I recently had one of those “bad days” that turned into a bit of a parenting “revelation.”
Here’s the story:
My kid used to be a champion sleeper. Well, not always, but for a solid year we barely battled bedtime and naps, something I know is a constant struggle for many of my friends. Don’t get me wrong, we had a challenging year “zero.” Miles didn’t sleep through the night, not even once, until after his first birthday. But, magically, all of a sudden he started doing it.
We effortlessly put him down for naps around 1, and he’d sleep until 4 p.m. with a bedtime of 7 p.m., sleeping until around 6:30 a.m. There wouldn’t even be a whimper or complaint.
But after more than a year of near sleep perfection — with only a brief interruption during transition from crib to bed — we have been dealing with bedtime and naptime meltdowns on a regular basis for the past couple months.
Some days are better than others. This day was definitely not one of them!
He was exhausted having completely boycotted his nap for days in a row and staying up well pass 9 p.m. for the previous several nights. I was drained after working a full day, going to Zumba for an hour and then helping out with the nightly routine. And I knew that the list of things I needed to do that night was waiting — cook dinner, do laundry, help pick up the day’s mess.
But my 2.5 year old didn’t care about all that. He was not done playing with his trains! We struggled through the night routine — a glass of milk, several books, his cozy blanket. And we were about ready to rock for a few minutes when his crankiness transitioned to full-on tantrum mode. He was screaming, kicking, hitting. He even spit on me.
I’m ashamed that I let my own exhaustion and overwhelmed feeling get the best of me, and I yelled.
Yelling and hitting aren’t things we do at my house. We certainly use different tones of voice, but the parenting choices we have made don’t include those forms of discipline. For a few seconds, I forgot that my sweet little boy’s brain is still forming, and he can’t always control or contain his emotions and this messy, loud and ugly breakdown is just his way of dealing with all of that. And I yelled.
I lost my cool. I recognized that and just left my melting down little boy in the safety of his room and closed the door behind him. I didn’t expect him to calm down a whole lot that way; but I needed to.
About 30 seconds of deep breaths and reminding myself that I’m the grown up and he’s the kid, I had collected myself and regained my cool. I went back in his room, scooped him up and held him tight.
I sat down in the rocker, Miles still thrashing about a little, holding him snuggly, I just kept rocking as my calming “shh-shh”s matched his screams both quieting with every swing of the rocker. He started to relax, and within five minutes he was completely asleep.
I looked down at my sweetest and most innocent little boy and the tears started falling.
How could I have just yelled at this little guy?
But then, after I beat myself up for a few seconds, I realized, I’m still learning. I’m going to make some mistakes. The key is learning from them. I am far from a perfect mom. I hope I don’t yell again; but I’m pretty sure I can’t make that promise. But my take-away from this recent not-so-great night is that sometimes you just have to walk away and regroup.
I was faced with a nearly similar situation days later. You know what, it turned out a lot different. I took a step back about 30 seconds sooner; we both weathered the storm a little better this way.
Sleep is our biggest parenting struggle right now. What are you dealing with at your house?