World’s oldest battle


The battle of which I write has been raging as long as humans have inhabited the Earth. Not only the longest confrontation in history, but with every child and parent involved, it has become the largest, reaching every corner of the globe.

Starting an hour or so after sundown the battle, sometimes as short-lived as 30 minutes, often rages for hours, exhausting all willing and unwilling combatants. Include yours truly in the unwilling column.

You see, dear reader, I’ve been drafted into the war for bedtime. My adversaries? The cutest 3- and 4-year-old girls you ever did see. But to be honest, the way things are going lately, I’m losing the battle badly. They just won’t go to sleep.

For those seven years, seven magical years that my three brothers, The Sister and I spent growing up on Flamingo Street, our bedtime routine wasn’t anything magical at all. And it didn’t resemble anything like it is around our house today.

When Dad had had enough of us running, yelling, and throwing things at each other, he’d make the pronouncement, “That’s it! Enough! Time for bed! Better not hear any noise coming from your rooms.” And he always followed the statement with, “Or else.”

He never told us what that meant, but we all knew it had to be bad.

Still, on some nights we overcame our fear of the  “Or else” and stayed up in our rooms for hours after our bedtime. For some odd reason, those were the nights we got into trouble. Oftentimes ending up at the hospital.

How could a soft mattress be the reason you’re rushed to the emergency room? That’s what my dad tried to explain to the doctor as I dripped blood on the white tile floor of the examining room. After Dad made his nightly proclamation, sent us to our rooms, Mom kissed us goodnight and cut off the overhead lights. We were supposed to go to bed. We never did.

Unfortunately, our parents didn’t have infrared bedroom cameras like we have today. If they did, they would’ve quickly stopped me during the first hour of jumping between Mark’s and my twin beds, and I’d never have slammed face first into Mark’s bedpost. It was pitch black in our bedroom at night when the lights were off. That’s why we had 10 lightning bugs in a Mason jar on the nightstand. It was the perfect amount for a nightlight.

That night the doctor gave me 10 stitches. On the way home, Dad asked if I’d learned anything from my experience? I replied, “Yes, we need to get a fresh batch of lightning bugs so we can see better.”

That was over 50 years ago, and I can still see the scar on my chin every morning when I shave. And I smile because the pain of the memory has long faded even though the scar has not.

I remember all the adventures my brother and I had when the lights were off and we were supposed to be in bed. Things really have changed since we all lived on Flamingo Street. As I write this story, I keep checking the high definition display of the baby monitor with super sensitive sound that alternates between two cameras mounted directly above our sleeping angels.

Not a chance they can roll over without Big Papa here seeing or hearing them. With the zoom feature, when an eye flutters open, I can see it. If a bare foot becomes exposed during the night, it must be quickly covered by sheet and blanket, or surely the entire child will freeze. Can’t have a frozen child on Big Papa’s watch, now can we?

Yes, bedtime really has changed since Flamingo Street. Back then, Dad wasn’t getting out of bed to cover us up for any reason. Guess his thinking was, I’ve got five kids. If one freezes to death due to an exposed foot during the middle of summer, then I still have four left.

Around our house we start talking about bedtime promptly at 7. I’m usually the one doing the talking. My bedtime proclamations fall on deaf ears. Thirty minutes later, the first of the whining starts. It reaches a feverish pitch about 8 when the nightly proclamation is again announced, “Girls, Big Papa’s tired. Time for bed.”

That’s when the argument between nighttime drinks starts. Would it be milk, red or blue Gatorade, or water? Hint, no one has ever chosen water. Then the argument turns to the light – one wants it on and the other wants it off.

The final disagreement is what story to read. An hour later, the only person asleep is the old guy sitting in the bedroom rocking chair.

I have an operating theory that adults and children share the same amount of energy; it’s just spread out over a larger body, so I don’t last as long as they do. Their energy is wound up in those tiny, perfect, little bodies, so they can resist sleep all night if need be.

Our girls have trouble going to sleep. That’s a fact. But I guess they come about naturally from their Big Papa. Growing up on Flamingo, my brothers and I never went to sleep when we were sent to bed. The main difference is that our parents just didn’t have our shenanigans broadcast to a high definition monitor with super sensitive sound via twin infrared cameras that they scrutinized to watch our every move.

I still catch lightning bugs for a nightlight. Except this time, the Mason jar is placed on a nightstand between the twin beds of Little One and Sweet Caroline, our two granddaughters.

No worries, with our infrared, sound and motion detector cameras, Big Papa here will be able to stop any bed jumping before anyone can get hurt. That is if I don’t fall asleep first.

There’s more to write on this story, more bedtime injuries from Flamingo to relate, but a quick glance over at the monitor shows a barefoot peeking out from beneath the covers. Unless I act quickly, there will be one frozen child in the morning. And we can’t have that on Big Papa’s watch, now can we?

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]