Not my circus. Not my monkeys.

Oh crap, wait…these are my monkeys. This is my circus. And our bedtime routine has disintegrated to a scene from Lord of the Flies. All I see are naked boys dominating power over the weak. Me. I think that makes me a fly, actually.

It’s so simple on paper: bath, PJ’s, brush, floss, read, lights out. Easy peasy.

And yet, as the clock ticks closer to bedtime my stomach starts to cramp a little. Gone are the days when my greatest challenge was securing a snug swaddle.

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Now evenings are straight up power struggles where no person is safe. My husband, me and our two little terrors battle each night in the family thunderdome.

We’ve tried divide and conquer. They fight back, demanding the attention of the other parent.

We’ve tried bribery. Books! Snuggles! Time in mommy’s and daddy’s bed! All this could be yours if you finish your bedtime chores! They play us like fiddles.

We’ve tried threats, demands, count-to-three’s, “you better”‘s, begging and giving them choices. No, double no and hells to-the-no.

My kids live for this, by the way. This might just be their favorite part of the day. They know they are standing between their parents and our glorious downtime and even sweeter sleep. They know are fingers are itching to scroll our phones and our eyes to zone out like zombies. We are so close to finally shutting down from our days. We are just moments from a few fleeting minutes of independence, stepping out of our parent shoes and into just a man and woman—and dare I say it?—a husband and wife.

The kids feel this tension. They smell our impatience. They know we have ulterior motives to our “just two books tonight!” and our “five minutes of back rubs!” And they run us down to the ground.

“I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. Where’s baby monkey? Lay with me…” On and on it goes, with no end in sight. And we play their little games always hoping this is the last request, this is the final demand. We are one book closer to our own bedtime. One prayer closer. One back rub closer.

If every evening is a battle, every battle ends in our kids’ victory. They go to bed satisfied and mom and dad are completely wiped.

Welcome to the bedtime circus. Please meet my monkeys and get ready for an evening of amusement and entertainment. This might just be the greatest show on earth.

This post originally appeared on And What a Mom.