Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Shut your mouth and listen to your lullaby!

Today was one of those days where every last ounce of patience had been ruthlessly drained from my body by bedtime. So ruthlessly drained was I that when I walked in to sing lullabies to Zoë and Benjamin (because even tiring, nerve-frazzling days require lullabies sometimes) and Benjamin piped up in his nasally, whiny tone, "I want two songs!" I snapped back, "Well, I don't know if you'll get two songs!" and Zoë chided, "Mom, be nice to Benjamin!"

"I'm trying to be nice," I told her through gritted teeth.

I tried a lot today and was tried a lot today. It was simply a trying day. And, believe me, I was trying then. But, here's the thing sometimes singing lullabies is harder than others. For example, (1) when the children prattle on about nothing through my lullaby and then say, "But you can't go! You have sung to me yet!" Now, I'm all about listening to my children talk. I want my children to talk to me about...things. But I haven't yet figured out the art of "bedtime chats" yet because by bedtime I want my children in bed with their mouths zipped, specifically the little ones who have been yakking my ear off all day long about "what ifs." This is less of a problem with the older girls.

(2) When the children listen to a song up until the last line or two of the song and then say, "Another one!" before I'm even finished singing. This is typically a Zoë problem (and she typically gets the most lullabies anyway because she is a fussy two-year-old (for 29 more days)). She does it with books as well. We'll be like two pages from the end and she'll put another book on top of the one I'm reading and say, "Now this one!" And I'm always like, "Can. I. finish. first?!"

This next point is related to point 2, but is perhaps a little more extreme.

(3) I like to do nice things for others, I really do. But when I'm doing something out of the goodness of my heart and then the receiver starts laying down all sorts of additional requests, it makes me not want to continue doing the nice thing. So when I walk into the room to sing because lullaby time is mutually enjoyable and they request two songs before I've even sung one I start to feel taken advantage of and lullaby time is no longer mutually enjoyable, which I'll admit is silly because it's lullaby time and I'm not sure that's even a thing that can be taken advantage of (just kidding because I know it can; my children are expert bedtime delayers). But, that's just how I am.

Like, I used to enjoy having the missionaries over for dinner (out in NC when we had to actually feed the missionaries regularly) but then we got a new mission president and suddenly we had to feed the missionaries at 5:00 and I couldn't do it anymore. Why? Because we already had to pick the missionaries up and drop them off at their next appointment (even better: join them for their next appointment (on your child's birthday (after you refuse to stay for dessert, which was flippety-flapping birthday cake (come on, missionaries! (thanks for taking my husband away that night (I'm totally over it (not))))))) in addition to rushing through dinner so we didn't keep them too long. Eating dinner at 5:00 would have meant that I would have to make dinner and cart all the kids off to pick the missionaries up for dinner and that Andrew would have had to leave work early to come home on time to meet us at 5:00 for dinner—because who eats at 5:00?!

It, like, maxed out my niceness and I just couldn't anymore.

Or, like, when I'm getting a toddler breakfast and they want the purple bowl. NO! The blue bowl. NO! The pink bowl. And the green spoon. No! The yellow spoon. And they want to eat Cheerios but look at the Kix box. And they want to look at the milk, too, but it can only be on the left side of the cereal box. And they want me to have breakfast, too. NO! Not toast! I have to have cereal, too, because that's what they're having. And they don't want me to sit on the chair. I have to sit on the bench. And they don't want Rachel to look at them while eating breakfast so she has to sit backwards on the bench, facing the door. And they don't want to sit on their special stool. They want to sit on a regular chair. But heaven forbid anyone else suggest that they get a turn on the special stool.

And I get to the point where I'm like, "You know what?! Stop dictating how we may continue to serve you. You're lucky you get to eat at all—there are starving children all over the world!—so just shut your mouth and eat your breakfast, mmmkay?"

What would I like to hear at bedtime? I'd like to hear, "Thank you for singing to me, Mommy dearest. I love you so much." And then? Silence.

Or at least something along those lines.

To his credit, when Benjamin came out of his room (half an hour after he'd been put to bed) it was to tell me he needed to get something from downstairs.

"You absolutely do not need to get anything from downstairs," I told him curtly.

"But I do," he blubbered as if I'd just crushed his soul (and maybe I had, a little bit).

"What do you need to get?" I sighed, giving in.

I have a soft spot for children missing favourite blankets or stuffed animals or dolls because I distinctly remember making my mother hunt for my favourite blanket long after I had been sent to bed on more than one occasion (and she always did (though she was not always pleased about it)). Sometimes a child literally cannot sleep without it. I know. I tried.

