Being a parent is an all-consuming and relentless task. Relentless, of course, because no “good” parent ever really clocks off. Not even a sleeping child means you’re in the safe zone. As I typed up that sentence, I literally heard my son crying and had to go and tend to him; he was standing in the hallway. Asleep, presumably, but still needing my care. And all-consuming because being a “good” parent means that almost every exposed thought and action is in consideration of how it will affect my child.
Something that continually amazes me is the intensely comparative feelings I have when my child sleeps, as opposed to when he will not. When in the midst of one of those “phases” of a two year old refusing to sleep – I mean, literally telling me “I am NOT sleeping,” I turn from a mother with inexhaustible patience and an interest in alternative parenting, to one who almost wants to smack her child on the bottom, throw him in his room, lock the door and make herself an espresso martini.
If you’re a parent who is lucky enough to have a partner around, at least the load of annoying crap kids do can be shared among the two of you. If not, may some sort of higher power give you strength to carry on. Typically, I don’t see myself as someone who gets super easily annoyed by things; I try to be an empathic person with a compassionate heart. But boy does the “refusal to sleep at bedtime” rubbish get to me. I can feel this sense of fury rising inside me – fed by questions through gritted teeth such as, WHY WON’T HE JUST SLEEP, (and, what have I done to deserve this.)
When my child refutes sleep at any time, my day is ruined. This sounds melodramatic. But when you spend two or more hours encouraging a person to do something for themselves that is good for their health, and you think you’ve nearly succeeded, only to close the door quietly, breathe a sigh of relief, walk into the kitchen and then HEAR THE DOOR OPEN AGAIN, a frustration I have never before known takes over who I am as a person. I pause whatever it is that I haven’t had time to start doing. A small boy creeps out…and he: a. is hungry, b. is thirsty, c. needs to poo. Or, the door stays closed. I consider being in the safe zone – I have maybe two hours to reset, make dinner or do some work on the computer. Do some yoga. Do something for me. And then I snort to myself…don’t be a fool! I press an ear up against the door and the silence is punctured. What is going on? a. the light is on and a small person is reading books, b. Buzz and Woody are whizzing around the room, c. toys are being unloaded from the wardrobe, or d. he is hiding.
Read ten books, read two books. Stay for a cuddle or shut the door and go. Feed him before bed or let him go hungry. Try at 10am, try at 2pm. Wear him out on an expedition or stay home. Every parent knows about “stages” and “phases” children go through. And every time one occurs that effs up our flow, we hope that is just what it is. A state of being that is temporary, that will pass, and that at some point, our once perfect lives will resurface. Then, we can be the parent who chuckles quietly when a friend is enduring a similar scenario, and share our esteemed advice on handling said situation. After all, we’ve “been there, done that.” Once we’re back into routine, once the “phase” has passed, the world is a wondrous and magical place once more, and having children was the best decision we ever made.