It has been one of those evenings that quickly descended into a three-bleeping-ring circus. We have a saying at our house that things only go wrong when Nick is out of town or working (and by “we,” I mean I have a saying, and by “a saying,” I mean me thinking irritated, unprintable thoughts at the universe about the fact that the house and the small people in it always seem to go to pieces when I am the only adult around to deal with them.)
I didn’t entirely expect tonight to go smoothly. I arrived home after spending two nights with the girls at the summer camp of my childhood while Sam spent the weekend with grandma. In addition to the kids’ excitement-induced exhaustion, I was extra tired from sleeping on a mattress that was fifty years into a twenty-year life expectancy in a nearly-open-air shelter next to a squirrel who voiced his irritation at our presence each morning at 5:30. So we were all tired.
I managed to get everyone fed, pajama-ed, brushed, and read to with a minimum amount of stern words and threats, preserving my delusion that I might be able to sneak in some quality couch and television time for the rest of the evening.
Then Riley’s tooth fell out. First tooth, FINALLY out, right when we were on the verge of an unpleasant dentist appointment because the permanent tooth had nearly grown in behind it. A selfless mom would have been nearly as excited as Riley. All I could think was, Really? Tonight?? Now I have to come up with some sparkly, floofy note (I mean, it seems like the first tooth deserves a special something, plus a big part of the weekend at camp was visiting the Enchanted Forest and building elaborate fairy houses, so I feel like the fairy community had better come through with some magic here) and cash before I go to bed. I guess I should just be glad she runs with a crowd that has the $1-per-tooth tooth fairy.
So instead of kissing her good-night and closing the door, I had to go find the special tooth fairy pillow.
“Do you think you could use Charlotte’s? I know where hers is,” I said, probably not what a truly empathetic mom would say on the occasion of the First Tooth.
“I don’t think she’d like that. What if it gets blood on it?” Also known as: HEY MOM, THIS IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL, DON’T CUT CORNERS, OKAY?
“Okay, I’ll go look for yours,” I said, dreading going into her room because Charlotte, who was out-of-her-gourd tired, sleeps in Riley’s room but was clearly not yet asleep.
I kissed Charlotte again and nonchalantly grabbed the pillow out of the closet. Before I could make my escape, Riley was screaming in the hall.
“What in the world is wrong?” I asked, probably not at all sympathetically, as I felt the precious moments of my evening slipping away.
“MY TOOTH IS GONE!” she sobbed. “I went to wash the blood off, and [sob] it [sob] fell down [sob] the DRAIN [sob sob sob]!”
Crap. Double crap. I went to the bathroom after sending both girls—the sobber and the curious onlooker—back to their beds. Thank goodness we are a disgusting family who never cleans the drain stopper and we bought the house from an equally disgusting family who never cleaned the drain stopper. I pulled the stopper up as much as I could and sure enough, the tooth was perched on thirty years of gray gunk. I couldn’t pop it out, and was a little afraid of jostling it down the pipe, so I pulled out every possible implement in the bathroom and did a little surgery. My second-rate tweezers kept slipping off, but a skinny pair of nail scissors grabbed it nicely. Evening saved.
Or not. After I found an envelope for the tooth—because apparently the tooth fairy can’t be trusted to find a tooth simply in the TOOTH POCKET of a TOOTH PILLOW—I finally sat down on the couch. Thirty seconds after turning on the TV, I heard a wail that, as much as I wanted to believe otherwise, seemed to be coming from upstairs, not through the street outside.
I went upstairs and found Sam sobbing in his crib.
“What’s wrong, buddy?” I asked, pulling him into the rocker.
“I not goin’ to bed! It time to get up.”
“No, it’s not. It’s bedtime. It’s time to go to sleep.”
“I need to get up and have candy and watch a movie.”
Oh, okay, that sounds perfectly reasonable. “Sorry, it’s bedtime.”
“I want a ballon.”
“I want more watah.”
“You have water, buddy.”
“No I not!”
“What’s this then?” I shook his half-full sippy cup. “Vodka?”
“It’s NOT bodka. I don’t have watah. I dumped it out.”
“It doesn’t leak. You didn’t dump it out. It’s water.”
“I need to take my othah shoe off.”
“You’re barefoot. You need to go to sleep. I’ll go get you some more water.”
