Make it a game, right? Isn't that what "they" always say one should do as a cure for tedium, or to motivate children, or to achieve targets at work?...Just 'make it a game'....like bowling.
I used to play weird little games with myself as a teenager: should I call that girl I have a crush on? How about I crumble up this piece of paper, remove myself by ten paces from the waste basket, and take ten shots. If six of them land in the garbage, I'll call; if not, I'll just smile at her during algebra tomorrow.
Of course, my head and my heart knew which result was preferred, and, more often than not, I would alter the rules of the games as I went along to achieve the desired result: if I missed the first three shots, I would assume the target was unrealistic; I would move forward by two steps and start again. I always ended up making the phone call; palms sweating, nervously pacing, still taking shots at the basket to have something towards which I could focus my nervous energy.
25 years have passed, and the games have changed.
Like the Olympics back then, the traditional sports reigned: gymnastics, track and field. Now, it's a new generation: X-Games, snow-cross, extreme sports.
That's my household as we attempt to maneuver the children; whether into the car, or up to bed: extreme sports.
They'll do anything if you dangle a bowl of ice cream or a movie in front of them. I once came this close to convincing my 4-year-old to install our winter tires by bribing her with cookie dough. But, alas, it wouldn’t be good for her health to dangle that in front of her every day...would it? Besides, I'm convinced she left the lug nuts loose on purpose.
Instead, we rely on the grand tradition practiced by parents for hundreds of years: repetition, and yelling.
Regardless of how many favorite activities, foods, and quality one-on-one time they've had during the day; ignoring the level of fatigue which had them falling asleep while chewing their supper; they never want to put on their pyjamas nor brush their teeth. It's a cruel world: I always want to put on my pyjamas and brush my teeth...always. Right now, it's 10:46 am EST, and I'd love nothing more than to put on my pyjamas and brush my teeth. Unfortunately, I'm sitting in the middle of a television newsroom which incorporates a strict dress code and employs trained security officers.
So, let's make it a game.
What kind of game could I construe which would convince them to prepare for bed without including sugary treats (they are, after all, about to brush their teeth, and their oral health must be taken somewhat seriously), and without promising expensive vacation packages? (There would be no point promising the vacation package; we would simply find ourselves in a deluxe condo on a ski hill, still yelling at them to put on their pyjamas and brush their teeth.)
Hmmm....I'VE GOT IT!!! The game need not be for their benefit; how about making it a game for me?
Here's how it will work:
Before bed, I will line up, on my kitchen counter, all my favorites: bags of chips, bottles of beer, glasses of wine, and - yes, the ultimate irony - a couple of pints of ice cream.
I will ask them to please go upstairs and put on your pyjamas, and brush your teeth.
Each time they ignore me completely: one handful of food, one gulp of beverage.
Each time they actually ease themselves towards upstairs, but get distracted along the way and need a reminder: one gulp of beverage or one handful of food.
Each time they whine and cry they are not tired, and become openly defiant: two gulps of beverage, and one handful of food...you know what, let's make that two of each if they actually shed tears.
By the time they are actually in bed, asleep, in their pyjamas, with their teeth brushed, I will probably have consumed enough alcohol and fat that I could hibernate through the rest of the winter season and awake when it's warmer. Then, at least, they will no longer need to put on pj's; they can sleep in their underwear - one step saved.
Of course, in my comatose, stuffed-drunk state, I will probably be a stinky pile on the living room floor, and awake to my wife telling me to go upstairs, put on my pyjamas and brush my teeth.
I'll just ignore her, explain the rules of the game, and steer her towards the stale buffet in the kitchen.