It just became infinitely clear what I’ve gotten myself into.

Our nightly bedtime routine has evolved over the course of our four years of parenting. It now contains more steps than the passage of complex bills by Congress.

Russian Revolution, October 1917. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (Ulyanov - 1870-1924) haranguing the deputies of the Second Soviet Congress in the Smolny Palace, St Petersburg.

Let’s pretend this free, grainy depiction of the Russian Revolution is actually a picture of Congress instead of me paying for an actual picture of Congress.  Thanks.

First, we read scriptures and say a prayer together as a family (during which Anna, our oldest who is four, is usually paying decent attention and asking questions like “why did Moses talk to fire?” and Viva, who is two, is busy flitting around the room like a bat on crack knocking toys off shelves and grinding crayons into the carpet and also being adorable).  Then we do “clean-ups” where we pick up All The Toys (ever made?) and put them into the closet knowing full well that by 10:00am tomorrow they’ll be strewn everywhere including the bathrooms once again, and will remain that way all day long.  (Parents are insane.) Then the girls get in their jammies which have to match in some way or Anna has a meltdown.  Then we do the Pajama Dance where the girls dance while Wife and I clap rhythmically and sing a song we made up. Then we brush and floss teethies, take flouride, and give hugs and kisses.  Finally, Wife and I each take one of the girls and put her to bed with her own routine.

Viva is simple.  You go in, read a book or two, put her in her crib, sing her a song, give her a kiss through the bars of her prison crib (we have crib-tent! It is awesome!), and then blow kisses as you leave the room.

Anna is more complicated. You go in, read her a book, turn off the light, sing her a song, and then give her the chance to “ask a question.” These questions can range in seriousness and complexity from “What letter does Viva start with?” to “Daddy, why did Mommy’s grandpa die? I miss my great great great Grandpa!” as she breaks down weeping. Mostly, though, her questions revolve around Michael Jackson’s Thriller and zombies.

(I kid you not, the girl is fascinated by Thriller and wants to watch it almost daily.

                      Nothing more soothing than this sweet lullaby.

Today I let her watch The Way You Make Me Feel. She watched it with a reverence reserved for funerals, then looked up at me like it was like a revelation and whispered “Daddy, there are two Thrillers.”)

After “ask a question,” I am required to ask how many kisses she wants, and where on her face she wants them.  Then we count them out on our hands, I distribute the kisses, we do the same thing with the kisses I blow to her at the door, and then finally after sometimes an hour and a half (total process, not just Anna), I am free.

The 30 seconds after the bedtime routine is a moment of true, unadulterated joy. It is glorious.  It’s kind of like being done with school for the summer. Your mind races with the possibilities! TV? Internet? Time alone with Wife? More dessert?

The world is your oyster!

Tonight, I finished the arduous process in record time, and felt great relief.  I felt peace.  I decided to head downstairs to hop online and play some Facebook games while I waited for Wife to finish her bedtime ritual with the other daughter. As I got to the living room, though, I was startled by something so jarring it made me stop in my tracks.

One-week-old Tessa, whose existence outside the womb had slipped my weary mind, was not asleep after bedtime.

She was crying.

And then so was I. In the fetal position. Inconsolably.  For hours.

At least that’s what I wanted to do. In reality, I retrieved her with a heavy heart from the bathroom where she was sleeping (barbaric, I know, but it’s the darkest place in the house and the fan provides amazing white noise) and changed her diaper. Then I tried to rock her back to sleep, which wasn’t entirely successful.

But you wanna know what? Instead of annoyance, all I felt for that little creature in my arms was love.

Like I said.  Parents are insane.