Monday, March 21, 2016

How to put a 2-year-old to bed: a memoir ...


Before you even start to think about putting your 2-year-old to bed, you must warn your 2-year-old that you might start to think about putting her to bed.

Then, when the jingle alarm goes off on your iPhone, you assume an identity of her choosing, likely:

1. You might have to be a doctor, who will guide his (you're a "he," okay) young patient to the bathroom so that you can help brush said patient's dirty teeth.
2. You might have to be a mama (here you're a "she") whose tiny baby doesn't even have teeth, but will stand for getting her gums brushed.

If you've incorporated any kind of Big Girl Potty negotiations, this is the point at which you will strip your 2-year-old down and plop her, naked, on the pot. She'll clutch your arms and grin maniacally. She'll ask if you see any potty coming out. This has yielded liquid gold just once, but you are an optimist. (An optimist who must have her child potty trained so she can go to preschool in September, so maybe "heavy wisher" is a better word than optimist.)

Once she's wiped the nothing, wasted a flush's worth of water, and washed her hands, you will dress her in footie pajamas, guide her to the Reward Sticker Drawer where she almost always picks a smiley face, bring her back up the steps -- you're still the doctor, or you become the doctor, at this point -- and plop her on a footstool in front of the sink.

While you load up a toothbrush with pink gel, she will turn her head to her right shoulder and assume a pinched lip position that allows you no access to her teeth. If you are cursed with a Cheerful Resting Face, you have to try really hard to make sure your features say: "This is not a funny inconvenience, like the time you yelled 'MEOW' into my ear for seven minutes straight while your grandma tried to tell me a story. It's an annoying inconvenience."

Kid time measures differently than adult time which, in this case, works to the latter's advantage. After she has done this clenched teeth standoff for what certainly must feel like 4 years (about a minute and a half in your world, phew) she will let YOU wield the brush. DO NOT let this child hold her own toothbrush, as she will pitch it across the room where it will always, always land brush-side-down in the grossest part of the grossest corner of your most high-traffic bathroom. No. Steel yourself: You will just brush her teeth until she is old enough that you can threaten her with taking away her driver's license if she tosses her toothbrush ever again.

Teeth clean. Jammers on. Toilet treated like a decorative ornament. Now you have to get her into her bedroom.

She will say: "Does the doctor want me to go in my bedroom?"
Nod. Nod like you are a novelty bobblehead dog in the back window of your trashiest friend's car.

You probably used to read her books and there are probably a whole bunch of them piled around the pink recliner in her bedroom. "Green Eggs and Ham," "Jamberry," "The Pout Pout Fish," and, oddly, "Little Matchstick Girl." These days, your 2-year-old prefers to sit in the dark and watch "Wid-e-views."

This means "videos," but you prefer her interpretation of the word. You don't blame her. It's fun to say.

You tell her: "Okay. You can watch two wideviews tonight."

She will always pick "Old MacDonald." She's a connoisseur of all the variations on the song that exist on YouTube. In the beginning she would watch any of them. Now trending: one starring grown people dressed as farm animals. You have developed theories about the Pig and the Chicken. They stand just a little too close; Stare just a little too hard. You and your 2-year-old both agree that the cow is the family favorite and, luckily, she makes cameos in other vids, er wids, by the troupe.

After that she might want to see the wideview for:
1. "Mr. Roboto," though she's come to prefer a version that appeared on "Glee," which is a remix that morphs into the song "Counting Stars."
2. This creepy-ass "Twinkle, Twinkle" starring a character who looks like Elsa, but is very obviously a simulacrum.
3. Sia's "Chandelier," "It's a Heartache" (Bonnie's version) and a take on the alphabet song that was clearly created for children learning English as a second language. The giveaway: the letter zed.

If you don't turn off the phone immediately following the second wid, she will grab the phone and try to fire up a third wid-e-view, hack into a high-ranking government official's email or order a jet ski from Amazon.

If you manage to sneak your phone to a safe place beneath your thigh, it just signals to her that you've moved on to the next part of the ritual: The finger biting. For the next three minutes, you have to let her pretend to eat each of your fingers and then yell "HEY, I NEEDED THAT!" after each one is fake eaten.

Then your 2-year-old will move to a new part of the ritual: Climbing into the bed from the pink chair. This requires a level of bravery and dexterity with climbing over a railing that is all new-new-new, so you encourage it and give her a little boost, like you're both 13 and you're helping her into a second floor window of the old school so she can change her math grade in Mrs. Whatever's red grade book where, luckily, she records all grades in pencil.

Once in the bed, your 2-year-old will realize she's been duped.
OUT. She'll howl.
OUT. OUT. OUT. She'll bay.
I understand, you tell her. I hate going to bed, too.
OUT. She whimpers.
"But it hurts so good," you tell her. "You love sleeping. I sneak in and watch you do it. You're always smiling."

Eventually she lets you cover her and her 14 favorite stuffed things beneath six heavy blankets. It helps if you call her a Burrito. You sit next to her bed in the dark. You rub her back. You sneak in some games on your phone while she sings to herself in Norwegian.

She will eventually flip over and say: "When I grow up will you teach me to play Dice with Buddies?"
You should just sigh.

Before you can leave you must:
Kiss her like she's corn on the cob.
Kiss her like she's a lemon.
Kiss her like she's a raspberry.
Kiss her like she's a frozen pea.
Kiss her like she's your beautiful baby girl.

Then you leave and shut the door barely. Open it a little, no close it more. Open it wide. No, less. No, more. Just close it tight.

Elapsed time: 48 minutes, if you're lucky. And, mostly, you are.

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