I remember back in the good old days when putting the baby down for the night was quick work. I'd bend down at a disc-herniating 120 degrees and lie him in his crib.
"Well uh, take it easy I guess," I would say, leave his room and then allow my wife to wake up with him in the middle of the night.
Now that he's almost two, being awake ALL the time is critical to him, gently and lovingly being tucked in is a scourge, and consequently, bedtime gets longer and longer every night.
I don't understand the allure of not wanting to get into bed. Bedtime is the shit. I find it heavenly to crawl into bed and chip away at recorded content on my DVR or anything good playing on On Demand. Watching two episodes of Real Housewives, Dutch-ovening my wife and myself, and falling into a peaceful slumber is a Sausage, Egg and Cheese McGriddle away from the perfect night.
Meanwhile, the baby wails like the misanthrope he is at the injustice of being put down. Gee, sorry for the Dachau-like quarters we've created for you. Apologies aplenty that you get to sleep in a giant bed with polished wood slats that prevent you from toddling out of your bed and crashing down the stairs. My deepest deepest sympathies for luxuriating your experience with hand-made fucking blankets and all your Goddamn favorite dolls.
Bedtime used to be so much easier when he had no personality. These nights, even before I utter the deadly words "Night night time," he pitches a fit. All I have to do is clap my hands lightly and say, "Okay," and boom, the tears come. It's rather Pavlovian, except Pavlov's dog wasn't an adorable dick.
We walk upstairs, and he's screaming, flailing and kicking. "What you're doing is wholly unnecessary," I say during a pause, which is answered by the loudest scream of his life. I close his door and put him down. As he does every night, he pounds on the door like I were an Orc swinging my bloody mace. "No go night night!" he howls. "No go night NIGHT!"
I sit there exasperated, waiting with his pajamas, diapers and wipes for him to stop.
"Here's what I don't understand," I sigh. "I'm not blindsiding you with this news. You go to bed every night around the same time, so why the production?"
"No go to bed! No go night night!"
I purse my lips and shake my head at him.
"Go chair," he says. "Rocky rocky," signalling that some sense and resignation are finally sinking in.
"Sure, but I have to change your diaper and put your jammies on."
"Yap," he says and lies down for me.
While I'm cleaning his fleshy ass, he farts on my finger and laughs, and just like that he's pleasant. My work, though, is far from over. Routines, whether they are fun or not always involve steps, and you can't take any shortcuts with your children because they will call you out on it.
Step two of bedtime, following the baby's meltdown and diaper/wardrobe change includes sitting on the rocking chair with his giant talking Elmo doll. The problem is that we are already sitting, and Elmo is far away and hidden behind his dresser. I'm hoping he'll forget about him.
"So, what's up little man?" I say.
"No," he responds. "Elmo." He might as well be saying Don't bullshit the bullshitter.
"Can you try something different tonight and skip the Elmo part?" I ask.
"Elmo," he whines.
"Jesus. Why do you care so much about that doll manufactured in a sweatshop by a one-legged Bangladeshi child and voiced by an adult boy-lover, who was booted out of the Sesame Workshop?"
"Elmo sit here, too," he said with the fervor of an impending meltdown.
After Elmo, the conversation turned to my nipples.
It's summer (or so we think), and I walk around with my shirt off. Indoors only that is. I find when I'm above water, fewer harpoons are flung at me. As such, the baby has access to my nipples. I don't breast feed him, but he still has a fascination with my glass-cutting areolas.
My nipples excite him more than cupcakes.
"Nipples!" He beams and pinches them. "Pink nipples."
"You don't find this weird?" I ask him as he clamps down harder. "The fact that you're groping your father's nipples?"
"Dadda Dabit's nose, eyes, chin...NIPPLES!"
"I'm glad you can tell the difference."
The so-called final step is putting him in his crib. This is the end of the concert, where I say goodnight to my audience, but he and I know damn well there will be an encore. Instead of cheering and shouting for Free Bird or Stairway, he only cries. I don't exit stage left or right; I turn, pick him back up and walk with him around the room because I am a sucker.
"See nipples," he says.
"No. We're done with those. They need a rest."
After a few minutes, it's back in his crib.
I kneel down, and we look at each other between the crib bars.
"Goodnight," he says, and I leave to watch Real Housewives of Orange County.
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