Step 1: Carve out 2 hours of time. You’re gonna need that shit (if not more).
Step 2: Put on the night night diaper. This one’s a bit trickier than the first step.
What you’re gonna want to do is block all exits first. Containment is key. (If that little monster escapes, you’re gonna need an additional hour just to wrangle him back upstairs.)
Next, coax him over to you by pretending you’ve got a really cool toy or magic trick to show him. (It helps if you have an actual prop in hand for this). Whatever you do, don’t mention the words “night night” or “diaper”. It’s game over if you do.
Finally, when he falls for your fake-out, grab him and move into a gentle body slam maneuver (but don’t actually body slam him — YET). He’ll be caught off guard long enough for you to whip off the daytime diaper and switch it for the nighttime one.
NOTE: It’s important to have perfected your Olympic diaper changing time before tackling that last step. You’ve only got seconds before he squirms away.
Step 3: Put on the jammies. (Don’t attempt this step until you’ve squelched the screaming and writhing brought on by the previous one.)
Once she’s released the demons, find something to distract her as you clothe her tiny yet indescribably strong body. Possible options for this: sing the ABCs together or offer up her favorite snuggly. (If you don’t engage proper distraction prior to clothing, you might as well attempt to put footie pajamas on a Sudden Death Cuttlefish.)
IMPORTANT: If you’re potty training, two piece jammies are best. She will claim she has to use the toilet no fewer than 64 times before actually setting foot in the bed.
Step 4: Pick out the bedtime story. Limiting his options is crucial here.
First, pre-select 2 or 3 stories from the bookshelf to offer as choices. (If you don’t do this, you’ll wind up reading Baby’s First Bible for the 1,247,859-th time.) Be sure to select short, picture-filled texts (unless you plan on reading to him all night).
Next, offer him his options. Be sure to specify he is to pick ONLY ONE. Prepare for some resistance here. Stay strong. (You can do it.)
At this point, things are going to get hairy. He’s going to claim he wants to read Ernie’s Big Mess. As soon as you open the cover, he’s going to change his mind to Goodnight Moon. Once you get that going, it’s gonna be Ernie’s Big Mess. No, Goodnight Moon. Ernie’s Big Mess! I MEAN GOODNIGHT MOON!!!
Relax, collect yourself, and remind him he needs to say what he means. Give him a chance to be definitive, and then go with the first thing he says. (He will wail through the first 2-3 pages, but eventually, the story will hook him, and he should calm down.)
Finally, resist his coercive “Again!” or “Now I want that one!” when you’ve finished the story. Giving in will only fuel his persistence. (He won’t cry about it forever. Really. It’ll only seem like forever.)
Step 5: Leave the room. This is the longest step of all.
First, return the books to the bookshelf, tuck her in, and give her your night night kisses and hugs. When you’re about the leave the room, you’ll hear a “Mommy, wait!” or “Daddy, please no go!” Reassure her that she’ll be fine, that you’re right down the hall, and that she needs her rest in order to be happy and healthy tomorrow.
Depending on your parenting method, you’re gonna want to do one of two things here: 1.) Shut the door and let her cry it out for 5 min, after which, if she hasn’t calmed down, you’ll want to reenter, reassure, and leave again, this time for 10 min (adding 5 min to the time between each reentry until she calms down and falls asleep); or 2.) Stay by her side, stroking her hair and rubbing her back until she calms down and falls asleep (tends to take longer in my experience).
DANGER: You’re going to want — and I mean REALLY want — to just let her crawl into your bed to fall asleep. ABORT MISSION. I repeat, ABORT MISSION. Once complete, this mission can’t be undone, and you can say hello to your newest bed mate for the next 10+ years.
Next, settle into your bed with a robust glass of vino and a good book or plop yourself down on the couch for an evening TV program. Get nice and comfy. Actually start to relax and enjoy yourself. Then — and no, this isn’t your ears playing tricks on you — attempt to ignore the faint “Mommy? Daddy?” coming from the vicinity of your toddler’s room.
Once you’re sure it’s ceased, redirect your full attention back to your book or show. Start getting into the plot and characters (and I mean so into them, you think it’s your life happening before your eyes). Jump damn near out of your underpants when the faint beckoning turns into full on dismemberment shrieking. Rush into your toddler’s bedroom prepared to reattach her dangling limbs. Resist the urge to maim and/or kill something cute when your “OH MY GOD, SWEETIE, ARE YOU OK?” is met with “Hi, Mommy!” and a huge smile from your appendages-intact child.
Repeat the above sub-steps until, FOR REALS THIS TIME, your toddler is asleep. Forget finishing the book or show. Chug the whole damn bottle of wine and hit the sack. You’re gonna need your rest for when this shit starts all over again tomorrow.