I enjoy baby-sitting my grandchildren. Honestly. But for my own protection, there are several rules in the "Grandma Contract" that I insist on.

1. I don't not play "Horsey."

2. I will not read a book more than three times in a row.

3. I refuse to make them eat lima beans.

4. And under no circumstances will I put them to bed at night -- not after spending years trying to put my own kids to bed when they were little. I jumped through so many hoops -- expensive bribes, repetitive stories, multiple glasses of water, endless songs and hours of fake sleeping next to them -- I felt like a circus performer.

That's why I had my attorney draw up a Grandma Contract the minute the first grandkid was born. When I baby-sit, I want to have fun with the grandkids. And bedtime isn't fun.

But the other night my daughter had an emergency and needed a sitter. I figured since the kids were long past the baby stage when bedtime meant crying, walking, rocking and more crying, how hard could it be? Just in case, I prepared by loading up with fun things to do before bedtime, hoping the kids would wear themselves out. This grandma wasn't born yesterday.

When I arrived, my daughter ran out the door, leaving me with two wide-awake kids who still needed to "brush their teeth, go potty and put on their pajamas."


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No problem, I thought, as I opened my portable "Grandma box" filled with toys and a video. Using my child psychology skills, I told the grandkids we would "play" as soon as they were ready for bed. Five minutes later they were PJ'd, clean and ready to dive into that box.

The early evening went well -- how could it not with new toys and a video? By the time the movie was over, they were as vacant-eyed as a couple of zombies. This was going to be easier than I thought. But like a horror movie, just when you think you're finally safe from the bloodthirsty undead, these zombies suddenly came back to life. And bedtime was not on their agenda. Time for a bribe.

"Everyone who gets in bed gets a mint!" They both hopped into bed. I tucked Lyla in like a mummy, rendering her immobile, then headed for Luke's room, where I was required to sing 10 verses of the ABC song. Halfway through round five, I heard Lyla's door open.

"Go back to bed, Lyla,' " I called to her.

"I want Mommy!" she cried.

Luke teared up: "I want Mommy, too!"

At that point, I also wanted Mommy. It was time to lie: "Go back to bed and Mommy will be home in a few minutes."

To my surprise, the kids were out cold five minutes later. I spent the rest of the evening watching a TV show I didn't like (couldn't figure out how to use their remote), with the sound off (didn't want to risk waking the kids).

Looking back, it wasn't so bad. It only took $30 worth of toys and videos, a few idle threats, several bribes, a decent singing voice, the patience of a Heinz ketchup user and the knowledge that tomorrow night I didn't have to put them to bed.

It's in my contract.

Contact Penny Warner at www.pennywarner.com.