I was feeling good. I had just completed a great workout in my basement and planned a healthy dinner, and just a few hours earlier had successfully blown dry Alexa’s hair post-swim lesson. (Huge accomplishment, btw. Especially with no WiFi in the YMCA locker room to distract her with Netflix during the process.) Goldie was awake but chill, and Alexa had a great, cheerful disposition for the entire day.
So I decided to go all “super mom” and told Alexa that Goldie and I would put her to bed together tonight, pitching it as a special treat, as opposed to an actual glimpse our new reality given that the occasion of me being the sole adult in the house at bedtime is one that will surely happen many times. Lex was overjoyed, and the three of us scrambled upstairs, full of excitement and optimism. Disclosure: Our wonderful nanny was home at the time and more than happy to help, but I told her to go on up to bed, “I got this.” Famous last words.
The toothbrushing portion of the evening went off without a hitch. I was able to balance the baby on one hip while brushing my own teeth alongside Alexa, just like we do every night. Normalcy maintained. Then I sat Goldie in her most beloved throne while Alexa and I did our nightly musical medley sing-off to her favorite songs from “Annie” (the original, people- not that new fangled one- I am a musical theater purist). Next up, story time. Lex insisted on the longest book on her shelf, “Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique.” Of course since this is also one she knows by heart, skipping pages was not an option. We cozy up on her bed, crack open the book, and Goldie starts howling. Blood curdling, hardcore screams.
My heart starts racing and I can hear my voice become more agitated by the second. I contort my body so I can read the book and use the side of my boob to keep Goldie’s pacifier securely in her mouth for the duration. We finished the book, I tucked Alexa in, and then came the 5 minutes that I have been stressed out about dealing with since I found out I was pregnant. Yep, sad but true. Every night since she was in her big girl bed, Alexa has asked that whoever puts her to bed stays for “5 minutes” while she dozes off. Since in the grand scheme of preschooler bedtime routines this is a small ask, we have always obliged.
“Mommy, stay for 5 minutes.”
“Okay Alexa, I will. Good night, love you.” I sit down on her floor by the door as per always, bouncing Goldie and doing my best to keep the pacifier in her mouth until we can sneak out. No such luck. She spits it out and reprises her chorus of screams.
“Mommy! Baby is too loud, I can’t sleep.”
“Alexa, baby is a baby and she is going to cry sometimes. I can’t get her to stop so I am going to bring her downstairs and, since you are such a big girl, you can go to sleep all by yourself tonight, and if you need me, I am just downstairs, you can call for me.”
“NOOOOOOO! Mommy! Just drop baby.” (I think she seriously meant for me to drop her from the landing on the second floor outside of Alexa’s room into the foyer below where we wouldn’t hear her as loudly.)
“Um, Alexa, I can’t just drop your sister. You are the big girl here and I know you can go to sleep without me staying for 5 minutes. Goodnight, love you.” I walk out of the room, and now Alexa’s screams harmonize in the most un-musical way with Goldie’s.
I start to sweat profusely, knowing that once Alexa starts melting down the entire bedtime routine is null and void and I am going to have a long hour or two ahead of me repenting and restarting. I can hear the shower going up in the nanny’s room- my backup plan is shot. I run from one end of the hallway calling up for help to the other end reassuring Alexa she can go to bed all by herself- back and forth for about 5 minutes until I hear the most beautiful sound of the evening: “Jenn, do you need some help down there? I can take the baby.”
In that moment, I question if it is a total cop out to ditch my heroic bedtime plan- then I hear Alexa start to emerge from her bedroom and I realize- SCREW IT. I can be a hero another night. I practically toss Goldie into our nanny’s arms and scramble back to Alexa, silently praying that I can talk her off the ledge and get her to go back to bed without an episode of “My Little Pony” and a popsicle (or three.)
Fifteen minutes later, Alexa is sleeping soundly in her bed (mind you, this is after she told me “today was the baddest day ever, mommy!” when it was anything but!), Goldie is passed out, and while I didn’t earn my “Put One Kid To Bed While Holding The Other In My Arms” wings, I did try, and that has to count for something (?).
Oh well, there’s always tonight…
(And yes, I realize there is nothing truly heroic about putting a four year old to bed while holding a newborn and millions of women across the world do this every single night without any help at all and while they don’t think it is a walk in the park, they don’t think they deserve a medal for it. I am in on the joke that is my sometimes feeble, but always well-intentioned, attempt at this next iteration of my mom journey. And to the women out there who do this night after night with grace and patience, let me just say this: You deserve a medal. And a strong cocktail.)