Finding the humor in bedtime negotiations

with girlsAnyone who has ever said that bedtime should not involve a negotiation has clearly never tried to put a four or two year-old to bed. I always imagined bedtime with my kids would be a serene time when we would reflect on our days, read books and sing songs… and then they’d drift peacefully to sleep. But then reality set in.

Truth be told, evenings in our house can be chaotic. Because my husband and I both work, our nights are a jumbled mess of picking up the kids from daycare, scrambling to make dinner while Peppa Pig keeps the kids entertained, and playing for a few minutes before we eat together as a family and start the delicate (or clunky) bedtime dance.

No matter how successfully the dance goes, though, the stalling that begins soon thereafter is an entirely different story. Last night was one of those nights. Actually, most nights are “one of those nights.” Between our two year-old learning that “no” is her favorite, and a somewhat effective, word, and our four year-old getting out of bed every five minutes or so in hopes that one of her many excuses would stick, bedtime has become a comedy routine.

Here’s how last night’s litany of excuses shook out (each with a five minute interval in between where our four year old went back to bed, presumably to think of her next attempt at delaying bedtime)… and my internal dialogue at each twist and turn:

I need a hug. (How can I resist that?)
I’m lonely. (Alright, one more snuggle.)
I heard something outside. (There’s nothing outside.)
There’s a bear in my room. (There’s not.)
There are two bears in my room. (We don’t live in the forest. There are no bears in our house.)
I just feel sad. (She’s tugging at the heart strings again.)
I want a hug. (Fine, last one.)
I need a Band-Aid for this boo-boo I got two weeks ago. (See my previous post about the healing power of Band-Aids.)
Not the Dora Band-Aid! The Doc McStuffins Band-Aid! (Ugh, whatever works.)
This Band-Aid is hurting me. (Okay, so take it off!)
I need a tissue for my boogers. (Done.)
I need more baby dolls in my bed. (Any more baby dolls and we’d be running an orphanage.)
Ten babies will make me feel not lonely anymore. With only five babies I still feel lonely. (Ah, rational thinking by a four year old.)
It’s hot in here so I took my blanket off. (Okay.)
It’s cold in here. Will you put my blanket on? (Ugh. Okay.)
I need to go pee. (So go!)
I need to go poop. (Okay, now I have to come wipe your tushy.)
I have to take off all my clothes while I poop. (Again, there’s that rational thinking.)
I need help putting my clothes back on. (Of course you do.)
I need my blanket on. (Right.)
Not that blanket! The other blanket. (And one more time with the rational thought.)

And so it goes. We negotiate back and forth – sometimes giving in, sometimes staying strong, and always just trying to get to the end result of her tiring herself out enough to fall asleep. I’m sure someone is reading this thinking “stop giving in to her!” Clearly, you’ve never met my strong willed daughter who will not let up. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Now, when I get particularly frustrated with her and become a mom I like less (the one who has lost all her patience and is flabbergasted by the ridiculousness of it all), I try to remind myself that this is actually precious time where my daughter is stalling because she wants my attention and my snuggles. In the blink of an eye, these negotiations will stop being about getting back in bed and putting a blanket on, but will instead be about whether she can borrow the car to stay out past curfew or have another $20 for some material object that everyone else has.

So I put my foot down now but also give in slightly. I figure for now I’ll give her that hug, I’ll tuck her back in and I’ll make her feel safe so that in the future, when she doesn’t want to be hugged or tucked in, she’ll still feel safe and assured knowing that she is loved and that we are there for her. And hopefully, no matter how old she gets, the negotiations will keep us laughing.

Finding permission to be the parent I am

family shot copyMotherhood is a wild ride. Expectations get thrown out the window, uncharted territory is the most predictable constant, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out, everything changes again. It’s also an amazing opportunity to continually redefine your approach, experience trial and error, and simultaneously experience overwhelming love, happiness, frustration and doubt. No two days look the same.

My husband and I often joke about all the ways we were better parents before we had kids and all the things we swore we’d never do as parents. News flash: most of those things are staples in our parenting approach, including but not limited to:

THEN: Our kids will never order off the kid’s menu because they will eat anything. We’ll just order them an adult portion of salmon, rice and veggies and have them share it. (Because, really, they’ll eat anything!)
NOW: Bring on the $5 deal with full meal and drink included!

THEN: Our kids will not survive on a steady diet of chicken nuggets and grilled cheese for dinner. They’ll have refined palates. (See above.)
NOW: “Girls, do you want chicken nuggets or grilled cheese for dinner?”

THEN: Our kids won’t watch TV or use electronics for more than a few minutes each day.
NOW: Peppa Pig is our cheapest babysitter while we make dinner and get laundry done. And forgetting to bring the iPad on a long car drive is the equivalent to forgetting to bring the spare tire when you know your tire is low.

THEN: We won’t be late to meet other people just because we have young kids.
NOW: We’re pretty sure our friends put in buffer time between when we are told to arrive and when they actually expect us.

All this aside, there are also things I never realized about being a parent that have come naturally to me, including but not limited to:

  • Cleaning up some pretty nasty bodily functions – whether it’s pee in the car seat, spit up down my blouse or poop all over my kid’s bed (and pajamas, hands and face), my threshold for gross stuff has significantly increased. The one place I draw the line is vomit – just ask my husband. That’s his domain.
  • Discovering an entirely new level of patience. I always thought of myself as a patient person, but there’s nothing like a toddler in her “no” phase to really test those limits. Until she hits the “why?” phase…
  • Saying beyond ridiculous statements that now seem totally normal. “Take your hands out of your pants at the dinner table” is just the tip of the iceberg of statements I never imagined I’d say and are now second nature.
  • Loving truly unconditionally. The love I feel for my kids is so boundless, so definitive and so deep that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by such a true and intense emotion… In the best possible way.

Like I said, it really is a wild ride. But one I’m so grateful to be on.

What are ways your expectations changed after becoming a parent?