My kids are squirrels. Every night before bed, they create giant mountains in their beds, stockpiles of toys and stuffed animals and blankets. They are preparing for the apocalypse, which, for a three year old, is bedtime.
At bedtime, they are simply expected to be tired, lay their precious little heads on their pillows, and drift off into dream land. It sounds nice, right? To a parent, “go to bed” sounds like “your obligations for the day are done! You made it! Close your eyes quickly, because you have to wake up in 3 hours when someone falls out of bed!” To a toddler, “go to bed” sounds like “you cannot leave this prison and now you must miss out on everything fun in the whole wide world!” Due to such impending doom and torture, my kids have taken to gathering any valuable belongings and placing them in their beds to soften the blow of their twelve hour purgatory.
“I can’t LIVE without this pair of slippers for the next 12 hours! This is my favorite book EVER and I NEED it with me! How can I sleep without 67 stuffed animals? No, this metal truck won’t dig into my body after I fall asleep on top of it! Yes I NEED four blankets; they each have different colors!”
You have to pick your battles. Generally speaking, if it’s not a choking hazard or a perishable food item, they can keep it in their beds. I’ve also learned (the hard ways) the importance of doing a “hand check” before tucking in, unless you want to spend 20 minutes picking a hardened gummy vitamin off the side of someone’s bed because they fell asleep while they were “saving it for later.” SQUIRRELS!
Allowing an unnatural amount of toys and co-inhabitants in their beds does have a parental advantage. It tends to decrease the amount of bedtime stalling. There are less last minute sobs for food or water. There are fewer pleas to use the bathroom 10 minutes after they last used the bathroom. On the other hand, the loud thump of books slamming into the ground at 1am is a less than ideal way to be woken up.
You’d think that these bite-sized people who can’t remember where they leave anything and require a full on “mommy search party” to find the many things they misplace, wouldn’t notice the absence of one of the 67 stuffed animals they keep in their beds. You’d be wrong. They can spot that in a hot second. Unfortunately, much like real squirrels, they often bury items and then forget where they were buried. Cue the inevitable bedtime “mommy search party” to find whatever unlucky soul may have been placed in the play kitchen microwave, in Daddy’s work boot, or buried under clothes in a laundry basket. It does not matter if this is their least favorite toy. If it is missing at bedtime, the squirrels go crazy.
I’ve become quite skilled in making mental notes as to the locations of toys during the day, in order to avoid the frantic bedtime search and rescue missions. I’ve stopped questioning whether there will actually be room for a human toddler amongst all their stuffed roommates. It works for us. The squirrels gather their stockpiles for the dreaded bedtime, and I let them, because those glorious dooms-day piles get me one step closer to crawling into my own soft, comfortable, toy-free bed.