toddler twins: bedtime edition


bedtime rituals
Bedtime Rituals

Every night, when tucking the radishes into their beds, we have a ritual. It’s what you’d expect: your basic ongoing, never ending, hell. It’s not as bad as when someone forces you to talk to their mumbling kid on the phone, mind you, but it’s certainly eye-roll worthy. Brushing of teeth (aka let’s eat toothpaste), pee pee on the potty (let’s drip tinkle over the floor!), washing of the hands–"More soap, Mama."–choosing a reward sticker, slipping into PJs, climbing into cribs, selecting a bedtime story book, tucking in dolls, choosing a pillow, choosing a different stuffed animal, deciding on a different book, reading book, and then… the goddamn protests.

bedtime ritual web
Difficult Bedtime Decisions

They’ll insist they need to go "Pee pee potty, pee pee potty!" Among their delay tactics, they beg for water as if we’d spent the day in the sun, and I fed them nothing but salty dog shots, peanut butter, and anchovies. After this, we settle into "Tapo" territory ("Te tapo?" means "I cover you?" in Spanish). "Tapo, mama! Tapo." They’re each covered with a thin blanket bearing their names and the date and time of their birth (thoughtful gift from my editor of Straight Up and Dirty). Once they’re covered, they insist on pulling their blankets down a bit, rolling onto their bellies, then they hike up their shirts, and simply state, "Back." Sometimes, they’ll add, "Annie song." This is when I scratch each of their backs in circles and sing them "Maybe," my, and their, favorite song.

Today, as they were playing, rolling around in a fortress of pillows and quilts, Abigail said, "Snuggle, Lucas. Snuggle." He took a running leap, then darted in beside his little sister, their heads touching, hair mingling. I watched the soft rise of his belly as he caught up with her breath. Abigail reached for his hand. And there they were, my prince and princess of the bible belt–an answer to my prayers.

Abigail turned to him, her brother–who adores no one more than she–then she said, "Back." Without another word, she rolled onto her tummy, exposing her back as Lucas sat up and scratched it in light circles. "Sing Annie song," she said, turning her head up to look at him. My Kind Sir began to sing, "The sun will come out tomorrow" to his little sister. Abigail set her head back on the pillow and closed her eyes. It’s all worth it–every single second of our bedtime ritual. These are the moments I cherish most. More photos here»

A YEAR AGO: Wet ‘n’ Wild Child
2 YEARS AGO: Monkey in the Middle
4 YEARS AGO: My Darling, My Hamburger


  1. Tender. (I came here to say just “tender”, but it won’t let me cuz it’s too short.)

    That story gave me the warm fuzzies.

  2. Definitely a favorite post. I enjoy seeing and reading about you, the mommy you, so much more than your Phil-battles. Even though sometimes that interests me as well :)
    Do you speak Spanish to your children? Or does their nanny?

  3. i’ve been reading you forever, and this is one of my favorite posts you’ve ever written. love it!

  4. Steph, have you ever thought about writing a childrens book-you would be so good at it )

  5. Stephanie ~
    What lens are you using for those kiddie pool pictures??! I have a Nikon D80 and am looking for another great lens, love your pics and the post!

  6. Oh jesus christ that’s unbelievably adorable. Thank you for posting that- it’s a treat for another loving mommy (me) who is stuck away from her own radish, enduring another long night at the office.

  7. Stephanie-

    The pictures are STUNNING! I love the intimacy you achieve with your photos, as well as the excitement of the moment. I have a Nikon D60, and I am experimenting a lot with it, also trying to achieve the effects you’ve mastered (focusing on one point, while the rest is out of focus; and capturing the true color). What lens are you using? Also, what setting do you usually shoot at?

  8. I’m the kind of person who is thankful to the parents who lug their screaming, whining, crying kids all around town to do errands. It’s a terrific reminder to take my birth control.

    But your site has the opposite effect on me. This is one of my favorite posts of yours ever, and it makes me want to rip out the contraceptive I finally had implanted (in case I didn’t have enough daily reminders!).

  9. I loved this! My girls turned two last month and I can relate so much to this post. They also have the stall tactics going in full force, but have recently escalated from “more water please” to the new “momma tummy hurts”. They too love Annie and I got clever and downloaded the JayZ song “Hard Knock Life” on my iPod which features Annie singing, so we can all enjoy the music while in the car, “Momma more Annie song”. Good luck in NYC, just took one there and it was hard work, but lots of fun.

  10. Oh…lovely!

    When one has 3 teenagers, there is a lot of drama. A LOT. All the time. All of these painful, ridiculous, critically important stretching and separating exercises. Everyone needs to express his/her own individuality and right to every opinion. Everyone’s drama is the center of their own universe, crowding out everyone else’s. We have so much.

    And then.


    Everyone knows that around 10, it’s about time to settle in…to take off the armor of the day…to relax into jammies and clean faces. We slowly bring the boil down to a simmer, and then to just comfy warmth. And every night – no matter how boiling, frothing, ridiculousit has been, I hear…

    “Love ya”
    “Love you too”
    “Sweet dreams”
    “You too”
    “see you tomorrow”
    “better day tomorrow”
    “proud of you”

    And all that before I say one word. And I know, in my deepest heart of hearts, that all is right with the world.

  11. Love this post.. and loved what 3 teens mom had to say.. Both so sweet.

    Stephanie – where did you get those bins Abigail is rummaging through? I love them!!

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