I’ve read (and experienced) strong-willed children are prone to power struggles and must constantly test their limits. While this can be, (oh who am I kidding, it is) true for my daughter, it is rarely more apparent than at bedtime.
Every great once in a while, usually on a weekend where we’ve been out doing things and I’ve effectively worn her out, we, the adults, get a good night. She is tired and while there may been a cursory effort, ultimately, she’s out and all is well without too much incident.
And then, there are the other nights.
For those parents who have kids who are either good at bedtime or who have outgrown this nightmarish exercise in asserting independence, I couldn’t be more envious. For those who have a child like mine, let’s just say, it can’t last forever….right? Right? Please tell me that’s right. If not, just lie to me.
So, here are my seven stages of the power struggle known as bedtime. And now will also you know why wine goes so fast in my house.
The set up (note: wine consumption may or may not be slightly exaggerated depending on the severity of events): Things are going fairly well. My daughter is in a great mood and there is no hint of trouble. Then, much like one of those tornadoes that show up on a sunny day, everything seems ok until it’s not.
Typically things will start going south during, or shortly after bath time. My child is no fool. She knows it’s a preamble to the dreaded “bedtime”. She wants to drag her feet getting out of the tub. She doesn’t want to put on her pajamas/brush her hair/brush her teeth. The dark clouds are coming in.
Once we get through that, it’s on to bed and if things are going to go down, that’s about when the proverbial poo will hit the fan. I’ve tried all the usual stuff people tell you to do to get a kid to relax and get ready for bed. The end result on these “special” evenings? Let’s say she likes to mix it up. Maybe she’ll do a dramatic drop to the floor in protest like a sack of potatoes. Maybe she’ll go red-faced and bug eyed screaming “no!!”. It is enough to drive me to the brink.
At this point the seven stages as they tend to play out in my head begin.
1. Disbelief – I can’t believe I am going through this again. Not again. How many nights will I have to deal with this? When will this kid get that she will never get anywhere acting like a maniac? Did she just ignore me??
2. Denial—This isn’t happening. This just isn’t happening. Where’s my wine?
3. Bargaining—What movie do you want to watch? You want a snack? Story? Different pajamas? Trip to the Caribbean? Ok. Whatever it takes to get your butt in that bed so I can decompress before my head explodes.
4. Guilt—I am the worst mother ever. I’ll bet every other kid in the world is asleep right now. Why is my kid the only one who won’t go to bed? What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I deal with this without losing my temper? I am a horrible mother. I need another glass of wine.
5. Anger—Why won’t this kid just go to sleep? Did I just hear her get up again? What is her deal?? I am so over it. Why does every night have to be such a battle?? Go to sleep!!
6. Depression (well, more like self-pity in this case)—I am so tired. I am just not cut out for this. This kid just wears me down. Why can’t I just figure out how to get her to do one simple thing? What’s the matter with me? Why is this so hard? How do people do this?
7. Acceptance or hope (let’s go with hope)—Wait! Is she asleep?? Yes!!!!! Oh, she looks so peaceful when she’s asleep. Maybe this will never happen again….
Philosopher Bernard Williams once wrote “There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” In the case of the battle of bedtime, I’d say that’s true. In the end, she always goes to sleep. Sometimes later than we’d like. Sometimes after a bunch of screaming and crying. Occasionally with me laying next to her, falling asleep holding her.
In the end, it’s always ok somehow eventually. The sun comes up in the morning and it’s another chance to do better, both for her and me.