10 years. 4 kids. And I’ve never failed bedtime as badly as tonight.
It seemed like a great evening. Kids were chatting and playing together. The three older ones were doing a craft project on the living room floor, Tristan (2) asked to go to bed at 7:15. I had convinced myself that I’d have everyone in bed by 8:30 or so.
But Ian (6) was deep in his craft project an so 9:15 rolled around and he still wasn’t in bed. “Last one” I said, “then cleanup in living room and craft room and to bed”. He tried a little bit of “Why do I have to do it now?” but I put a quick stop to that with a 5 minute timer and a promise he’d have to start cleaning up tomorrow night at 7:30 if he gave me crap tonight.
Ian cleans up and goes up to bed with a kiss and immediately starts crying loudly.
By this point it’s almost 10. When I get upstairs I find Tristan in Charlie’s bed reading books with almost every light in the room on.
“What the heck is going on?”
“Max wrote all over my calendar.”
Sure enough, written across Ian’s favorite XMas Present, one word in each day of the month is “Ian. Why did you write all over my Everyone Poops book?” and a collection of drawings and more words.
Max (10) hasn’t even opened Everyone Poops in 7 years, it’s a damn potty-training book! So my mind is spinning. I’m wondering how my perfect bedtime routine has fallen apart so fast not even expecting that it’s about to get worse.
“Did you write on his book?”
“I didn’t know it was his book!”
I don’t know how to respond to this so I pause to tell Charlie to turn off her light again and look at the calendar again. At which point the rest of the words click for me. “Ian. Why did you write all over my Everyone Poops Book and the wall.”
Yep sure enough there’s writing all over the wall, something none of my kids have ever done before.
“Ian, did you write on your wall?”
“Yeah, and Max wrote ‘Die!!!”
More crying but I talk over it, asking my question a different way.
“Why did you write on your wall?”
“I wanted to keep track of stuff.”
One of us wasn’t making sense. I wanted to believe it was him, but his answers were so clear and pure I couldn’t be sure.
“What did you write in?”
“Why did you write on the wall in permanent marker?”
“I couldn’t find any other markers.”
I’m digesting the simplicity of this statement as he cries again and so I look a little closer at the wall. He’s drawn a four quadrant grid labeled happy, sad, mean and kind. In the happy quadrant he has drawing and math, and in the “mean” quadrant he has a picture of someone from school cutting him in line at the bus, which apparently has been going on all week.
Now I’m starting to feel some pride for what he’s accomplished.
I mean, I certainly wish that Ian had a whiteboard and hadn’t just written on his wall, but it’s not like I’ve never written on a wall in my life. And it’s cool that he’s recording feelings and emotions and that the good outnumbers the bad.
All in all, I love how this kid thinks so now I’m starting to get a goofy proud-parent grin on my face, at which point Charlie (8), who still hasn’t turned off her light, chimes in.
“I did it. I wrote ‘Die!’ on Ian’s wall. I don’t know what came over me. I just felt weird. There I said it.”
“Why did you write die on Ian’s wall?”
“I just said, I don’t know. I felt weird.”
I should have seen that coming.
So, at this point I’m practically looking around for candid camera.
Two and a half hours earlier I honestly thought everyone would be asleep by 8:30 and I’d have some big bragging rights when my wife got home, but here it was almost 10:30 and the biggest thing I’ve accomplished tonight is I told Ian not to write on anything else that isn’t his (especially walls) until we check in tomorrow morning.
And I finally got Charlie to turn off her light.
Oh yeah and I got to read this really cute letter that Ian left for Christine, complete with “yes/no” options and directions to “circle” the correct answer.
I love the way this kid thinks!