It was time. It had to happen. We’d had a good run at pouring our children into bed at 11:30 p.m., sweaty, sticky, and exhausted from their head to their toes. 

But bedtime had to get back to its (somewhat) regularly scheduled program. 

When we had one kid, bedtime was a breeze. 

Each night, we had a 10 step process. And the steps were simple. And very, very routine.

1. Toys away at 7:10 p.m.
2. Up the stairs at 7:15 p.m.
3. Change into pajamas
4. Brush teeth
5. Read two books
6. Say prayers
7. Light off
8. Sing three songs
9. Kisses, squeezers, cuddles, snuggles
10. Leave the room smiling, patting ourselves on the back, high fivin’, and being parents of the decade.

Bim. Bam. Boom. Easy Peasy.

I can remember when the book Go the F*** to Sleep came out. I thought it was absolutely hilar. But I think I really thought it to be a total parody, because in our world, it wasn’t that difficult to put a child to bed for the night. In fact, it was pretty lovely. Near idyllic if I’m being honest.

And I know I had moments where people asked about how to make bedtime easier?! where I would think, “You just establish routine. And then, you keep that routine.”

And then the universe dropped a big ol’ laugh track that knocked me right off my high horse. Just like pimpin’ (apparently) parenting ain’t easy.

At our current stage of parenting three boys (aka herding 84 cats) there is very little that seems to be a one-size-fits-all magic bullet. Each year, by the time we hit the mid-summer-night’s dreaming stage, I am armed with pajamas and pull-ups wherever we go, hopeful that they will fall asleep as we head home so we do not have to deal with the manic mayhem of getting three tuckered boys tucked in without tears.

And that 10-step “routine” that so easily played out in the early years of one and then two, well, try as we might, that scenario is long gone.

So how do you get your three kids to bed in an orderly fashion? I don’t flippin’ know. This is not a post to tell you how-to but it is a post to serve as a cautionary tale that sometimes those things we get on our high-horse over end up being the same things that we get trampled by someday down the road. 

When putting three children who span five years of age difference to bed I recommend Tequila and a paper bag. The Tequila is to drink. The paper bag is to put over your head so your children don’t see your tears. 

Our formula is simple enough. It goes like this:

  1. Change into your pajamas.
  2. Brush your teeth
  3. Get into bed
  4. Read with mom/dad
  5. Get some snuggles
  6. Goodnight

But what it really looks like:

