The tiniest and cutest hostage-taker

To get a three-year-old in bed for the night, it’s advised you begin 30 minutes after they wake up in the morning. Any longer and you probably shouldn’t even bother.

I often feel like those poor Stormtroopers in “Star Wars” that were searching for R2D2 and C3PO, the ones on which Obi-Wan Kenobi used his Jedi Mind Trick to persuade them to let them pass.

“I don’t need to go to bed,” my daughter says convincingly, waving her princess scepter over my head and kissing me on the cheek.

“You know, you don’t need to go to bed right now,” I parrot.

“I can stay up late because I want to color with you.”

“You can stay up a little longer to color with me.”

“I can have cookies.”

“Don’t push it.”

The excuses, when uttered from the mouth of a child, inexplicably transform from obvious procrastination techniques to legit concerns and reasons to stay up. I pray this technology never falls into the hands of terrorists.

The simple act of brushing teeth quickly devolves into making toothpaste foam snarls while staring at ourselves in the bathroom mirror. Following that is the painstaking Dixie cup selection process. This decision proves to be a more difficult decision than which college to attend. It is task that apparently needs a live, stream-of-consciousness commentary track.

“I like the all pink cup but there’s no pink cup. Only the blue one is next. But I can dig for the pink. Green one! You like green. It has pink owls on it. I like pink. I don’t want this one, because it’s not all pink, just a little pink. Uh-oh, I spilled. I don’t want this blue one anymore, because it’s not pink. Orange owls! Whaaaat?!!!!”

Go ahead and TRY to pick on out FOR her. They will all be wrong.

You have to allow this process because the other option is to deprive your child of water, even though you greatly suspect she’s not in the least bit thirsty.

Following this activity is, of course, snack time. Even though she ate not an hour ago and promised you she was “totally full, daddy.” She will rub her stomach dramatically, reminding you of those sad commercials asking you to adopt the starving children. Constant narration of one’s thoughts apparently burns a lot of calories. When this procrastination tactic begins, you may do what I did; offer a less-than-ideal “this is your only option” choice: raisins. You may expect the child to wrinkle her nose and go to bed instead. Haha! Of course this will backfire and you’re now pouring her a bowl full of raisins every night from now until the day you die.

After wrestling her into bed and reading stories (the selection process — from her mountain of books that puts the Library of Congress to shame – is too painful to relate here), she will request 10 kisses and 10 hugs, which of COURSE you have to abide. She might as well add: “…because there won’t be much more time where I’ll be demanding this and instead you’ll have to bribe hugs from me, so take advantage now otherwise you’ll regret it forever.”

Naturally, some of these kisses and hugs are deemed unsatisfactory and will need to be re-administered, which causes further delays. Holiday air travel is a far more efficient process that has less delays.

After the kisses and hugs, you begin the room-leaving procedure, which consists of two songs, IF you’re lucky and the little director hasn’t added four additional encore audience participation numbers to this evening’s program. Once you’ve exhausted every song she knows, you get to re-tuck her in bed because somehow she passed through the covers and without moving is now on top of them all again.

Once you have her finally tucked in, she will present a finger (sometimes THE finger) and say, “Hangnail!”

You wouldn’t let her go to sleep with a hangnail, would you? Of course, when you look, there’s no hangnail there, but you know from experience that if you don’t at least pretend to clip it, she’ll pick at it until there is one. Once you leave to retrieve the clippers, this somehow has reset the entire process and MORE songs are required before the Cutest Hostage Taker dismisses you. Soon you realize it was easier for Moses to lead the Jews out of Egypt.

After you close her door, she will wait until you exhale, thinking you can enjoy the last 15 minutes of your evening. During that exhale, as soon as you begin to de-stress from the day, you’ll get this delightful announcement: “I GOTTA GO POTTY!” Because, you know, of all the water you let her drink from those stupid Dixie cups.

It’s advised that you don’t bash your head on the closet door, because then your wife will ask you to fix it and, because you realize this is another thing you must do before sitting down for the night, you’ll just die.

You finally wrangle her to bed, close the door and sit down on the couch. Just as your eyes begin to close you notice the sun coming up through the window.

The funny part? While you’re working during the day, you’ll keep looking forward to the hectic, frustrating night to come.


Kelly Van De Walle can be reached at or via creepy pumpkin carving message. Follow him on Twitter @pancake_bunny or…nothing. What’s he going to do? He’s exhausted.