After four and a half years and two kids, I'm a well-oiled bedtime machine over here. Except when it all falls apart. Here's what not to do:
  1. Begin with plans.
    Nothing concrete- you've got kids, though, so it's not like you had real plans anyway. But think about something that can happen after a smooth bedtime. 'Maybe if I get her to sleep, I could sneak away and grab a coffee with...' Good luck with that.
  2. Add a tired kid.
    Really tired. If there's already been a meltdown about the blue jammies, but not those blue jammies, the other blue jammies; and if there have never been any blue jammies to begin with, you've got a solid three hours of bedtime ahead, guaranteed.
  3. Follow the routine, but...
    ...oh just skip bath time, they're not that gross today anyway. They're so tired. Just do a quick version, you're in a rush.
  4. Advil.
    When necessary, add Advil. Those teeth are killers at bedtime and she's got a cold and she needs a solid sleep so just give her some Advil.
  5. Google whether Advil contains the equivalent of three espresso shots
    It must. How can she go from yawning on the floor to surfing on the rocking chair? How do you forget EVERY TIME that Advil makes her crazy?
  6. Add a long book.
    Go with Horton Hears a Who. It's interesting, fun, a bit dark, and long enough to fall asleep to. But wait- she's fallen in love with one of the Who's and is torn apart because his bicycle tires have popped. Stop to reassure that the tires can be fixed. Try reason. Later on, you're sure he rides his bike again. Note that when that doesn't happen, you will have another crisis to overcome.
  7. Throw in some soothing tunes
    By this time you know it's gonna be a hell of a night so pick something you can handle listening to on repeat for a few hours. Pick Ghosting by Mother Mother. It's not your every day lullaby, but you're not your every day parent, are you? High five yourself- then remember, too late, that it references Halloween and treats. What a rookie mistake to make in early November.
    Are you kidding me? Change the song. Something instrumental.
  9. Go get yourself some candy.
    She's up anyway. It's not working. Just grab 2 or 10 mini chocolate bars while she's distracted.
  10. Where did you come from?
    BUSTED. Don't forget that toddler ears are perfectly tuned to hear candy packages being disturbed. Stay firm. Eat the chocolate. Don't share. Deny it happened.
  11. Look at the clock.
    Awh whyyyy did you look at the clock? How has it been 2.5 hours already? How is she still awake? Make a mental note of all of the ways you've dropped the parenting ball tonight.
  12. Take a moment.
    Regroup. Inhale more Halloween candy. Return to the kids' room.
  13. Just give in.
    Call it a compromise if it helps earn you mom forum cred, but just give in. Read the book that says potty words and play the Raffi songs and get the blanket-but-not-that-one, the-other-one, and start again. Rock, sing, hug, pick up the dropped bunny, pick up the bunny again. Acknowledge that you're not making it out for that coffee.
  14. Look down- she's asleep!
    How is she so freaking perfect when she's sleeping? Stare at her for another 20 mins. Tell yourself that this is better than coffee (and mean it, mostly). You made that. And you totally got her to sleep. Await parenting badge to arrive in mail. That went pretty well!