Establishing a routine at bedtime is good business. We started the practice when our boys were still infants and carried it on until they started going to bed later than we did. No matter what else was going on we tried to keep to our routine of taking baths, wrestling, reading books, praying together, and finally getting tucked in. Before they learned how to tell time, we could start the whole process as early as we wanted and the boys would just follow along like always. That was especially useful on those days when mom and dad needed a little more time to themselves in the evening.
As the years went by, we made adjustments. Bedtimes got later. The boys moved from baths to showers. Books went from picture books, to books with words, to chapter books. They started to read along, and then eventually they were allowed to read on their own for a while after we tucked them in. Wrestle time also evolved.
I began wrestling with Gerrit when he was still a baby. I rocked him back and forth on his back and used his little hands to pummel myself in the face, complete with Bruce Lee sound effects. Whaaaa! Yeow! With each knockout blow I would roll over and groan, and Gerrit would just cackle.
By the time Tuck came along, Gerrit and I were doing passable imitations of championship wrestling moves, except ours involved a lot more tickling. Tuck got the Bruce Lee treatment as well, until he graduated to greater mobility.
That’s when the monsters came.
The first and most famous of the monsters was Turtle Man. Each night, I would position myself in the middle of the living room floor, slide the cushion from our papasan chair on top of me, pull my arms and legs underneath, and wait.
My victims were wary. At first they would stand safely out of reach, but eventually one would get brave enough to venture closer. Turtle Man just waited. If they got too close he sometimes growled menacingly and everyone ran screaming for the safety of an adjacent room. But they always came back. Inevitably one would come so close that his little foot would be visible from beneath the shell.
He was doomed.
With lightning speed, Turtle Man would reach out and grab the hapless victim by the ankle, drag him under the shell, and tickle him mercilessly. They scratched and clawed trying to escape, but Turtle Man gobbled them up until he was full. Then he ejected what was left of them to prepare for his next victim.
The casualties recovered quickly and usually came back for more. As they gained experience they attempted simultaneous attacks and came from opposite directions. Turtle Man still got them. They tried jumping on top of him, but Turtle Man inverted his shell and trapped them in a huge papasan taco. They planned, and strategized, and faced Turtle Man down each night; and just when they thought they were gaining the upper hand…
Mole Man appeared!
Mole Man was used to operating underground, so he liked to have the lights off. Darkness was his kingdom. Mole Man moved on two feet so he could chase you, but you could always see where he was because he wore workshop glasses with flashlights on both sides. He sniffed and snarfled as he sought out his victims. You didn’t want Mole Man dragging you into his underworld.
Then there was Magma Man, who wore bright red long johns and seared you with his lava skin when he caught you. That sounded really scary, but it felt a lot like tickling.
The Spider covered himself with a web that looked like one of mom’s blankets. When he caught you he wrapped his web around you and sucked out all your juices. That felt a lot like kisses, but it was really horrible!
Other monsters invaded our home through the years, but they’re all pretty much gone now.
I’d like to be able to tell you that our wrestle time with the monsters was part of a grand design to encourage my boys to face their fears and help them develop important life skills, but that wouldn’t really be true. If any of that was happening, we weren’t paying much attention.
We were too busy having fun!
originally published 9/22/1| next post Being Someone