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Challenge: Bedtime Secrets

Bedtime Rituals

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It’s dark. I watch the tiny green numbers on the cable box clock change with each passing minute. My butt and right forearm are almost completely numb. I wait, without breathing, for the furnace downstairs to kick on so that I can make my escape.

No, I haven’t been kidnapped and locked in a room somewhere, though at times, that’s how I feel. I am being held hostage, through - to my daughter’s bedtime. I feel like most parents have been in this same position, at least those moms I talk too. It’s the nightly bedtime routine that should take 10 minutes but inevitably takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour each night. And why? What is it about nighttime that turns independent, almost rebellious little children, into insecure and scared little people? The darkness, the uncertainty, or maybe just the desire to stay awake, out of fear of missing out on something fun. I wish my daughter knew the only thing she’d be missing is mommy drooling on her pillow.

But still, without fail, each night around 8:00 p.m. I battle not only my daughter’s invisible demons, but my husband. Though his girls are his “babies”, he does not baby them. He can also snore and sleep through anything, so their cries and calls from down the hall don’t bother him one bit. They wouldn’t bother me either if I could drown them out, but I can’t. My internal mommy clock is always on. And it’s always me they call for. Why is that? It’s never, “Daddy, I need a drink of water”, or “Daddy, I have to go potty”. It’s always, “Mommy, I need you!”

And this is why, when it comes to bedtime, my husband’s opinion goes in one ear and out the other. Because he’s not the one dealing with it, so I choose to do it my way. Yes, does he have valid suggestions and perhaps tactics that might actually work? Sure. But his methods involve a lot of crying, lost sleep, aggravation, and stress that this mommy just doesn’t need. I do know there is a light at the end of the tunnel - my oldest daughter is the prime example of this. S

he needed me the same way my youngest daughter needs me now. Her biggest fear was monsters in her closet. A girlfriend recommended taking a spray bottle, filling it with water, and marking it “Monster Spray”. My daughter was convinced that this magical spray kept monsters away. We sprayed it in her closet every night, and it really helped with her anxiety and her nightmares. But, it still didn’t stop her from wanting me to sit beside her bed and rub her back until she drifted off to sleep. We had good weeks and bad weeks. Sometimes, I only needed to sit with her for 5 minutes. Other nights felt like an eternity! Every sound from outside, creak of the house, or the volume from my husband’s television down the hall prompted her to ask, “What was that?” and jerk up to a seated position. And forget about daylight saving time. When those clocks jump back and forth and it’s light until 9:00 p.m. or I’m dragging her out of bed an hour earlier than normal, bedtime is once again, thrown into a tizzy.

But the change occurred for my oldest daughter when she entered 2nd grade and turned 8. She gained a newfound sense of independence and confidence. I remember sitting beside her bed and reaching my hand beneath her purple comforter, only to feel her hand meet mine and gently, but with force, push my arm back out from under the blankets. “I don’t really need you to do that anymore.” Though I was completely relieved, I was completely crushed at the same time. She didn’t need me anymore. I don’t know if her fear of monsters and bedtime subsided, or her desire to be “grown up” outweighed her need for me. Either way, I was proud that my little girl had matured past needing mommy, and my numb backside thanked her too.

But now, I find myself going backwards in time, revisiting the same types of behaviors and fears in my youngest daughter. Things are a little easier this time around because she shares a room with her sister. Her “sissy” helps her feel safe, but she still wants mommy’s bedtime stories, hugs and kisses, and for her, it’s a gentle rubbing of her forehead that does the trick. I use the same chair, take the same position, have the same numb extremities, just on the other side of the bedroom. And though my husband thinks I should just let her “figure it out” and cry and call for me, there are too many variables at play.

First off, she would wake up her sister. Second, if I sit and rub her head, she falls asleep in approximately 4 minutes flat. If I try to leave her and let her cry and call for me, she gets herself so worked up that it’s another 40 minutes before she’s calm enough to even close her eyes. It just doesn’t seem worth it to me. And then there’s the third, and perhaps driving reason behind my willingness to sit and rub her head - she’s going to push my hand away soon enough, too, just like her older sister did. She won’t always need or want me to brush her soft blond curls from her forehead. So even though there are nights I just want to crawl into bed and not be bothered with drawn out bedtime rituals, there’s still that part of me that loves the fact that my daughters still need me.

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