504 days of loving more!
“Mommy, what time do you go to bed?”
Before I even answered with, “oh, normally 10:00 ish” I stopped and thought, “why was my son asking me this? This is odd.” Then it dawned on me. I knew the genesis behind this seemingly innocent question; he was trying to figure out how many hours it would be from the moment I left his room to go downstairs to the moment I returned for bed. He was trying to figure out how many hours he could stay up late playing before I busted him! Oh, I was so on to him. Or so I thought.
“Why are you asking me this?” I said.
“Well, I want you to go to bed early, you know, so you can be calm and not cranky like today.”
He answered ever so slyly while batting his eyelashes. This line was right out of my mouth; it was totally something I say when I am tired and it is a reason I give him for why sleep is important. In other words, when delivered with batting eyelashes I knew it was bologna.
“Try again, I don’t think that is what you are really thinking.” I said politely.
“Well, yes and no. I think you stay up too late so um, um, just tell me, I’m interested.” This time I decided to indulge him, why not right? He still had three minutes before lights out.
“I try to go to bed by 10:00, 9:30 on a good night. Because I do need my rest. Now tell me, really, why do you want to know?”
“Because I think you should go to bed at 7:00, like me. Because if you did, you would be a kid like me. And being a kid is fun. Way better than being a grown up. If you were a kid you would have so much fun!”
Speechless. I was absolutely speechless. But my mind wasn’t; I couldn’t stop thinking of all the things I would do if I were a kid.
If I were a kid, I would try to sneak out of my room at night to ask my mom for one last back rub.
If I were a kid, I would steal a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and run and hide in the living room and eat it instead of dinner.
If I were a kid, I would make plans to sneak down on Christmas Eve and catch Santa Claus in the act.
If I were a kid, I would tattle tale on my brother for not cleaning his room.
If I were a kid, I would cry and cry and cry some more if my dolly and blankie were lost.
If I were a kid, I would spill my milk at breakfast, lunch and dinner and then whine that my dress was all wet.
If I were a kid, I would run around screaming and jumping and playing tag with my friends inside because it was raining and I felt cooped up.
If I were a kid, I would take my time going to school because I wanted to pack every toy I had.
If I were a kid, I would complain if leftovers were served because it just wasn’t what I wanted. Period.
If I were a kid, I would ask my mommy a thousand questions to keep her from leaving me at night just so that I could have more one on one time. I might even ask my mommy what time she went to bed.
If I were a kid, I wouldn’t want to be yelled at for doing any of the above. If I were a kid….
Wait. I was a kid. I was a kid and I wanted to be understood, loved, and taught, just not yelled at. I was rarely yelled at as a kid and for that I am grateful. I remember all of the above situations clear as day; and I remember being spoken to in a firm voice if needed but always a calm, understanding, and “let me help you understand so you don’t do it again” voice. And it worked. Again, I am grateful because I have been yelled at as an adult, and it feels awful. Beyond awful. I don’t want to be yelled at as an adult, so why would I want to be yelled at if I were a kid?
Tonight, as my son hemmed and hawed and questioned away, and I watched the clock tick-tock closer to 7:00, closer to my break time, I found myself getting antsy and wanting to shout, “just go to bed and don’t you dare sneak out!” Instead, his simple reminder of what it is like to be a kid evoked my empathy.
My son reminded me that I too was once a kid; that everything my kids have done that has made me want to yell…I did too. I too stayed up late to play; I too peppered my mom with questions galore; I too did things that drove my mom nuts, intentionally or not. If I did all the things my kids do and I didn’t want to be yelled at because it scared me, why should I turn around and yell at my kids for behavior I so very much understand and induce fears I so very much experienced?
And my son reminded me that kids are just kids and that part of being a kid is exploring and having fun. Oh when I used to yell at my kids for doing what they deemed to be “fun” things like pouring out the cereal to find the prize, playing tag around me while I was on the phone, or splashing each other and accidentally me during bath time, I was taking a bit of fun out of childhood and really, why do that unnecessarily? Because while I do have fun as an adult, it just isn’t that same as when I was a kid. My son was right, being a kid IS fun. Sure, sometimes the fun gets out of control and needs re-directing but it doesn’t need yelling. I can handle fun situations turned funky by remaining calm and not shaming the spirit of fun. My parents taught me that and my son reminded me of that tonight for which I am grateful.
And perhaps most importantly, tonight my son reminded me that I can teach him and his brothers how to be a good kiddo without yelling at him because that it is exactly what my parents did.
Not yelling is hard. But it can be done. And it is way more fun than the alternative. And feels a heck of a lot better. For everyone involved, kids and adults alike.