An Intentionally Long Bedtime

This morning my seven-year-old intentionally knocked over his brother’s full cup of milk. Totally awesome, right?! I politely said to him, “You know where the paper towel is.” He then not so politely screamed at me, “You are a BEAST!” Seeing as we haven’t really been, um, shall we say bonding lately, and rather have been at absolute odds with each other, I immediately thought (okay, assumed) that he had just called me not a beast, but a b*tch.

“What did you just say to me?” I asked abruptly.

“You’re a beast! A beast, beast, beast! Just like the mom in Brave! You always make me pick up my messes! And besides, I didn’t knock the cup over. It fell over!”

Oh, oh was I ever tempted to reply with a sarcastic dinger or two given the current frustrating state of our relationship. But I didn’t. Thankfully the “more” mature side of my mind showed up and prevented me from saying, “Oh, cups just fall over, eh?” and “Really, that’s amazing because I swore I just saw your five fingers reach out and push the cup over and then saw your eyes twinkle when the milk poured all over your brother.” Seriously, it’s such a good thing those thoughts didn’t sneak out because they would have totally escalated the situation and that was the last thing I needed this morning.

Shoot, it is the last thing I need to happen at all right now with my oldest. We have already escalated our vicious cycle of driving each other nuts to the highest level of insanity. Everything I say, he complains about. Everything he does, I complain about. It is getting ugly folks, really ugly. The good news? I recognize that we are in a bad cycle and that soon I will be screaming my head off at him if I don’t get things under control. The other good news? After having been through several of these cycles I know that I have the power to put an end to this cycle simply by offering more love and less, well beastliness. I know from experience that often times when my son is acting pretty beastly himself that it isn’t because he intentionally wants to be a beast, it is because he wants me.

He wants my love.
He wants my attention.
He wants to see me more.
He wants me to listen with more focus and less distraction.
He wants me to understand whatever it is that is troubling him that he doesn’t understand.
He wants me to just stop harping on him and just start hugging him.

And that is where the bad news comes in; even though I know that my son wants (and needs and deserves) all of the above, even though I want to give him all of the above, and even though all of the above aren’t big or hard requests to fulfill, I have found it hard to do any of the above! Say what? I love my son; hugging him should be easy. I love my son; stopping and just talking with him and not to him should be easy. I love my son; laughing with him and enjoying his company should be easy. Yes, it should be easy but right now this particular cycle has been so challenging and his behavior has been so infuriating that I am finding it hard to get motivated to grow up! It sounds awful, but I have thought on more than one occasion lately, “Ugh, dude, I so don’t want to be kinder to you and more patient and all that jazz because you are driving me nutso!”

This fairly constant thought though is getting me, us, nowhere but to a worse place: he pisses me off so I piss him off so he pisses me off more so I piss him off more. It’s miserable! I am not happy with where our relationship is; it makes every day insanely longer and more difficult and well, more discouraging! I mean, who likes fighting and bickering? Who likes feeling like a bad parent? “Not I,” said this mom.

So, after another round of less than satisfactory exchanges at dinner, I decided that tonight was the night I had to try to put an end to this cycle. I got his younger three brothers into bed and headed towards his room. Now mind you, at this point, I was wiped, done, and so ready to go downstairs and claim “me-time.” I just wanted to clean up the kitchen, prepare for the next day and then plop in front of my computer to read all the latest gossip on People.com while sipping a, get this, HOT cup of decaf coffee without interruption. As much as I wanted to tuck my son in and give him a hug and kiss good night, I really didn’t want to make it a prolonged event tonight. I just wanted it to be sweet, loving and well, intentionally quick.

But tonight, I knew that if I wanted to put an end to all the beastliness between us, that if I wanted to get my son and me to a more connected and happy place that an intentionally quick bedtime wasn’t an option. Nope, the only option was an intentionally long bedtime. So I, a very tired and very much craving down time parent, fought all the “just go the f*** to sleep already thoughts” and intentionally chose to make bedtime longer tonight. I took a deep breath and walked into his room prepared to snuggle and talk with him until he fell asleep, whether that meant 15 minutes or 45 minutes.

