Witching hour can be one of the most trying times of our day. The children are tired, you’re tired and eyeing off the bottle, the dinner is cooking (hopefully), your partner may have just arrived home to bring in a fresh wave of excitement and then everything needs to run like clockwork so you can clock off. Children sense this need for speed and they sense your desperation. They are uncanny the way they can almost read your mind and of course, they sense this is the perfect time to test limits and boundaries. Like Andy Dufresne they sniff their enclosure looking for an escape route… and they know the only way out is through you. If you let your guard down for a moment the bath turns into a slippery slide, the bathroom a water park and the hallway a racetrack. As beautiful as it is at times seeing our children play with reckless abandon it can push you to the limit when you need them bathed, dressed and ready for bed or dinner.

I always found that it was up to me to set the tone during witching hour. If I went in with a bad attitude, my children would quickly adopt the same. If I went in like a Buddhist monk full of love, peace and happiness my children would generally fall into line but sometimes have that cheeky grin as if to say, “Sure thing buddy, I know you’re faking it.” No matter how many times you would say, “Come on darlings. Time for a bath now or time to get dressed,” they would bolt off in the opposite direction laughing maniacally. Sometimes you can laugh along with them but most times you quietly swear under your breath, rub your closed eyes and dream of that first drink and when it would all be over. It helps to very patient at this point. It may not be possible but it helps.

If you have routines in place for all your ‘child chores’ it makes things a lot easier as the children are used to it and they know of no other way. They have only learnt what you have taught them. Sure they may get a little inventive at times (like the time they got into the pantry and covered themselves with flour and golden syrup), but more often than not, they will flow along with whatever pace you set; as long it isn’t unreasonable and too manic. They are only little people and they are absolutely exhausted at the end of a day. I know a lot of people abhor routines but with children I believe it is essential. The child will feel secure, cared for and loved if routines are followed each day and night. Sure, I understand that spontaneity and flexibility are essential but generally routines make life a lot easier for everyone.

We all find witching hour a mini version of hell each day because we are all tired and longing for release. That release only comes when our children are tucked tight in their beds. We don’t have to have this ‘end of days’ each day if we deal with it as we would each task we have during the day. Like brushing our teeth, witching hour should be just another part of the day. We all try to do too much during witching hour and the tension rises. We’ve either got home from work or after-school sport and time is of the essence. Dinner, baths, dressed children, cleaning up, and bedtime stories can seem like a lot to do in such a limited time. It is. We can focus on all of this as if we’re dragging a grand piano up a mountain, or instead, we can see it as a series of tasks that can be achieved with a calm demeanour and some relatively slick organisation. That comes from established routines and an attitude that all is normal and not some penance for something you may have done in a past life.

Words by Luke Denham

The Collective Parent: A Single Father’s Perspective