358 days of not yelling, 7 days of loving more to go!
Dear Bed Time,
Oh Bed Time. Bed time, bed time, bed time. You used to be one of the hardest, longest hours of the day that I never thought I would survive without yelling! Within minutes of starting you, I would begin to experience sweaty palms, heart palpitations and of course an angry, impatient, yelling voice. Sadly, I have many a vivid memory of a bedtime gone terribly, terribly wrong. But ever since my “bedtime epiphany” early on in this Challenge, bedtime in The Orange Rhino house has been out right more enjoyable. And on some nights, get this, I actually LOVE you, dear bedtime. Can you believe it? All because I no longer “survive” you, but welcome you!
The Orange Rhino
I used to dread the bedtime hour. Dread it. The crying over the TV being turned off. The having to practically push each child upstairs. The water splashing all over me during bath time. The taking way tooooo long to brush teeth, to get dressed, to pick out a book. The running in and out of the bedrooms instead of sitting down for story time. The tickling each other during story time. The doing everything possible to keep from going to sleep and keep me from “me time.” I could go on and on. The bedtime hour in The Orange Rhino house used to be an absolute sh*t show storm! And at the end of a long day, well, it drove me nuts.
And so I used to scream, not yell, but scream. A lot.
And every night as I pulled my boy’s bedroom doors shut, I would feel awful, not bad, but awful.
And then one night about 350 days ago, it donned on me. Sometime between getting drenched with bath water, having toothpaste smeared on my jeans, listening to my boys argue over which Berenstain Bears book to read and feeling my blood pressure rise rapidly, I realized that I was approaching bed time ALL wrong.
You see, every night I was going into the bedtime routine with two totally useless and actually quite counterproductive thoughts:
1) “Harumph, this is going to be long and hard and ugly and a real pain in the a*s.” and
2) “Let’s get this hour done with already, I just want to get to my couple of hours of peace and quiet and uninterrupted me time.”
Yep, these two thoughts pretty much guaranteed the demise of bedtime. With a negative attitude like that bedtime didn’t even stand a chance for success or even a peaceful existence. Why?
If mommy is grumpy, the kids act out, mommy yells, the kids act out even more. Bedtime takes longer.
If mommy rushes, the kids go slower, mommy yells, the kids go even slower. Bedtime takes longer.
If bedtime takes longer and the kids go to bed over tired and upset from mommy yelling, then chances are they won’t sleep well. And if they don’t sleep well, then the next day mommy and the boys are tired and by bedtime everyone is grumpy. And if mommy is grumpy, the kids act out, mommy yells and you guessed it bedtime takes longer. The cycle goes on and on and on.
Clearly, my negative thoughts about bedtime really did all of us a disservice. So I decided to let them go. That’s right, let them go. I traded in my negative thoughts for some much better ones. I stopped worrying about how I would “survive” bedtime and starting thinking about how I would embrace it.
Instead of thinking ugh, bedtime is going to be hard, I started thinking…
“Yes! Bedtime is going to be hard. I know it. I accept it. I will not be surprised or annoyed when it is. I will just go with it.” The result? I am calmer, the boys are calmer and most nights, bedtime goes infinitely smoother with a lot, and I mean a lot less tears.
And instead of thinking, “lets get this hour done already so I can have my glass of wine and peace and quiet” I started thinking…
“Yes! Let’s get this hour going! It’s my last hour of the day with my boys before I say goodnight for 12 hours. It’s not even a full hour; it’s only forty-give minutes. I can certainly stay calm for forty-five minutes! I am not going to rush; it does no good. Instead, I am going to enjoy the “forced” slow down and make the most of bedtime because I have no where else to be.“ The result? Bedtime is now one of my favorite hours of the day and not just because it is one hour closer to me time.
I now love bedtime because in my forced slow down mode, I am more present than ever. I don’t rush the giggles in the bathtub as my baby splashes about with complete awe of the running water; I soak them up. I don’t rush my Kindergartener reading and discovering new word after new word; I listen proudly. I don’t rush Eskimo kisses and singing ABC’s with my three year old; I stare at his sweet face and think how lucky I am. And I don’t rush my four year old telling a wicked long story before saying good night; I enjoy every detail and then close the door with thrill that another night went smoother than it did a year ago.
Yes, changing my expectations for bedtime and slowing down has made all the difference in the world. In fact, slowing down has actually made bedtime faster. Even on nights where I do have somewhere to be, staying calm and going slow makes bedtime faster. But forget a faster bedtime for a second. Slowing down has led to sending both my kids, and myself, to bed with more love and less disappointment in our hearts. And that is way more important than an extra minute (or thirty) of me time.
(Do we still have our nights where I think just “hurry up already and get in bed!?” Yes, of course! But even in those nights, bedtime is still better than it was pre-Orange Rhino Challenge.)
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Learn more about my strategies to not yell during bedtime and other trying moments in my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” It hits shelves October 1st but you can pre-order it now by clicking here.