As I cuddled up with my munchkin and smoothed his hair, he told me that, “Well, the truth is, to be totally honest, I am scared to tell Melissa that I love her.” He also told me that, “I am actually really starting to like math but I can’t stand writing and well, I love reading.” And upon my telling him I was sorry for being so beastly that day he told me, “It’s okay mom. I accept your apology. We all make mistakes. You know mom, you just need to be careful because, like, you know, once words are out they can’t be taken back.” That’s right sweet little orange rhino, that’s right.

I proudly kissed his forehead and as he started tossing and turning, trying to get comfy, I did the same. I felt entirely uncomfortable in that moment. It had hit me that in just a few minutes, I had learned so much about what was going on in his world that I had no clue about. I am not going to lie; it stung a bit. Okay, a lot. I couldn’t help but to think of all the other sweet thoughts and stories and moments I have missed lately because of our mutual beastliness towards each other and my inability to step up and get us to a better place. I couldn’t help but to feel ashamed and disappointed. And yet, I also felt hope and happiness.

Hope that tomorrow would be a better day after such a peaceful, relaxed and much overdue conversation and re-connection and happiness that tonight I chose an intentionally long bedtime! Tonight I didn’t once think about the dishes or celebrity gossip or having a few moments of silence. Nope. Instead I thought about how sweet my son’s face still looks at age seven. 10.16.06 (5)I thought about how adorable it was that he was afraid to profess his love for his crush. I thought about how much I love talking to him and listening to his stories and thoughts. I thought about how much I missed him, how much I loved him.

And most importantly, I thought about how I would intentionally try harder to be more connected and less beastly, because that isn’t just what we both crave, it is what we both need.

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32 thoughts on “An Intentionally Long Bedtime

  1. Thanks for being a fly on my wall and posting this entry as though it’s your life when really, it’s my life. You’re the best. Can’t wait for bedtime.

  2. Oh WOW, what a beautiful story! And what a great reminder that it only takes a few (tired) minutes to reconnect, no matter how lost the relationship feels. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Thank you so much for this tonight…… This could be me today and many days of late :-(…. I’ve just settled the smallest and I’m off to snuggle with my gorgeous eldest for as long as he needs me to :-)

  4. Thank you for having the courage to say what I’m too ashamed to admit. I often feel like the worse mother of the year, and to hear that I am not the only one who struggles gives me hope that I can change what my daughter and I are going through.

  5. Oh my gosh. This just changed my life. In all the wonderful posts and encouraging words you’ve written, and through the 30 day challenge, this was the most life altering for me. My oldest son will be 7 next month. For the past year or so every few months he has an awful few weeks. Just awful. Terrible attitude, unkind words, cranky and irritable from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to bed. Like a *cycle*. I didn’t know why, what, or how. In fact just two days ago another awful cycle started. After reading this I can’t wait for him to get home from school. I hope I can love him out of this cycle quickly!

  6. You cannot know how this describes my current relationship with my 9yr old daughter! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Good reminder of how to turn things around. But the best part for me us knowing I am not alone!!!!

    • Me too with my 9 yr old daughter. Nothing seems right lately. We argue everyday. I hate it. She cries I cry. Thanks for posting I don’t feel so alone.

        • I’m so glad i came across this website. I have been going through many ups and downs with my 9year old son. I have even been considering counseling for him, but reading on this website has made me realize that the only couseling or treatment a difficult child needs is LOVE!!! And that i can do all on my own !!!

          • So true! Love to hear from other moms in the same boat. My husband wisely told me to take the work and energy I would put into counseling, and apply that to loving with every fiber in my body!

  7. Oh my. this is me and my 6 yr old son to a T!
    The thing I’m going to remember is “Harp Less, Hug More”….. and thinking about the beautiful sound of a harp , not the beautiful sound of harping at him, will hopefully calm me too. Huge are better!!!
    thank you!!!!!!

  8. Thank you – Thank you so much. I share every post of yours with my husband as we both try to be better with yelling. I admire you so much. You speak the truth when others do not. This post made me cry at the end. It is just so real. Thank you for what you do. Please don’t ever stop being truthful.

  9. Wow thank you for such an honest and moving post. I have to say too as a mother of a wonderful, energetic and exhausting almost-five-year-old who I’m terrified is growing up faster than I can keep up, it’s so nice to know boys can still snuggle with their mamas at 7. Xo

  10. Wow!! And Thanks!!! I have a daughter who’s turning 7 next wednesday and all of your words describe my exact fear and thoughts about her and me. I think I’ll go and tuck her in now as she is already asleep, but boy does she deserve every cuddle and kiss I can give her!