"My socks," he sniffed.

I looked at him over the rim of my glasses, eyebrows raised skeptically.

"Socks?" I repeated.

"Two of them," he nodded.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I left them at the bottom of the stairs," he told me.

"No. Why do you need them?" I asked.

"Because I need to put them in the dirty clothes basket," he said.

"You can do that tomorrow," I said.

"But you told me to put them in the laundry and I left them on the stairs."

"I appreciate that you thought of that, but you can fix it tomorrow."




"Good night."

And he ran off to bed crying (again) because I am the meanest (trust me; I know because the little girl I walk home from school every day told me so (because I told her to stop running ahead (because she has no street sense and will dart across the street without looking)) and as an unbiased third party, it must be true).

So, now that I've whined and complained enough to drive myself crazy, I won't tell you all the little things that drove me to the brink of insanity at bedtime (like how at lunch while the baby was screaming and spitting up all over me, Benjamin was unloading the dishwasher banging on a pot with a spoon instead of putting it away while Zoë was singing at the top of her lungs and spinning a noisy rattle on Alexander's walker and I was like, "I can literally feel my patience level dropping..." It was surreal). Instead I'll tell you about the best morning with Benjamin, which I should have blogged about last week, but didn't.

Benjamin can be a frustrating child.

I write those words with full confidence that one day he won't be because often he isn't frustrating at all. Often he is wonderful and thoughtful and he is always so full of love and energy that I know he'll do big things one day.

Right now, however, all that love and energy is too often, and very unfortunately, channelled into frustrating things. Which is fine. Because he's five.

But it means that our mornings don't often run very smoothly, the upside of that, I suppose, is that when the morning does go well you can really tell!

Anyway, on this particular morning Benjamin got out of bed the second time he was asked (which may have been with a heavy sigh and a short lecture: "Benjamin, I really want to be patient with you but do you know what would help me to do that? If you actually ever did anything I asked you to do. That would just help me a lot. Now, please get out of bed.") and then got dressed without being asked and headed down for breakfast. He ate breakfast quickly and then immediately started unloading the dishwasher (again, miraculously, without being asked). When he finished with that he packed up his backpack, found his coat and shoes, and then said, "May I go play until it's time to go?"

And he could because he'd done everything he had to do. And when he left the house I didn't feel like I had to detox before I left to pick him up from school. It was marvellous.

So often I feel like we reinvent the wheel every morning.

Like, guys, sometimes when I tell him to get dressed he will change into a different pair of pyjamas ("Clothes, Benjamin!"). Or will sit down to play and forget about getting dressed at all ("Why aren't you dressed, Benjamin!?"). Or will come back downstairs wearing nothing but underwear ("Why are you naked, Benjamin?!"). Or will try to wear shorts to school when he knows very well he'll be walking through a foot of snow to get there ("Dude! It's snowing!").

We've found that if we pick out an outfit for him to wear and press it into his arms while he's still groggy in bed he'll usually get dressed somewhat appropriately. But even then it's not a given.

If I send him to school with his pants on backwards we count that as a win.

That is how difficult it is to get him going in the mornings.

Some mornings he even asks me where he's going. Same as every day.

Anyway, this particular morning it was as if everything suddenly clicked. The routine, the nagging, the obviousness of it all. It all clicked! And he just knew what to do. And he did it without any silliness (not that silly is bad, necessarily (and, boy, does Benjamin know how to make things fun for himself!) but sometimes it's nice to just get'er done, ya know?).

We haven't had a morning like that since, but this one good morning was such a good thing for both of us. It gave me a glimmer of hope—hope that one day he'll be a well-oiled getting-ready machine—and it gave him a clear picture of how obedience really can make you happy.

We've talked about this morning several times since it occurred. Sometimes he'll bring it up out of the blue and say, "Remember that one time I got ready so good?" And I'll be like, "Yeah! That was so awesome!"

Other times I will bring it up a little less out of the blue and say, "Remember that one time you got ready so nicely and you did everything you were supposed to do without fussing or goofing off? And then you still had time to do what you wanted to do and we were both still happy when it was time to go? Yeah! That was cool, wasn't it? Let's do it again!"

It hasn't happened again (yet) but I'm sure it will.

In the meantime we'll both continue to bask in the glow of that memory, I guess.


  1. Wow. You are welcome to call me if you need help or an extra pair of hands at bedtime. And thank you for making time to help me when you were at the end of a difficult day.

  2. This resonates with me, haha. Like I want bedtime to be this magical peaceful moment but it's just too late and the end the the day