I promise you, our nighttime routine with my Mari is the stuff of legend a nightly, sometimes hours-long ritual that was so fantasmic, so involved, so utterly tedious, that not even my kid, the one who created, spearheaded and demanded it all, believes it to be true. But it is. Oh, it is.
When Mari was a wee bit, there was the tub time, of course. Tooth brushing. A bottle, a book, a song, and enough rocking in the glider about 20 minutes worth to get her off to dreamland. As she got older, some things got added to the routine. Well, lots of things. There was:
1. Nighttime hair maintenance.
If you’ve got an African American girlchild, you know that the nighttime hair detangling/combing/braiding/twisting is crucial if you actually want to make it out of the house anywhere near on time in the morning. Depending on Mari’s hairstyle, this evening ritual could take anywhere from 10 seconds (the amount of time it took to tie a silk scarf around her tiny head to protect her natural hair from damage on the cotton pillowcase) or upwards of an hour if I was washing, conditioning and cornrowing or twisting her curly locs.
2. Dramatic interpretations of her favorite children’s books.
Just reading the words wasn’t an option. Oh no, babygirl needed no, demanded inflection, bravado and the occasional song and dance to accompany her bedtime stories. Which meant actually flying around her room when we got to the part where Cassie and her little brother imagined soaring over the George Washington Bridge in Faith Ringold’s Tar Beach, or actually making up the melody and singing the words to the song in Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece. Tally up 20 minutes for that.
3. Mommy’s rendition of the extended version of Stevie Wonder’s Ribbon In the Sky.
No, it did not matter that I can’t sing. No it did not matter if I didn’t feel like singing it. No, no other shorter, kid-favorite songs were acceptable. The girl loved Stevie Wonder. Specifically, Ribbon in the Sky because at sometime in her short little life, I made the mistake point of telling her that Stevie was singing about rainbows. And what kid doesn’t want to go to sleep dreaming about rainbows? Right. Tack on another 10 minutes.
4. The spraying of monster juice.
Uh huh, you read that right. Monster juice. It wasn’t anything but water in a spray bottle I picked up from the supermarket, but to Mari, it was a magical spray repellant for midnight monsters who meant her harm. Every night, we had to spray monster juice on the following: the closet, the back of the bedroom door, beneath the bed, beside the bed, at the head of the bed and at the foot of the bed, on both window sills and, for reasons still unbeknownst to me, the inside of the toy chest. I didn’t bother asking. I just sprayed. Five to 10 minutes, depending on if the spray bottle disappeared and we had to mix up a special batch of monster juice easy.
5. Everything else.
After all the rest of the nighttime ritual, of course, we had to turn on the night lights, set up the CD in her portable player (Tony Bennett, Brandy and India.Arie were her nighttime crooners of choice), get through the God bless Mommy, Daddy, Mazi, auntie, uncle, cousin Miles, my best friend Kai, Elmo, Barney prayer, tuck her body under her sheets just so, and cross our fingers that she’d actually, like, stay in the bed.
That last point the staying-in-the-bed part was sticky enough when she became a big girl and got her own big girl room. But when we began nighttime potty training, the chances of my Mari staying in her bed through the night decreased exponentially. Girlfriend wet the bed almost every night. Well, maybe not every night but it sure as heck felt like it when I’d get the 3 a.m. sticky-fingered tap on the cheek and the, Mommy, I peed in the bed announcement. Head swimming, eyes blurry, I’d hit the bedwetting drill: Strip the girl, wash her pee butt, put her in clean jammies, strip the bed, disinfect the mattress, get it dry and remake the bed, then try to get the girl to go back to sleep without having to repeat steps one through five.
I promise you, it didn’t take us but a minute to figure out we needed to do whatever we could to keep the water out of the girl’s bladder before she went to bed. So we upped the ante on the nighttime rituals by adding a few things: We didn’t care if her throat was as dry as the Sahara; we shut down all drinks an hour and a half before bedtime. We made sure the girl sat on the toilet and peed before she went to bed. None of that, But I don’t have to go, Mommy business got over on Nick and I; Sit it down and pee was our order of the evening.
I also always made sure I kept on her closet shelf a fresh set of sheets, jammies, a towel and disinfectant, to help tamp down on the time it’d take for the middle-of-the-night pee changes (the towel went under her butt so that she didn’t have to sleep in the wet spot). Finally, we made sure to wake her before we went to sleep for the night so that she could pee again. Thank goodness, she was such a sound sleeper that all we had to do was pop her on the toilet, tell her to pee, wipe her up, and pop her back in the bed.
The moment we implemented all of those additions to Mari’s nighttime routine, the amount of times she wet the bed decreased substantially. Be clear: I’m not saying it stopped or that these steps will work for your child; there are many reasons why kids wet the bed and even more ways to help curb it, and not everything works for every child. This is, however, what worked for us at least for Mari.
Lila? Well, she was a different proposition altogether. One of these days, I’ll tell you all about her strategy for dealing with bedwetting. It involved waking up, stripping her own bed and jammies, and sleeping on the bare mattress, naked.
Like I said, every child is different.
And if you’re dealing with this right this minute, right now, know you’re not alone. Check out GoodNites.com for some great information on ways you can help restore sanity to your nighttime routine, or ask the NiteLiteâ„¢ Panel for tips they’ll hook you right on up.
So you know: I recently partnered with GoodNites® to write about my family’s experiences with bedwetting as part of the company’s campaign to spread the word about dealing with nighttime accidents. Yes, I’m getting a check for this. No, they’re not paying me to say nice things about their product. As always, my experiences and opinions are my own.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.