  11. So true and spot on! Thank you. I have to tell you that I took your advice (from a while back) of putting pictures up of my kids when they were little to remind me that they still have that “little” inside of them. It has really been good for me to help keep things in perspective. Hang in there, and thanks for your words!

  12. This has been happening with my 4-year-old. One thing that helped me breakout of the beastly news was seeing him playing with one of my friends. His face was so full of joy when she was chasing him. It made me realise what he needs and see a side of him I’d been missing out on because we hadn’t been getting along. We had a great rough house session at home afterwards and both felt much better.

  13. Such a reflection of my relationship with my 5 year old boy. We have such an explosive relationship right now but then we have moments where he is just my baby and I realise that he is growing up so fast I can’t keep up, and he probably is wondering what the hell is going on. At least 90% of the time I am sure all he wants is a hug. Tough when there is another little voice that pipes up that instant: “ME have hug with mummy” and I realise there are two little guys I could split myself in half for, if only I could…

  14. A lovely post! Thank you, thank you, thank you! It’s good to hear someone talk abt those thoughts! And it’s therefore encouraging to take that step towards “growing up” and giving more love!

  15. You tell it so clearly…expressing both yours and your child’s emotions.I have 5 grandkids and I see them in your stories and feel that this sharing will help us all to understand one another and express love instead of anger.

  16. Thank you…AGAIN! Again for bringing me back to realizing I am not alone. The cycle, the dreaded cycle of knowing it is a cycle but feeling so fricking overwhelmed with everything in life, you are so wore out you neglect the only person(s) that UNCONDITIONALLY love you. My nine year old daughter and I have this cycle. And you pop into my head at night when i lay down with her to listen, love, laugh, give advice, and just be in the moment.

  17. Love this! My oldest is what I would call an emotionally needy child. What I mean is, she needs me to be focused on her (not always) and when she senses that I am not focused on her and I am not emotionally present when interacting with her she will go through a cycle where she cries and whines about everything. Then I realize that I haven’t given her my full attention and I try to be intentional about carving more time out for her and setting down the cell phone when playing with her or I put my to-do list aside to just sit on the floor and be with her. She has really taught me to slow down!

  18. OMG, you just perfectly described my “relationship” with my four year old daughter. I know she wants/needs my positive attention, but her behavior makes it the last thing I want to give her. She is also a big reason I’m starting the challenge. It makes me feel much better to know I’m not the only one in this boat.

  19. My Mr 5 gets under my skin like no other soul on earth can. We are too similar and I see in him the behaviours I dislike in myself. Hard to like them or tolerate them in others when I can’t stand them in me.
    Thanks for the wonderful lesson. Time with my son is so much more important than time reading blogs (even the good ones like this one) or reading something.

  20. Thank you for your beautifully written words of reminder and inspiration. It can be so easy to get off track with little ones and it always helps to be able to sit down and be reminded of what is important. Thank you! (I included a link to your post in a similar post on my blog – http://www.amoreconsciouslife.wordpress.com. I hope that is okay. Please let me know if it isn’t.)

  21. I have to tell you I have one of those relationships with my oldest son – he is almost 15 and it shows no signs of going away. Not that it is a bad thing – but it is true. As long as we can remember how to deal with the situation before it blows out of control we will all be much happier calmer people. I can see the changes in my son lately – on the good side. I need to try to remember this more often as well!

  22. This is wonderful. I totally relate. When things start to “get off” between me and my 4-year-old daughter and she’s acting out more, I have to fight the urge to push her away and remember to pull her close. Thanks for writing what we all feel and not being afraid to say that it’s hard. I’m going to link to this on my site http://www.lightbulbparenting.com.

  23. My reading of this was very timely. I don’t know where my sweet eldest child went over the weekend…and who this horror is in his place! Thank you for the reminder to slow down and connect.

  24. It’s so funny how we can love all of our children equally but have such different relationships with them. My oldest has always belonged to my husband and even spent years telling me that he loved daddy not me. I often found myself shutting him out rather than have my affection only met halfheartedly. It didn’t make anything any better. Now I take the time to relate to him in the way he wants, fart jokes, spy kits…even dreaded video and board game time together. We reap what we sow and I have seen such a positive growth for both of us!

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