For me, the biggest challenge of a day as a single parent comes at night, when it’s time for the children to go the sleep. The problem is basic math: neither child goes to sleep on their own yet, and so each night both my wife and I spend a little of the evening putting the kids to bed.
My daughter is pretty easy: just put on Disney Princesses CD, hope that the laptop’s fan doesn’t make too much noise, and wait for her to drift off, which she often does in mid-sentence (one usually involving what she wants to be for Halloween, or what kind of birthday she wants– meaning, what fictional character theme she wants). Fortunately, my in-laws volunteered to come over and sit with her, so that I could concentrate on Mr. Fight the Power.
For my son treats going to sleep like an endurance event: the longer he can stay awake, the better. At first, things were going well: we read a story, and he got into bed. Then he remembered he needed his bear. Then, he needed his handy dandy notebook (or "hanny hanny buke" as he calls it). Then, a tractor. (Fortunately the batteries were burned out.) Then he wanted me to set his tool chest (what he decided to call "my happy box") on the bed. All in all, it looked like a Sleep Train ran into a Toys R Us.
And still he wouldn’t go to sleep. He needed a story. Specifically, he needed the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. So I told it to him: "Once upon a time, in the dark woods, there was a cottage with three bears…." He needed it again. And again. And yet again, sometimes with small corrections ("they BIG bears," "there a Daddy Bear, and a Mama Bear, and a Baby Bear," like I was going to forget). By this time, the luscious Arts and Crafts detailing of my earlier tellings had fallen away, and I was down to the Bauhaus version: "Three bears went for a walk while their food cooled down." By what felt like the fifteenth time, I was down to haiku:
Three bears walk in woods
Goldilocks: eats food and sleeps
Bears back; Goldy flees.
Eventually, though, he did fall asleep– more than an hour later than he normally does, granted, but I’m still willing to call it a victory. Not an elegant one. But I’m still awake.