not fair” and “I DON’T want to” and an afternoon of, “you ALWAYS make me…” but somehow at bedtime, my boy looks angelic.  Just hours earlier, the eye-rolling and the “whatever” made it seem as though he had skipped his childhood and entered the land of teenagers!

When my precious boy is getting ready for bed, he begins to get softer around the edges. Once his glasses come off and he’s in his pajamas, he seems to go backwards in years.  For the first time all day, he wants to hug and get close and if I’m lucky … he invites me to lie next to him and talk about whatever is on his inquisitive mind.

Why does it stay lighter in the summer?

Who is God?

For some reason, his questions flow once the lights are turned off and while others can quiet their mind, his is just getting started!

One of our bedtime games that he loves is to remind me how quickly he is growing up.  “In just a few months, I’m going to be 8 years old!”  I play along as if I am truly surprised by the news. “That’s impossible!”

“Do you know what else?”  He leans in close, holds my face in his soft hands and looks directly at my eyes, “In no time at all, I am going to be ten!”

“Are you trying to break my heart?!”

“Oh, Mama!” He smiles.  We laugh and he loves it.  What he doesn’t know is that secretly, my heart really does break a little at how fast this is all racing by.

There was a long time, when I wasn’t sure I would have these bedtime routines.  The homework, the hugs, the unstoppable questions, all the things that come with being a parent just didn’t seem to be in the cards for me.  I was happy being a positive influence to many children as a teacher and then returning home to a tidy house and quiet evenings.

My partner and I were both established in our careers and secure in our relationship when we finally began to wonder if we wanted a family … a larger family than just ourselves and our beloved terrier. After a few years of talking and listening to each other, we decided it was time and we reached out to a local adoption agency.

Our journey was unexpectedly challenging and there were times of true uncertainty.  However, we are so very thankful for the process because we now have a precious boy of our own.  He is quirky, sensitive and intense and his favorite place to be is at home.  He is most comfortable in front of his computer or sitting between us on the couch during family movie nights.

Because I wasn’t sure that any of this was going to be mine, I remind myself of the joy as I do even the most mundane things like visiting a park, shampooing his hair, and the bedtime routine.

Out of the blue, he has recently started playing Pat-a-Cake again.  Strange, I know; but his favorite part is to say, “…mark it with a BB and put it in the oven for Big Boy and me!”  I visibly grimace at the sound of those words and he wants to do it again.  “You know, I’m really a Big Boy!”  One thing that I’m quite confident about is that as long as he calls himself a “big boy,” he really isn’t one yet.

When the talking and reading is complete, the lights turn off and the calm music begins.  He tries to delay the inevitable with more questions, but I say in a slow whisper, “My boy, it is time for bed.”  Most nights, just before he falls asleep, I get one more “Mama, I love you!”

I sit in the darkness and I think about being his mother … all that it means and all that I have experienced because of him.  I am forced to be more intentional with my words and actions since I have this boy watching my every move.  I censor my speech and I try to model the healthiest ways to express frustration and stress.  I must be my own best friend now … instead of my own worst enemy because he should see how to forgive yourself for mistakes and to learn how to celebrate your own strengths.

On this night, after the talking has stopped, I have a new appreciation for how hard it must be for MY parents to see me grown up and independent … making my own choices.  Choices that maybe they didn’t understand, but have grown to accept.

Kelly Hirt is a mother, teacher & writer.  She started her blog as a way to support and connect people parenting twice-exceptional children.  Kelly’s work has been seen in Macaroni Kids, Huffington Post, and many other sites.  Kelly’s blog was Parent Map’s 2013 Golden Teddy Award finalist for parenting blogs.

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