Putting my kids to bed is my kryptonite. I don’t claim to be supermom (try as I might) but if I were a superhero, I would be just as debilitated by a glowing rock formation as I am a mom by 8pm.
Somehow, no matter how fun our day or evening has been and no matter how great everyone’s mood is, when the clock strikes my children’s bedtime suddenly all my patience goes out the window.
Last Sunday was no different. We’d had a fun day with a big family brunch, gone for bike rides, spent time snuggling on the couch and enjoyed a delicious (take out) dinner. All signs pointed to a successful day, and an exhaustion-filled bedtime. Wrong. We made it through tooth brushing and putting on pajamas with little incident. We did a dramatic reading of “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” through giggles.
And then, disaster. My two year old didn’t want to sleep in pajamas anymore. Meltdown. And my four year old couldn’t find her blanket with bumble bees on it. Meltdown. Nevermind that we had spent 15 minutes picking out which pajamas the two year old wanted to wear that night. And never mind that this prized bumble bee blanket hadn’t been seen, let alone remembered, in weeks. No, in that moment these were the battles my kids were going to pick. And, these were the meltdowns that reduced me from being the normal calm, patient, loving mama I am to being the exasperated one that ends the day on a fed up, sour note with my kids.
“I hate who I become at bedtime,” I told my husband. I was feeling particularly down in that moment, equating my response to our kids’ multitudes of stalling tactics to us going to bed angry. “The last thing they’re hearing from me is a reprimand or harsh voice.”
“So let it go,” he told me. “What kid WANTS to go to sleep?”
And in that moment, my attitude toward bedtime changed. He was right. (Yes honey, you were right.) What kid wants to go to sleep? None. Heck, until we had a newborn eight weeks ago, I didn’t want to go to sleep either. I’d stay up watching Friends reruns on the couch far past what should have been my bedtime for no reason other than not feeling ready to go to sleep. I was no different from my daughters, just thirty-someodd years later.
So, the next night when we put the kids to sleep and they started in with their meltdowns and stalling tactics, and ultimately stayed up too late, I reminded myself over and over that I can’t physically make them sleep. Instead of getting angry, I responded calmly and patiently, accepting that all I can do is set them on the right path and continue guiding them back to it when they lose their way. And you know what? Bedtime was easier. Much easier. On everyone. It doesn’t mean they miraculously went to sleep or that I wasn’t frustrated inside. They didn’t and I was. But my entire approach and disposition changed and the evening was less contentious all around.
Bedtime has become a metaphor for a greater lesson in parenting. In any situation (bedtime or otherwise), all I can do as a parent is set my kids on the right path and respond lovingly when they stray. And, just like bedtime being easier, I can only hope that whatever future battle we’re picking is easier to deal with because I have learned to face my demons and recognize my kryptonite. After all, isn’t that half the battle anyway?
What’s your kryptonite? How do you face it?