After three kids I have noticed a pattern that has been universal to all three of my children, and in my conversations with other moms it seems to be a universal pattern among pretty much all small children. Maybe pattern isn’t the right term. A pattern implies a reliable set of behaviors. The only thing reliable about this is my desire to rip my hair out by the end of it. What am I talking about you ask? I’m talking about the witching hour. I am talking about how even on the most wonderful of days, 6 o’ clock rolls around and my children become possessed. King Toot inevitably starts to scream. Not just a mild complaining but real, angry, full body, face is purple, give you a migraine yelling. He’s not hungry, doesn’t want to be held, doesn’t need a diaper change, and won’t go to sleep. He cries in his bouncer, in the swing, in the Moby and in his bumble chair. He wails when we leave him alone, when I try to play with him or if the girls try to talk to him. For some reason he is just mad. Add that to trying to feed the girls dinner and then get them ready for bed I start to feel the tension build. I usually do okay through dinner. Sometimes I can lull the crying into soft sobs by holding him and bouncing with him while the girls eat. If I can’t, I finally admit defeat and have to let him cry in his crib for the 20 minutes left in dinner. (of course if you read many of the mommy blogs they would say I am being abusive and causing my child brain damage. but for the sake of my sanity I ignore the blogs and ask God to protect him from the inevitable death that surely will happen if he cries too long) But then comes the girls’ bedtime routine. First problem is the girls batteries are pretty much dead by this point. So this is when the yelling at each other, crying because I can’t hold the piece of fuzz from the floor, smacking my sister for daring to look at me begins. This is added to the screaming from King Toot in the background. But an even bigger problem is the picture I have in my head from all those commercials, tv shows, and movies. They show the happy family all snuggled together on the couch or bed reading stories together. I love that picture. But between King Toot and the girls my patience is usually gone and instead of a happy family reading together we have the screaming baby, two girls reaching across mommy to poke and pinch each other, and mommy losing her cool and yelling, “Can’t you get along for 2 minutes? You touch your sister one more time and no more stories ever! Stop tattling or mommy will really lose it and sell all your toys!” (So maybe I don’t actually say that but pretty close). I finally throw them in bed, sing their nighttime song super fast, give them a quick peck, and flee the room. This is of course when King Toot inevitably stops crying. It doesn’t matter what order or what time I do things, he won’t stop crying until I put them all to bed. I get him to bed and sit down, trying to regain my nerves. No matter how hard I try, we can never seem to end the day well. The feeling of failure sets in, the list of things I was hoping to get done is tossed into the garbage, I engorge myself on cookies, and then tiptoe into their rooms to kiss my sleeping angels and apologize for losing my cool yet again. Then I collapse into bed. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my job and never want to do anything else. Usually the entire day goes well. We do little arts or crafts, King Toot is smiley and adorable, and my girls are affectionate and sweet. But there are certain things I dread, and bedtime has become one of them. But tomorrow is a new day, and a new chance to finally end the day well.