Bedtime Battles

Monday, February 3, 2014

I never imagined that bedtime with little ones would be easy, per se, but nothing could have prepared me for the battles my husband and I face with our girls every night around 6, 7, 8, 9pm or later.  Sigh.

I figured when I entered into motherhood that I was signing a sure-fire contract that guaranteed a dramatic loss in sleep.  I knew that I'd be up nursing a baby in the middle of the night, that there would come time for nightmares or extra drinks of water.  I imagined a wee one pleading for extra story books or being afraid of the dark.  This all seemed obvious to the territory I was about to encounter.  But, all this to say that I have greatly underestimated this monstrosity we call "bedtime".

It all looks so innocent!
Having a 4-year-old and 2-and-a-half-year-old sharing a room has not been without its challenges.  When we first threw them into the den together (lion's den, I mean) it took several weeks before the crying and gnashing of teeth yielded to a steady moan.  The hyperbole of having two little girls share a room is that there are moments so precious that you can hardly stand the cuteness, immediately followed by sounds of WWIII (or maybe WW Z) taking place.

One second they are gibberishly singing their rendition of "Sisters" from White Christmas at full volume, with giggles on beat and squeals of joy and clapping at the end.  Two seconds later, just as my full heart is returning to normal Grinch size, I hear thunks, clanks, yelling, growling, screaming and crying.

My shocked nervous system fluctuates instantaneously from thinking surely a tragedy has occurred, and if not, then I'm about to bring the hammer down on some serious naughtiness.  The distance between my full-fledged compassion, to my blistering parent-rage is a very short step.  It's like I've gone bipolar and I'm either Mother Theresa or Benecio Del Toro, nothing in between.

Bedtime clearly brings out the best/worst in my parenting skills.  The unpredictability of each night is one of the most frustrating factors to me.  While variety can be fun in other areas of my life, when it comes to schedule, I embrace structure.  Routine keeps me sane and on track, and certainly I think consistency is a key cornerstone to any parenting tactic (or so I've been led to believe).  But, our stringent routine seems to have zero bearing on the outcome of my children's sleepiness.

They could have played outside all day, gone swimming, or to an amusement park, or to the library, or shopping, or all of the above...and they would fight going to bed.  They could have had a quiet day at home, with limited distractions, calming music or storybooks, healthy meals and a decent rest time...and they would fight going to bed.  By the time they actually fall asleep, they could sleep through the night, or they could be up four times.  They could come crawl up into our bed half-way into the night.  THERE'S JUST NO TELLING.

I'm not sure if I'm writing this post to reach out for advice, prayers, or outright sympathy (I'm not beyond this).  But, mostly, I just wanted to throw this truth out there to let other zombie-mothers know they YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  I've read multiple "sleeping" books.  I feel like I've tried it all (I'm sure I have not, and I'm open to your input!) And the craziest thing is, my children function well and don't appear tired...they just don't sleep.  (I should probably mention that I come from a long line of terrible sleepers, so yes this is definitely hereditary to an extent!)

One thing's for certain, my zombie-cubs are keeping me on my toes for seeking new, unattainable levels of grace and patience that I never knew existed.  My consumption of coffee in the morning is probably directly proportionate to the number of times I grasped at mercy the night before.  It might be a long time until my kids get the hang of how genuinely sweet the gift of sleep truly is, but until that day comes, I'm prayerful that these chaotic hours of my day are not wasted on frustration.

I'm losing plenty of bedtime battles, but in the long run, I think I'm winning a new capacity for compassion (or appreciation for it!) which can only come from God's grace.

God bless the sleepless parents out there!  Keep it up - you're in good company!

1 comment:

  1. Ack! I forgot the golden rule of sharing a room (which means I've bet you've already tried this) - stagger bedtimes with little ones. My older two go to bed at the same time now, but it was YEARS before they could do that. We put kids to bed youngest to oldest, so that there is a little quiet for the harder ones to get to sleep (and my 3-yr-old needs someone to sit in the room with her while she falls asleep, but that is a parent, not a sibling, or all hell breaks loose in there). Anyway, don't know if you've tried that or not, but it's a key element to any sort of peace in our house at bedtime.


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