What to Expect When you Expect Goodnight

Written by Emily


I’ve been waiting for what feels like an eternity to write about or even join a conversation of mothers discussing the healthy sleep habits of their children, habits that undoubtedly prove their children are independent, well-adjusted young people who will lead successful lives and probably change the world by curing dread diseases or writing the next Great American novel…or at least the next Harry Potter series.

I’ve paid my dues in approximately eight years of sleepless nights. I’ve stood in my upstairs hallway amid the calls of three crying children at three in the morning. I’ve slid against the wall in surrender wondering what I had done wrong. There were confessions into the dark that I’d rather not mention. I was desperate and probably hallucinating.

Several weeks ago, I threw my hands up in surrender and told each of my littles that I’d had enough of marathon goodnights. At seven, five and two, I thought it was reasonable to tell them that Mommy is finished reading 250 pages of children’s books followed by the entire musical score from Les Mis. No more.

My calloused foot is down. Go, Mom!

The first night was Hell.

I promised them I’d be in my room down the hall. They came to get me at least fifteen times, their eyes glistening with fat tears. Save it, kids. Mommy’s tapped out. I promised I loved them and marched them back to their rooms. I left them with a kiss on their foreheads and their blankets tucked under their chins like a commercial for the perfect goodnight.

The following night was better. The next, a dream. Why hadn’t I done this sooner?!

I was ready to write about bedtime. I was ready to talk about the importance of a routine and patience and persistence. I was ready to be an authority on sleep and learn the secret handshake that members of the sleep-through-the-night club have, something like the nod or wave that Jeep people do but cooler: like a wink and wiping away of former eye-circles.

But I didn’t write about sleep. I did mention it to my mom. Mistake. I could feel the ground shake beneath my feet, and in the distance I heard the universe laugh, a thunderous, maniacal laugh.

While I no longer sit in my children’s rooms wishing they would close their eyes already, bedtime is not the peaceful mirage of Babies R Us advertisements. It’s still long. There are tears…sometimes mine. There is gnashing of teeth. There are stall tactics that would impress the most seasoned hostage negotiators such as, but not limited to…


  1. Showing me how many used tissues she’s collected in a pink tote by her bed.
  2. Reminding me that her friend wants to marry a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle–the purple one.
  3. Informing me she bumped her belly on the bed.
  4. Needing instructions on making herself a superhero in her dreams, so nightmares can have happy endings.
  5. Declaring once and for all that she hates her room!
  6. Wondering about the scientific explanation of thunder and lightening and “Can lightening come into the house, Mom?”
  7. Showing me the toothpaste she used on her toothbrush.
  8. Announcing “there’s a scratching sound in my room. I promise it’s not because I’m reading The Notebook of Doom.”
  9. Requiring a detailed medical explanation of sleep with a complete list of all things that require sleep: “What about bugs, Mom? Do bugs need to sleep? How about elephants?”
  10. Pondering the meaning of life.

But at least I’m down the hall now, a few rooms away from the tossing and turning. Someday I might even be downstairs before they fall asleep, but I’m not greedy. We’re taking baby steps.

I need time to practice the secret handshake anyway. And if this doesn’t work, I’ll sing “Rock-a-Bye Baby” every night until they recognize it as the threat it is: “Down will come baby, cradle and all.” Genius.

4 comments for “What to Expect When you Expect Goodnight

  1. June 26, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Congratulations! I remember those years!

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      June 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      I will take those congratulations! Thank you!

  2. Michelle
    June 27, 2014 at 11:18 am

    I laughed at your list – it is spot on!!

    I have a 4 yr old (she was our unexpected blessing when I was 42) plus older kids (22, 20, and 16 yrs). I am ashamed to admit that I have been much more lenient with her than I ever was with her older siblings and she is still in our bed.

    I have been preparing her that when she turns 5 lots of new things happen: you have to sleep in your own room, try new foods, go to the bathroom without letting me know, etc. And this time, I’m sticking to it!! Wish me luck! 🙂

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      June 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Good luck with all of it! In the meantime, if you’re enjoying having her in your bed, then I say it’s a wonderful thing! I think my children will probably call me on the phone when they’re in college to tell me they have to go to the bathroom and inquire about the consistency of their poop. It’s one of motherhood’s many gifts 🙂

      Good luck putting your foot down! Keep me posted! And then give me your tips 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *