Every night, day after day, on school days, holidays, sick days, and every day in between, we put our kids to bed. No matter what kind of day we’ve had, how tired we are, or how depleted we feel, there’s no avoiding the bedtime routine. So, whether we’re sneezing, coughing, or fevering, whether we’re worried, depressed, or irritable, we dig deep into our mommy souls, and find a way to climb that mountain.

I call it a mountain because, let’s face it, bedtime is one of our toughest mom jobs. It always happens at the end of the day when we’re totally exhausted, but it requires “morning mom” energy. It’s full of challenges, like turning off the electronics, walking upstairs, and flossing. Timing is delicate, as a minor fall or a step down the wrong path could cause a delay, or even a landslide, making the next day treacherous. But, with proper planning and the right equipment, it ultimately offers the exhilaration of victory, and a much deserved, if brief, rest at the summit.

In my house, once dinner is cleaned up and homework is done, there’s a brief 15 minutes of downtime. The kids are fed and generally quiet, lunches are prepped, and I feel myself begin to decompress to the rhythmic hum of the dishwasher. I might check Facebook, flip through a magazine, or text with my husband, and for those few delicious minutes, I feel human again. It’s during this time that my body, perceiving our day to be done, begins to mold into the exact shape of the sofa.

However, a quick look at the clock tells my brain that it’s 15 minutes ‘til bedtime. I try to negotiate with myself, hoping to win a few extra moments of rest before I embark on the climb. Maybe let them sleep in tomorrow? Drive them to school instead of rushing to the bus? Don’t put them to bed at all, and see what happens? Nah, not worth the risk. I peel myself off the sofa and wearily begin the trek.

It starts with roll call for my 7 year old identical twins, as it’s critical that we reach the summit by 8:30pm. After they unsuccessfully attempt to delay the hike, the three of us slowly ascend the stairs to our midway rest stop, where flossing and brushing take place. At this point, the boys are so tired, that everything is either hysterically funny or horribly offensive. As a result, globs of toothpaste end up in odd places, I am treated to shower-capped renditions of Katy Perry’s “Firework”, as well as the occasional injury.

We then head over to the bedroom for the most difficult part of the climb. One twin spends 10 agonizing minutes finding the perfect socks to wear to bed, while the other dives into a pillow wearing his glasses, which are now crooked. A giggling love fest ensues between the two, starting with yelps and tickles, and ending with a poked eye. A few magical mom kisses later, I reroute us back onto the trail. We’re nearing the summit, and I can taste freedom. Like clockwork, my hiking partners begin to tire and slow down. One suddenly has a bellyache, while the other is suffering from extreme hunger. We stop for water. A few books later, the boys are finally in bed, and my favorite part of the bedtime routine has arrived. I lay down next to each one, stroking heads, chatting quietly, and giving butterfly kisses. In the dark, my body again believes that it’s bedtime. I snuggle next to the boys, wondering what would happen if I just let myself fall asleep right there. Figuring my older two kids might wonder what happened to me, I again peel myself off the bed, blow sweet dream kisses to my hiking buddies, and open their door to leave. I squint in the light, take a deep breath, and exhale. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, and it’s over.

I quietly pad downstairs to my computer to get some work done, but before I even sit down, I hear the bedroom door open. My moment of peace is punctured by “I have to poop.” I’m not even sure which twin said it, but it doesn’t really matter, because neither will go to bed alone. I descend briefly from the mountain summit, wondering how anyone could crawl into bed at night and THEN determine that they have to poop. Who does that? Twenty minutes later, my hiking buddies are tucked back in, and I scramble back up to the summit. There are only about 45 minutes left before this hiker has to pack it in for the night, but I savor every moment, because tomorrow after dinner it starts all over again.

Abby Helman Kelly is the founder and owner of www.glutenfreeconnecticut.com, the state’s most comprehensive and up-to-date gluten-free resource. She has recently returned to the workforce after spending 14 years as a stay at home mom.  Abby can be reached at abby@glutenfreeconnecticut.com or 860-836-5041