He finishes his tea and plays with his toys for 30 mins to an hour until bathtime. We take turns at bathtime, Big and I and tonight is my go. Small is getting a little cranky and whingey so I ask 'is it bedtime?' to which he automatically replies 'no!' But I go over and lift him up anyway, tell him to say goodnight to Daddy and he doesn't protest. His head sinks onto my shoulder as I carry him upstairs. Some nights we hold hands and he climbs the stairs himself but most times I carry him. He'll be too big for carrying soon enough, no sense wasting what time I have left.
Our last remaining stairgate is up there and we only close it now, at bathtime to prevent a tiny streaker escaping back downstairs when his second wind hits just before he gets in the water. I strip him off and let him run around with his toys while I run the bath and lay out pj's, towel and nappy. As ever I offer him the potty and he looks at me in horror at the disgusting idea.
Then into the water. A brief protest at the shower when I wet his hair and shampoo it but he's over it quickly and we have fun squirting his wash foam between his toes and making a rhino horn on his nose. Then I get out the bath crayons and he shows me his prowess in drawing 'Across!' I ask him to draw shapes for me and he still draws lines, but shouts out the shapes when I draw them. He asks for a flower, then a fire engine and we scribble away until the water turns pink with dissolved wax and he starts to yawn. I brush his teeth and rinse the soap and shampoo off and haul him out of the bath where he's now pretending to swim and trying to blow bubbles in the water. I wrap him a towel and combine drying with cuddles, then drying with the easiest ever game of hide and seek. Then it's jammies on and through to bed for the real hard work. Some nights he trips off into bed with no trouble and doesn't even want a story. Those nights are few and far between and often combined with a very busy day. This is not one of those nights. He's eventually persuaded into bed and we read More More More, a book about a hungry whale which is his current favourite. Then games begin. Another story Mummy, a song Mummy, a snack Mummmmmmmyyyyyyy, tv Mummy, kitchen Mummy pleeeeeeese. He wants none of these things, he just wants to postpone the moment when sleep will arrive. He gets sung Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and as that is our signal for no more messing and go to sleep, he's not happy. I opt to be firm, and leave the room knowing he won't follow me as he seems to have forgotten he can get out of bed whenever he likes.
Downstairs I listen to the monitor as he chats away, not upset just chatting. Then he starts calling for us. "Mummy, where aaaaarreee yooouuuuu?" "Daddy, come quick!" "Help, I'm stuck!" We wait, sometimes he just nods off not long after this point but not tonight. When he starts to sound upset at the lack of response I go up. I give him a cuddle but I know how much he ate at tea time and I know fine he's not hungry, I know if I take him downstairs he'll forget how starving he claimed to be a minute ago and want to watch tv. So I put comfort to one side and climb into the four and half foot long bed myself alongside him and we snuggle up. He's happy with that, and gives me teddy to hug, takes a dinosaur for himself and we quietly sing incy wincy spider and round and round the garden. For a moment there, he begins to settle, he tells me he's sleepy. Hopeful, I begin to slide out of the tiny bed and get some circulation back in my legs. He spins round with surprising agility and clamps himself around my arm "Stay here" he commands. I sink back, loving my child, loving the hugs, hating the cramp and the knowledge that the kitchen will remain uncleared while this goes on. Finally, he seems relaxed enough for my exit and I shuffle out from under the covers and off the edge of the bed, he's not happy but he's not chasing after me either. I ask him to try to sleep, that I'll come back if he can't and he grumpily says "ok". I'm back downstairs again, the sounds from the monitor have longer pauses between them and he's not asking for either of us now. Five minutes I reckon. I hope.
Oh no, now he's muttering about television. I may be up all night. He's lucky he's so cute.