Every night at 8pm, it goes down.
“MaKaaaaayla, it’s time to go to beeeeeed.”
I say it in that sing-songy way mothers do when we are trying to convince our children that what we are asking them to do is something good for them. Something they’ll want to do.
Yep, she says it just like that. Like she has options. Like she’s the Vito Corleone of our home and we’ve just come to her with some stupid request that would ordinarily make her off us if it wasn’t for the fact that we are family.
Through my teeth, I respond. “What did I tell you about telling Mommy and Daddy no?”
Big, bright, almond eyes. One blink. Two blinks. And a grin.
It’s her favorite nighttime cartoon. The one we watch after we read her favorite bedtime story. After she’s plays one last time with her Doc McStuffins or Elmo dolls. The cartoon that is SUPPOSED to be her signal that it’s time to go upstairs, brush her teeth, wash her face and GET IN THE FREAKIN’ BED!
“It’s getting ready to go off, Kay. When it does, we’re going upstairs to go to bed okay?”
More bright eyes. More blinks. And of course…
This is the moment where I’m not sure if I’m grateful or remorseful that I’m not exactly like my mother. For MaKayla’s sake, I’m not. At least not yet.
She’s obviously tired. She’s whining. She’s wandering. She’s wiping the invisible tears from her eyes. But she’s also determined. Read: Stubborn. So stubborn that during one of these nightly exchanges she held her eyes open with her thumbs to keep them from closing.
We finally make it up the stairs and into her room. I go through our ritual. Jammies. Picking a stuffed animal to sleep with. Prayer. Closing the curtains so that the cars and stars don’t “get her.”
And then it all begins.
Oh you thought it had already started? Yeah, so did I the first time. Nope. The bell sounds as soon as she gets in bed.
Round one…crying. For at least 20-30 minutes.
Round two…Screaming. The blood curdling kind. For another 30 minutes.
It’s at this point that Hubby and I alternate coming in and giving her lots of hugs and kisses in order to calm her down. We do this because we love her. But mostly we do it because we don’t want our neighbors to think something awful is happening to our child.
Then we gently lay her back down.
Now some days, two rounds are enough. After getting some reassurance from Mommy and Daddy and being unable to fight Mr. Sandman anymore, she’ll finally pass out. But on other days, like the one I had last week, we can easily go seven or eight rounds until #1 she gives in, or #2 we give in and bring her in the bed with us (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I know but listen…)
So there she was with her beautiful, angelic face, breathing deeply and sleeping soundly. In OUR bed. After a THREE-HOUR duel.
All I could do was pray. I prayed that I would have the patience to make it through these toddler years with my child. That I would keep my sanity as I help her understand the value in getting a good nights sleep and rest.
And then I heard it.
That small, still voice deep within.
“Maybe she’ll learn it when you do.”
Whaaaaat?! No I wasn’t getting checked by Jesus?! (Lol)
Yes. Yes, I was.
Because how many times had I’d been resistant…sometimes even ridiculously so…to the very things I knew were best for me? How many times had I screamed in defiance to God and anyone else who tried to tell me that I was doing too much or that it was time for me to rest? My distraction of choice may not had been cartoons or Elmo but it has certainly been work or reality television or—dare I say it—Facebook. Anything that would keep me from listening to what my mind, body and spirit was telling me. How many times had I figuratively held my eyes open with my thumbs when I knew that I needed to manage/limit/eliminate the stress in my life for the sake of my health? This defiance I was seeing in my own child toward me as her mother was a direct reflection of the defiance I’d exhibited in my own life toward my own Heavenly Father.
So as this realization washed over me while staring at my precious baby girl, I switched up my prayer a little bit. In addition to praying for my child to recognize the value of sleep/rest and to be obedient to her mommy and daddy as well as to her own body, I prayed that I would get the lesson also.
I can show her way better than I can tell her.
This post is the latest in Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Faith & Motherhood” series.
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.