The Five Stages of Grief as We Put Our Kids to Bed

As a mother of a three and five year old, I’m starting to realize that, for a time of day that’s supposed to lead to sleep, bedtime is way too involved. I have a whole conspiracy theory going where I’m fairly certain that children do this so that we sleep harder while they sit on us and harvest our energy/organs, but I won’t make you listen to that right now.

Instead, I’m going to share with you how I’ve noticed that, while they actually apply to a lot of life, the very popular five stages of grief play well into putting your kids to bed. And, because I don’t know how to keep things to myself, you get to see how this works. Ready? Of course you are. Here we go:


It all starts with you just knowing that tonight will be different. You will NOT answer 9 million questions, get 40,000 glasses of water, or kiss a godforsaken number of stuffed animals goodnight. There will be no screaming or tantrums, because you’ve been watching reruns of The Dog Whisperer and you’re ready to shake a can of nickels like your life depends on it. Bedtime will be easy. Tonight is the night your life changes forever.


What the fuck is this?! Didn’t you tell them to change into their pajamas like ten minutes ago? Why are they naked? Why is there toothpaste on the mirror? You shake your can of nickels and they promptly start dancing. DANCING. You wind up screeching like an indignant pterodactyl and threatening to take away all snacks until the end of time. You may also hold a teddy bear or a toy hostage, but you’re not proud of it. Pajamas get on, and teeth may even get brushed though. So whatever.


You’re now to what should be the easy part. You’re just trying to tuck their little bodies in so that you can have a night to procrastinate. But noooo. NOW we have to haggle.

“I want THREE stories!” They’ll yell.

You snort. “One story.”

“FOUR stories!”

“Wh—I don’t think you understand how this works. You just went higher.”

“SIX stories!”

“Stop that! Fine. I’ll give you two stories if you’ll just get in the bed.”

“…and a song.”


“…and a dance.”

“Okay, fine. A song, but no dance.”

You almost never come out on top of this process. You are not in charge here somehow, and you don’t understand how it happened. You’re just suddenly giving them things and you’re still trying to figure out how as you do a pretty grand rendition of the worm as they throw the nickels from your Discipline Can at you with glee. You have lost. Which is why you wind up inching into…


It is now 10 minutes past bedtime, and your child is not only still awake, but they also look like they’re not going to sleep any time within the next three days. You, on the other hand, feel like you’ve aged 80 years. You’re certain you’re going to wind up living in this bedroom forever, bringing your child glass of water after glass of water until they have to pee and demand you hold their hand as they go. You keep wondering where you went wrong. You had a plan and it fell apart. What kind of adult are you that a tiny person has gotten the best of you?

Then something magical happens. They finally agree to lie down. They hug you and kiss you and tell you they love you. They actually say what sounds like the last “goodnight” for the evening. So then you feel..


Bedtime didn’t go the way you’d hoped, but they got to bed in the end. There’s a little rush of love and appreciation, and you can’t believe you were ever angry or snippy with such cute little people. People YOU made. And besides…you still have a whole 45 minutes before you pass out watching TV. It wasn’t so bad, right? Right. Truth is, with kids, you can’t win ‘em all and you know it. You didn’t win today, but that doesn’t mean you won’t win another day.

There’s always tomorrow night, and tomorrow night is going to be completely different.

Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

Arianna Bradford is a mother of two who spends her precious free time sleeping and playing video games. When not doing that, she’s hosting The NYAM Project Podcast and running this website. She hopes you really like it here and will tell all of your friends.

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