Last night, as I was lying in bed looking down at my sweet sleeping toddler, smelling her freshly-washed hair and savoring the feel of her warm little hand on my arm, I got to thinking. About what a clusterfuck  challenge bedtime is at my house.

Congratulations to all of the smart, forward thinking parents who sleep-trained their children in the early days. I hate you. For the rest of us, there are the twelve nightly labours. Jam-packed with horrible sights, sounds, and smells from a vengeful creature. Please stop reading if you have a weak constitution, because the labours I will describe are both hideous and terrifying.

1.       Brushing of the teeth

This labour involves brushing the teeth of a hostile and lawless creature with bony elbows and swinging limbs. In order to succeed, one must first choose the right toothbrush – is Dora or dinosaur the right one tonight? Don’t put too much thought into this, because whichever one you pick will be incorrect. (Allowing your creature to choose the toothbrush will not prevent said brush from being the wrong one.)

Once the toothbrush has been moistened and the toothpaste applied, you will have to convince the creature to open their mouth enough to get the brush inside and make contact with the teeth. You will be competing with the forces of an aggressive and combative tongue.

As difficult as this step may be, it must be completed each night to ensure the future dental health of the creature. It also gives an accurate estimate of how difficult the remaining labours will be.

It will not be appreciated until the creature has had creatures of their own and must complete the twelve labours themselves.

2.       Putting on the pyjamas

The manufacturers of children`s sleepwear claim that the garments must be snug fitting for safety reasons. I believe that the creatures have colluded with them to maximize the torture of getting pyjamas onto a child’s body. I would rather dress a Barbie doll, with her sharp fingers and impossibly pointy toes and oversized lollipop head than try to put pyjamas on a child.

Of course, you will never be able to choose the right pair of pyjamas out of the drawer. Go straight to the hamper and dig out the mustiest, most wrinkled pair. You are on the right track if they are also covered in food and/or pet hair.

3.       Determining the perfect combination of binkies to satisfy the creature

If your child never took to the binky or you have managed to get rid of binkies in your home, congratulations and good work, you son of a bitch. If there is a binky in the dishwasher, and the dishwasher is currently mid-cycle, this will be the only binky that will satisfy the creature’s needs. The minimum number of binkies needed is two – one for the creature`s mouth hole, and one to roll over on and dig into your back in the middle of the night.

4.       Finding the stuffy that has mysteriously gone missing

There is one stuffy to rule them all. Unfortunately that title is bestowed to a different stuffy depending on the creature’s mood. There are hundreds of stuffies in your house, right? Surely one of the readily available ones will suffice.

It won’t. The stuffy that will subdue the creature’s screaming may or may not be in the car. (Tip: if your spouse works evenings and has the car at work, there is a 100% chance that the stuffy is in the car.)

The creature may be convinced to accept a substitute stuffy for one night, however in exchange they will need to kick you in the groin repeatedly to vent their disappointment.

5.       Handling the request for a ridiculous bedtime snack

Snack will not be requested until after tooth-brushing has been completed, and the desired snack will be something that is time-consuming to prepare, something they refused to eat at suppertime, and/or something you are completely out of.

Think scrambled eggs, spaghetti, french fries, candy.

Start small with something like string cheese, or half a banana and pray hard.

6.       Translating the gibberish pouring forth from the creature’s mouth

The gibberish will usually contain a curse word that you have accidentally said in front of the creature recently, political propaganda, and an attempt at negotiating a later bedtime. Making too many guesses or guessing too slowly will result in slaps.

Resist the urge to shout back.

7.       Fake-sleeping

At this point, you may try to fake sleep in order to trick the creature into sleeping as well. In order to determine whether you are actually sleeping, the creature will employ one or more of these investigative techniques: inserting a finger into your nose or ear, pulling out a few eyelashes, poking the eyes, patting your face with increasing force until slapping has been achieved, pinching, kicking of the groin area, nurples, and/or licking. If you start laughing or cry out in pain, you might as well serve your still-beating heart to the creature on a platter.

Fake-sleeping may result in accidental real sleeping, which will lead us neatly to the next labour.

8.       Chasing the escaped creature down the hall as they run full speed, as though running for their lives

You will never see the creature run as fast anywhere else as they do when running from bed. If we could harness the energy generated by creatures at this moment, we could rid ourselves of our dependency on fossils fuels.

9.       Breathing of the foul gases emitted when the creature has been caught and returned to bed

My creature farts a lot when she is angry. It is good for a laugh, but fairly awful when you are trapped in the same physical space for an extended period of time. You will either remember to breathe through your mouth eventually, or lose consciousness. Both work.

10.   Shutting up the cat

The cat, who had previously been watching the proceedings with friendly detachment now needs to be fed immediately, or it will die. At least that is what the guttural wails from the kitchen will lead you to believe.

Go to your happy place, the one where you have peace, quiet, and a small, oddly-shaped black and brown calico rug on the floor.

11.   Complete loss of shit

Now you will have to endure the complete loss of shit that occurs when the creature has been up for as much as ninety minutes past their appropriate bedtime, and they realize that sleep is inevitable. This is the loudest stage, and the one that makes you worry the most that the neighbours might call the authorities.

Be strong. You have almost completed the labours. Apply hugs and kisses liberally until the creature stops writhing and screaming.

12.   Me-time

If you haven’t already succumbed to sleep, you can get up and proceed to the living room to check your Facebook, read last month`s magazines, and watch Netflix.

More likely, you will fall asleep on the couch within thirty minutes of completing the labours and wake up three hours later, cursing because you didn’t finish the laundry or clean the bathroom.