  1. Tell children what time bedtime is. Children do better with expectations. 
  2. Remind children 10 minutes before bedtime that it is time for bed in 10 minutes. At least one child responds by melting down to the floor and screaming that he doesn’t want to go to bed. 
  3. Tell children firmly it is time for bed. Firmly because you are the adult, right?
  4. Children revolt in unique ways. One might lay on the steps. Another goes out to the garage because he needs to find his left shoe at that very moment. The third melts down into the floor and hits his brother. 
  5. Third child sent to timeout because “hands are not for hitting.”
  6. Other two children reminded that reading and snuggle time are privileges and privileges are earned by good behavior. 
  7. Children, in their best slothlike manner, make their way up to their rooms. 
  8. One child immediately disrobes and gets dressed for slumber.
  9. Loud laughter, talking, games, and sometimes tears can be heard from afar. 
  10. Parent ascends upon rooms to remind children that they are to be getting ready for bed. Not for a rave.
  11. Child in timeout is released from solitary confinement. Immediately starts talking like a robot and dancing around like a chicken.
  12. Parent leaves room with a reminder that there are three steps to earning books which are: putting pajamas on, brushing teeth, and sitting in bed. 
  13. Children immediately start reenacting a trick from Dude Perfect that includes a stool, a cup of water, and a balloon. 
  14. Drawers are opening and closing which means that only 15 minutes after going up to get ready for bed, all three children are beginning to work toward that goal.
  15. Child comes down and says he has no pajamas. 
  16. Parent follows child up to room, opens pajama drawer, points to 63 pairs of pajamas to which the child responds, “Oh I didn’t look in that drawer.” (Parent makes note to self to label drawers for easier bedtime routine since apparently always putting pajamas in the same place for the last three years is not yet taking hold.)
  17. Parent asks if children need help. Children answer communal no. 
  18. Parent leaves room and begins folding laundry three rooms away. Because after all, these children are all old enough to do these tasks independently.
  19. Water is running in bathroom for 4.5 minutes. Parent walks in to turn it off and sees child drinking water out of a flower vase that has apparently made its way up to the bathroom. Parent retrieves vase. Turns off water. Reminds child to brush teeth. 
  20. Child notes that there is no toothbrush and hasn’t been for 146 weeks. Parent opens drawer and pulls out toothbrush. Child responds, “Oh, I didn’t look in that drawer.” (Parent makes note to self to label drawers for easier bedtime routine since apparently always putting toothbrushes in the same place for the last three years is not yet taking hold.)
  21. Parent passes by one child’s room to find child in a downward dog, with no pants on. Parent questions what child is doing. Child is looking for pants. Obviously.
  22. Parent reminds child that he will not earn books if he is not sitting on his bed in five minutes when everyone is ready. 
  23. Child replies, “I know.”
  24. Parent goes back to folding laundry. 
  25. Children continue to have a no-music dance party in their room. 
  26. Parent walks into room. One child is on his bed. One child is on the floor doing downward dog, this time with pants. 
  27. Third child is in his room. 
  28. Parent states, “Welp. That’s a bummer. You aren’t getting to have books tonight,” to the child who is not sitting in bed.
  29. Child does belly flop from downward dog and begins screaming a terrifying scream. 
  30. Parent picks child up and puts child on his bed. 
  31. Parent lays with child who has not earned reading time. Kisses. Hugs. Happy thoughts. 
  32. Child says, “No. You aren’t leaving me, are you?”
  33. Parent tells child it is time to go. Child asks for six more minutes. Parent offers five. Child says seven. Parent says, “Or I can leave.” Child settles for five. 
  34. Parent sings songs, lays, snuggles. Kisses. Hugs. Happy thoughts. I love yous.
  35. Child holds onto parent like a tire boot and is nearly dragged out of bed as parent slips out and up the bunk bed ladder.
  36. Parent asks child what book he wants to read. The child states he did not know he needed to have one picked out since he hasn’tt done it every other night since birth, apparently. Parent breathes a deep inhale, then lets out an exhale and allows child to go get book from bookshelf. 
  37. Child comes back with book. Parent states that child is aware they will read two chapters. Child agrees. 
  38. Parent and child read two chapters. Parent closes book. Child asks, “Just onnnnne more.” Parent responds no. Child starts a squealing sound with eyes squeezed tight. Parent turns out light. Hums. Rubs child’s back. Child says, “I love you.” 
  39. Parent gets out of bed #2. Child sits up and states, “Oh I didn’t brush my teeth.” 
  40. Parent tells child to quickly go take care of it.
  41. Parent goes into third kid’s room where other parent is reading with child. 
  42. Parent turns around to see tooth brushing child not brushing teeth at all but instead drinking water out of an old Tylenol bottle that had been of use for some sort of invention. Parent absconds Tylenol bottle. Tells child to brush teeth.
  43. Child says there are no toothbrushes. Parent opens drawer where the toothbrushes are. Hands child a toothbrush. Child responds, “Oh. I didn’t look in there.” Parent does a face palm. 
  44. Other parent continues reading while parent goes back to laundry. 
  45. Parent comes into room 10 minutes later with notification that other parent has been requested to lay and snuggle with the last kid. 
  46. Parent goes into lay. Talks to child. Rubs back. Hugs. Kisses. I love yous. And falls asleep for 32 minutes. 

And just like that, one hour and 32 minutes later, all three children are magically in bed for the night. 

It’s that simple. It’s that easy. And you, too, can be a bedtime badass if you just follow that 46-step-process. Bim. Bam. Boom. Easy Peasy.

Ashli Brehm

Ashli Brehm = Thirtysomething. Nebraska gal. Life blogger. Husker fan. Creative writer. Phi Mu sister. Breast cancer survivor. Boymom. Premie carrier. Happy wife. Gilmore Girls fanatic. Amos Lee listener. Coffee & La Croix drinker. Sarcasm user. Jesus follower. Slipper wearer. Funlover. Candle smeller. Yoga doer. Pinterest failer. Anne Lamott reader. Tribe member. Goodness believer. Life enthusiast. Follow me at http://babyonthebrehm.com/