We seem to have lost the ability to put the Littleboys to bed in this house.
Once upon a time - back in London - I had two little boys who went to bed like clockwork. They didn't need us to lie with them, soothe them to sleep or even to have a light on. It was simply a matter of plonking them into their cots, kissing them goodnight and they were fine. I could put them to bed at 7.25pm and get downstairs in time for the drumbeat of Eastenders. When we had friends round, they used to marvel that the children went down so easily.
Those were the days. Since we moved to the US, the boys sleep in the same room, in bunk beds. If there is any chance that they are not tired, there will be climbing up and down the bunks into each other's beds for hours after their official bedtime. (Often, they end up asleep in the same bunk, curled up together - it's happened twice this week). Since the summer arrived, bedtime has been even harder to enforce- it's light, it's warm and our neighbours' kids are often up till 10pm playing outside. As no gardens here are fenced, we live very much cheek by jowl with our neighbours, and there's no way those boys are going to sleep when they can hear their friends outside the window. On occasion, I've had to chase Littleboy 1 back inside as he's attempted to go and jump on the trampoline after dark in his pyjamas.....
We've tried everything. We put their suppertime back until later so that they could eat with us, and then go straight to bed, rather than messing around and disturbing our meal when they should be in bed. But putting them to bed at 9pm just means they aren't asleep until 10pm.
I've tried tiring them out with swimming and hours of outside play. It just seems to make them more manic. I never let them nap during the day - this is fatal, and means they won't be asleep until 11pm. And I've tried threatening them with all sorts of things if they don't go to sleep - but usually, they just laugh in my face.
You might ask why does it matter? Well, there are two reasons. The first is that I really would like an hour - just an hour - of boy-free time in the evening, in which to relax with my glass of wine and read the paper or watch TV. But often, by the time they've gone to bed, I'm exhausted from chasing them around, and ready for bed myself.
Secondly, they are like grumpy teenagers when I have to get them up and ready for summer camp in the morning. Littleboy 2 in particular is silent and morose at the breakfast table, and highly unco-operative about getting changed.
The only comfort is that they aren't getting up early at weekends. Except, of course, for last Saturday, when The Doctor, on an energy-saving mission, decided to switch their air-conditioner off at 4am. They were up - clammily warm and raring to go- on the dot of 7am........