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Tuesday, November 12, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: App could solve the problem of whack-a-mole bedtime

By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

I was amazed a couple weeks ago when I read about Bob Burdett, the Spokane man whose Apple Watch automatically alerted first responders after he crashed his bike and was laying unconscious in the road. My husband was giddy when that story came out because he has been trying to convince me for years that an Apple Watch is something I desperately need – for safety, for convenience, for everything.

He’s so insistent, in fact, that I warn him before every Christmas, Mother’s Day and birthday that he’d better not get me one, and the reason is this: I don’t want a device constantly attached to me, buzzing and dinging when someone needs/wants me to look at something. My kids do that already; I basically have six living Apple Watches attached to me at all times.

That said, there is one feature that, if invented, would persuade me to get an Apple Watch. My mom came up with it last week when we were coming home from having dinner together, and she noticed me nervously glancing at the time.

“Are you worried about getting home so late?” she asked. “No,” I answered. “I’m worried that I’m getting home too early and the kids won’t be in bed yet.”

She gets it; she’s had to put my kids to bed before. For some families, bedtime is a quiet, winding-down time filled with snuggles and stories and cozily lit rooms. For our family, bedtime is the most amped-up time of the day.

As soon as we announce “OK, time for bed!,” our three youngest sons strip down to pajama pants and bare chests (the preferred pajama combination of little boys everywhere) and suddenly become like actual characters in “Lord of the Flies.”

As Logan and I stand as sentinels in the hallway by their bedrooms, chanting “JPT! JPT!” (Jammies! Potty! Teeth!), they knock each other off the stool by the sink, spew liquified toothpaste everywhere and slam bathroom doors on wayward fingers. Finding their way to their actual beds is like a circus act minus (for now) the flaming hoops.

The three older kids aren’t as chaotic, but they definitely dish out their own brand of bedtime avoidance. Suddenly, the sophomore remembers she has two pages of math homework to complete. The freshman discovers his damp football uniform that needs to be washed before the game tomorrow.

And the middle-schooler realizes that she forgot to practice the violin and decides that the best way to rectify that would be to play it at full volume just as her feral little brothers are finally settling down for the night.

I’ve heard bedtime described as similar to playing a game of whack-a-mole, and that’s certainly how it feels in our house. We’ll get one kid settled, and another one will pop out of his room. We’ll take care of whatever his problem is, and another one will appear. It takes forever. It is not calm and cozily lit. It is an arduous 60-minute process that is not what I want to do after a long day.

Which brings me back to my mom’s Apple Watch idea: “Someone needs to invent an app that lets you know if your kids are asleep and it’s safe to come home from a date,” she said. Yes! I know there are baby-monitoring devices similar to this.

What I’m looking for is something that will attach to, say, a 9-year-old boy monitoring his heart rate and breathing pattern and then tell me definitively if he is actually off to dreamland, merely faking sleep or, heaven forbid, still rappelling from his bunk bed.

This app would be a game changer for Logan and me. On more than one occasion, we have been on our way home from a date when we thought to call the babysitter to see if the kids were in bed yet. When her answer was “No,” we kept driving right past our house, parked on a side street and watched an episode of “The Office” on Logan’s phone until we were certain that the little angels would be in bed.

It was only then that we drove home and nervously eased open the door to the house, listening – with the same intensity as someone cracking a safe during a jewel heist – for any sound of scurrying feet or muffled laughter.

Avoiding the whole bedtime rigmarole: There really ought to be an app for that.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and random menagerie of farm animals. Her view of family life is firmly rooted in Spokane Valley. You can reach her at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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