Thursday, June 7

Ritual de la Habitual

The Sprite and I have a set ritual we follow every evening. We have had this ritual for many months, in fact pretty much since he was born. It has always been my duty to get him ready for bed and put him down to sleep. I always looked at this as my treat, my special time with him, even if it did mean missing more than a fair share of hockey, or episodes of LOST.

As The Sprite has gotten older, Les Rituale has gotten more elaborate and takes an increasing amount of time. When he was an infant, a quick scrub of the gums, a change of diaper and short rock in my arms would be all that was necessary to get him down to sleep. There were occasions of course where the rocking in my arms would be lengthy and it may have taken several trips into his bedroom to settle him down.

But as we got into teething (and eventually a full set of chompers), and as he started to find his voice, and as he discovered books at bedtime, and realized the delaying properties a book at bedtime possessed, the number of steps included in Les Rituale have drastically increased.

Take the brushing of teeth for instance. Once I can finally get The Sprite into the bathroom, which can take about 15 minutes of chasing him in circles around the house, the real fun begins. Brushing an easily distracted toddlers teeth is no mean feat. He will turn the faucet on 20-30 times while I counter by turning it off. There is a large mirror on our bathroom wall in front of which he sits to scrub the enamel. He'll lean over and kiss himself, wave, chat and otherwise entertain himself. All the while I am trying to keep the toothbrush in contact with teeth and not jam it into his gums. Then there is the medicine cabinet which once discovered that it opens is a constant, nagging distraction, begging to be opened-shut-opened-shut-plastic bottles pulled out of. When I'm really tired and just not in the mood, I'll put him in a headlock and scrub. There is no easier way to clean a toddlers teeth than when their mouth is wide open and screaming.

Recently we graduated him from the baby faux-toothpaste to "grown-ups" and now he's had a taste there's no going back. I'm a big boy now and I don't want that baby shit. But of course grown-ups have the ability to sloosh and spit, a skill not easily passed on to an inattentive toddler. He has his bathroom cup which gets filled and emptied of water several times before it gets to his mouth, by which time most of the toothpaste has been swallowed anyway. Once the rinse cycle is induced, a new phase of fun and games ensues. Dribbling and sprinkles are the two techniques The Sprite has developed (and named) for expelling the water from his toothpasty mouth, both of which end up with water in his lap, on his socks, on the floor.

So with a damp Sprite I schlep into the bedroom for diaper change and PJ's. Still wound up from the wet fun and games of the bathroom, he will kick and frolic and chatter as I wrestle a dirty diaper off his butt and a clean one onto it. Then wrestle and contort his flailing body into his jammies and socks. Trying to remove his T-Shirt has convinced him I am trying to tickle his armpits, and this causes the longest and most physical battle. It ends with him insisting I take him by the shoulders and slam him into the wall in a soap opera fashion. For some reason that is a great amusement to him, and a natural segue between PJs and the next step of Les Rituale.

It is off to get a cup of "fresh water" and then on to say night night to mummy. Having spilled water once for walking too fast, I told him to go nice and slowly. Nice and slowly to a 2 and a half year old is pigeon steps in molasses, so it takes a while to get to mummy. If mummy is watching TV or working on the laptop another few minutes of distraction are called upon before the actual "night nights" and hugs and kisses are swapped.

Finally, 30mins after initiating the Lets Go To Bed sequence, we actually get to go to his bedroom. What initially started as "two book" when he first got interested in me reading him a story before bed, has evolved into an extended trip to the library of books piled on the floor that should in all rights be back on his bookshelf. He has gone through several, nay many, phases regarding favoured preference for bedtime book. At first it was the simple big, colored images and bold type books like "Thats Not My Tractor" and "Wheres Spot". But as his tastes have gotten more mature, longer stories have been introduced. Whichever story is flavour of the month, it is in rotation for the entire month. At times we would read "Little Tiger" or Gruffalo" several times a night. This was great, as eventually The Sprite would end up reciting along with me whole passages of the story. Quite exciting and impressive the first times they happen.

Lately we were doing "Sam I Am" and "In The Night Kitchen". The later was a childhood fave of mine and inspired us to paint murals on his walls based on imagery from the book. This was not unnoticed by The Sprite who got very excited pointing out Mickey in his airplane in cake on the wall. The gist of the book is Mickey falls from his slumber into a mysterious world beneath the floor, and ends up naked and in a big pile of bread dough. Well, thanks to the active imagination of a toddler we got hung up on the pages where Mickey is standing naked on the cake batter. "He's got tinkle. He's got poopy. He's got poopy over you. He's got bot bot." Over. And over. And over. I'm sure it's natural, in some Freudian scatological sense.

Now, though, we have moved on to more advanced storytelling. We picked up some new books at the Farmers Market recently and The Sprite has taken to them. "Finding Nemo", "Mickey Mouse in The Magic Beanstalk" and a "Dr Seues ABC" book. The story books are much longer to get through and have actual narrative, which appears not to be lost on The Sprite. I have to paraphrase somewhat just to get through them in a decent amount of time, even so I'm parched at the end and have to deny him a second reading. The ABC book has been a great help. Almost overnight he is reciting his ABCDs all the way through, and able to recognize many of the letterforms on the page. Consequently, the ABC book is top of the current rotation. But it can change any minute and a new favourite will be borne, and a new phase of Les Rituale will be entered.

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