I put him back in bed despite lots of cries of protest. I went downstairs and turned on the TV. Not thirty seconds later, Riley was standing on the stairs, sobbing, holding her tooth pillow.
“What’s wrong?” (Nope, still not sympathetic.)
“I’m worried about my tooth—”
“Your tooth is in the envelope, in the tooth pillow. It’s fine. Please get back in bed.” Please do not get out of bed again or the tooth fairy arrive to find you tied to the mattress.
I felt like that maybe wasn’t the whole story, but I couldn’t really be bothered with the details because Sam was screaming again. I went back in.
“I see that. What’s wrong?”
“I NOT go to bed!”
“Everyone is in bed.”
“Wi-ley not in bed. Chah-lotte not in bed.”
“Yes they are. I’m going to take you to see them. Then you can get in bed and no more sad, ok?”
“High five for no more sad!”
I got the high five. . . and a lot more sad. Judging by his surprised indignation when I did indeed put him back in bed, “see your sisters and kiss them good-night” must sound a lot like “get up and play with your sisters for a couple hours.”
But once again, I couldn’t be bothered with the details because someone else was screaming. Charlotte’s turn. There wasn’t really a reason other than pure exhaustion. The cover story was that she missed her “new friend”—the last counselor she had hugged as we left camp who she couldn’t have named for all the ice cream in Alaska—so much that she couldn’t possibly stop wailing at the top of her lungs. I reminded her that she had no problem turning off the waterworks after we left camp once we arrived at a playground, so she could probably stop crying now unless she really wanted tomorrow’s nap to start after breakfast.
“But I had a nightmare.”
“That’s not possible. You haven’t gone to sleep yet.”
“But I’m GOING to have a nightmare.”
“That’s fine.” She looked at me, a little shocked. “You can have all the nightmares you need to have. I will hug you and help you. But before you have any dreams of any kind, you have to GO TO SLEEP.” I will take my chances with scary nightmares if I can just have thirty minutes of friggin’ peace right now.
“Will you say the no-nighmare prayer again? It didn’t work because I wasn’t listening before.”
“Sure.” I will also pray that you go to sleep before you push me over the edge and I turn into your worst nightmare.
By this point in the evening, I was completely unsurprised to hear sobs coming from my bed—where Riley sleeps until we go to bed—as I walked toward the stairs.
“What’s wrong now?” Mom of the Year, I am Mom of the Year.
“I don’t know if I want to give the Tooth Fairy my tooth! I just lost it right when it was time to go to bed and I didn’t even get to look at it!”
But in those five minutes, you did manage to wash it down the drain. Maybe you should surrender it while you still have a chance of capitalizing on its trade-in value? If you don’t put it in the pillow tonight, the tooth fairy won’t come. Wait. THE TOOTH FAIRY WON’T COME!! “I understand. You don’t have to give it to the tooth fairy tonight—let’s put the envelope in the drawer. No tooth in the pillow, no tooth fairy.” Trust me. DEFINITELY no tooth fairy.
Sam was finally quiet. Charlotte needed one more reminder that uncontrolled, full-volume hysteria was a sure ticket to a nap tomorrow, then she, too, went to sleep. I, foolishly, turned on the television. And heard the unwelcome patter of feet on the stairs.
“I can’t go to bed. I need you to snuggle with me,” Riley informed me, playing her tooth trauma a little too far on this particular evening.
I know everyone says that after your children grow up, you’ll wish you had done this every time, but I can’t, can not, can’t. I have filled my quota of after-bedtime requests for the evening. For the month, if we’re really counting. “Sweetie, I’m done tonight. You need to go to bed.”
“But it’s hard!”
“It is hard. You can do hard things.” (Thank you, Momastery, for giving me that particular bit of wisdom. I’m not sure any mom would put “Fall Asleep in a Safe, Dark, Quiet Room” on a list of hard things to do in life, but hey, encouragement is made to be shared, right?)
It’s now been 20 minutes since I’ve heard from anyone. But I also have no interest in going upstairs and unwittingly poking any emotional hornets’ nests. I still haven’t watched a show. I did eat the ice cream bar that two hours earlier I had told myself not to eat because comfort eating is not actually the path to happiness. After my 10th trip upstairs, the ice cream bar told me that ice cream makes everything better and really, who needs emotional stability?
It’s a little concerning when you realize your children share a worldview with an ice cream sandwich.