For the next three days, I’m babysitting my nephew and two nieces, who are almost-10, 7 and 4 respectively. Add my two, and that makes five kids, plus me, the lone adult. I’m expecting mine will be a help… although they’ve been going pretty hard the last few days. If you know anything about 11-13 year-olds, sleep or lack of can determine whether they belong to the adult or toddler species.
I’m a little concerned about being over-run, not having J-M here to tag-team me. I’ve got to feed, clean, and keep all the animals occupied by myself. Already I’ve encountered enough antics to rival a circus and used every crowd-control trick I know to keep everyone indoors and relatively injury-free. I’m happy to say that of the three kids, one went to bed without brushing their teeth and another went to bed without clothes and I’m feeling some success, as you may have read the “went to bed” part.
As for the third one… well, it’s my littlest niece, Charlotte, and she hates, hates, hates going to bed. I believe her name translates, “abhors repose.” During the day, she’s an absolute angel, so adorable she’s cliché: saying the darnedest things, looking as cute as a button, lighting up the world with her smile… Right up until the time you say, “Time for bed!” in your best kindergarten teacher voice . That’s when her smile turns sly, her cute turns cunning, and in no time, you’re involved in a full-blown battle of wits.
The suggested bedtime on her Mommy’s list of instructions was 7:30/8. It’s 9:24 at the time I’m writing this and yes, she is clothed, in bed, with the lights out, but she’s currently chanting “Mo-MMY! Mo-MMY! I want– I want– MoMMY!” Normally this might make your heart-break, but there’s a marching around the walls of Jericho quality to it. Give this girl what she wants, or else.
I’m or-else-ing at the moment.
I’d anticipated a small war. These bedtime shenanigans are not news to me. I’ve often been here, visiting my sister and brother-in-law at night, and witnessed them addressing Charlotte innumerable times in the night. Out of sympathy, not judgment (believe me, I know Charlotte comes from a special breed of night owls), and for my own sanity, I’m trying out a COMBAT STRATEGY.
Within minutes of my arrival, I sat down my nephew and nieces to give them guidelines for our time of fun together. Somewhere along the line, I adopted the ethos that kids thrive when they know their boundaries. That means, in theory, if my nephew and nieces are completely aware of my expectations, the lines that should not be crossed and the consequences that will occur if they do, well, then we’re going to have a marvelous time, right?
I set the stage by telling them how much fun we were going to have together. In fact, this would be a moment to go down in the history books as the Most Fun Had with an Aunt Ever in the World, even if the wording is awkward. I got them to somehow agree enthusiastically that fun has to have rules in order to be fun, right? Yay! Rules are FUN!
I got them to think of the fun rules themselves. They started off with, “Don’t eat your boogers.” I told them to dig deeper, no pun intended.
They swung on the pendulum to the Golden Rule.
“Lighten it up a little.”
“No whining?” Lucy offered.
“NOW we’re getting somewhere.”
My assistant Sophia took notes while the kids talked about what rules should be in place and why.
Why yes, it’s an excellent idea to Tell Aunty Lori where you’re going when you leave the house, small children! Make a note, Sophia, “Lock the doors.”
Clean up after yourself is an excellent discipline. Jack announced his plans to dump out his Rubbermaid full of Lego on the livingroom floor tomorrow morning, but if anyone were to play with it, he would definitely invoke this rule and have his playmates help with the chore. Fair enough.
In an effort to control any hostilities, I’m allowing snitching. Just to get a lay of the land, keep some tight reins on the place… at first anyway. But let’s re-brand it and get rid of the shame. Got a problem? Talk to Aunty Lori! 1-800-TATTLER.
Up till now it’s gone swimmingly. Speaking of which, I have been bribing them with a day at the pool tomorrow if they can hold fast to the rules today. Lucy found herself sniveling about who got more juice at supper and then a light went on, her eyes lit up and she said, “Hey, we said no whining!” Bravo, little Lucy, bravo! I give you the water wings trophy!
Somehow, all those times that her Daddy and Mommy got up to address her cries at night might, just might, be getting through to Miss Charlotte. She contributed – by herself – the rule, “Stay! In! Bed!” She added the exclamation marks for flare. She’s like that – cute as a button, I tell you… at 3:30 p.m.
At 10:30, however, my eyelids are heavy, and Charlotte’s ramped it up. She’s yelling through her closed door, “Aunty Lori! Aunty Lori! Aunty Lo-lo-lo-lo-lori!” And you know what? Sign this girl up for law school because she’s got the Fun Rules figured out to the letter. Despite the fact that it’s been almost three hours since her scheduled bedtime, and she’s been a-hollering the whole time, she has YET to get out of bed.
We’ll be making a small amendment to the list tomorrow: Go! To! Sleep!
Since Mal’s Curly-Q font didn’t express the level of risk for small children to leave the grounds without letting me know, Mal chose to communicate it with her face. I’m posting her at every entrance.