so, i am reading this whole post about having a second child and why people do it, and how people do it (because with jack's birthday coming up next week, we are at the point when we said we would start thinking about it) and it got me wondering how you guys get all those kids to bed at night! i mean, i can see the older ones maybe going to bed on their own, maybe, but you have a few young ones there, and had a real tiny baby not that long ago (he is getting so big so quickly it blows my mind!) (my mind is pretty well blown by the fact that i practically have a toddler now though too!). in any case, this is basically another one of those "how do you it?" emails.
And Meredith asked me about the afternoon/dinner/bed schedule ages ago, back when I did the Here's the Hell How post, and I was all, "Yes, I'll totally do a post on that! Totally!"---and that was in February and here we are in August.
So. Bedtime routine. Paul gets home from work at around 4:45. He plays with the kids for awhile, and since this is the first time all day there has been more than one adult in the house, I usually use this time to do things that are tricky to handle with one person in charge: looking in the basement for something I'm not quite sure where I put it, washing the dishes,
Paul usually makes the kids' dinner; he starts at about 5:10. It has to be done while we're both home (I can cook on my own with five kids in the house, but only if I can also scream and throw dishes and swig directly from an open bottle of hard liquor), and he likes that chore better than others, so it's mostly his. It's something simple: eggs and toast and sausage, or english muffin pizzas, or chicken cut up for dipping in sauces, or chicken and scrambled egg and rice. While Paul cooks, I'm in charge of the other kids, although he's always got Elizabeth because she likes to help him.
Rob and William are responsible for tidying up before dinner. They're supposed to basically remove all the day's Kid Detritus from the main living areas of the house---the rooms we still have to look at after the kids are in bed. Rob and William resent that this means they're picking up after the younger three, but recently the twins have been able to help some, and also our attitude about this is NOT MUCH SYMPATHY for children who don't exactly have to work on the farm around here.
When dinner is ready (5:30/5:45ish), whichever parent didn't cook is in charge of supervising Henry in his high chair, and Paul and I both handle requests for more milk, dropped fork, more food, tattling about who put whose carrots on whose plate, etc. It's common for one of us to be able to leave for something brief: checking email, cycling laundry, finally using the bathroom without a buddy, etc.---but we both know not to be gone too long, or the other person gets Resentful Feelings.
After dinner, the kids clear their own dishes; I help out if there's a leftover-food issue to deal with. The parent in charge of Henry (usually me) cleans up Henry and his high chair and swabs at the faces of anyone else who needs it. Sometimes there's a little loose time here if the kids ate fast or if we had dinner earlier than usual, and in that case if I'm feeling energetic I might give a fast bath (just washing, not playing) to two of the Littles (two is my usual limit per session), but it's more typical for it to be about 6:00 and time for the getting-ready-for-bed routine.
Paul changes Henry and Edward into their pajamas. Meanwhile, I brush five sets of teeth: I call the kids in one after another, and then go find Henry and make a stab at reaching some of his. After Rob and William have their teeth brushed, they go get themselves into their pajamas. When everyone's teeth are brushed, I help Elizabeth into her pajamas (she likes to do it "herself," meaning it takes ten times as long and requires four times as much work from me).
At 6:30, Paul and Rob and William go to Rob's room, where Paul reads to them. I stay with the younger three. Sometimes they're playing and I read; sometimes they're watching TV and I'm at my computer; sometimes they're playing and I'm fixing my dinner; sometimes I'm reading to them; sometimes I'm handling some sort of last-minute issue (someone needed a bath, someone wanted to try the potty, someone needed a diaper change, someone's teeth weren't brushed yet).
At 6:45, I put Edward and Henry to bed. It takes a little over 5 minutes to settle them in with their various things: kisses and hugges, blankies, covers, etc. Elizabeth acts as if she's another grown-up: wishing them good-night, closing the door, etc.
It hasn't always been this way, but these days one of us sits with Elizabeth until she falls asleep. This has changed everything around: we used to put Edward and Henry to bed at 7:00, but we start earlier so we can also start earlier with Elizabeth. Paul and I take turns sitting with her. It's a lottery: some nights she's asleep in 10 minutes, and some nights it's 45. The most common is for the parent on Elizabeth Duty to be sneaking out of her room at 7:15 or 7:20.
After their book time with Paul, Rob and William are allowed to stay up---but they have to be playing quietly in the downstairs playroom (a rec room type area with a Lego table, a computer, board games) or in their rooms (well, William's room has sleeping children in it, so our room is his room if he needs it). They're allowed to come up for emergencies (blood, fire, burglars, flood) and every half hour to go to the bathroom (which always turns into a "just wanting to say one thing" opportunity), but otherwise they're not supposed to be underfoot or making demands. On school nights, their "no, really, now you actually have to go to bed" time is 8:30 (non-school nights: 9:00), but then we let Rob read in bed after that and we don't look carefully at when he turns out the lights: reading = good, and also he's always had trouble sleeping.
So to sum up: we're in motion with the dinner/bed routine from about 5:10 until about 6:45; then only one of us is busy until around 7:20; and then we're both basically free for the evening.