Being a Parent.

10 Mar

So I guess they forgot to tell us parenting was now a competitive sport. One where parents with the “best” kids are the ones who never talked back, always ate everything on their plates and always went to bed with out incident. The best parents are the ones who never questioned themselves and have all the right answers. The best parents follow what “everybody” says you’re  “supposed” to do, no matter what you think or feel to the contrary. But here is the thing, I didn’t sign up for this sport. Why oh why do I have to keep falling prey to these ideas that I have to do what other families do because it is supposed to be “normal”?

See, we’ve recently been trying to set up a bed time…well not just any bed time, a more early bed time. Bill and I need it. We need the quality time together, we need to quite time to get stuff done we can’t when the kids are awake. We need quite time to ourselves just to think our thoughts and pick up a book! BUT we know our kids. Our kids, are like us. Night Owls. And in the past we’ve let them be who they are and sure enough we’ve never really had any bed time battles. They go to sleep when they are tired, without fuss, without stress, without a fight. We’re not reduced to bribes, deals, or tears. They get the sleep they need without feeling like going to bed is a punishment. However, with Max starting kindergarten next year, we’ve decided to try and start slowly, pushing bedtime back earlier and earlier. And since we’ve never made too big of a fuss over bedtime, we’ve kept it that way, just a calm explanation of why and when and how and the kids have done a pretty darn good job of dealing with it. I know you can sense it, a “but” is coming and you are correct. BUT, even though 80% of the time they willingly go to bed, they cannot simply just fall asleep. That lies the problem. They may be in their room, watching a show, reading a book, talking to each other, laughing and telling jokes, but they cannot fall asleep. Why? Not because we didn’t train them too, or because they don’t know how to, but simply because they aren’t tired yet. Bill and I understand this. We are the same way. I guess it is why we haven’t made such a big deal of it. They are up late for the same reasons we stay up late, we’re not tired. They aren’t plotting for world domination. They aren’t conversing over who should color on the walls tomorrow and who should make a giant mess in the bathroom. They just aren’t tired. How oh how can you force a child to be tired. I mean, I know you can just simply put them in their room and lock the door, ignore their scared cries, sip your wine and watch some crap TV. But, well that just isn’t the kind of parent I want to be. Go ahead, call me a martyr  Go ahead and tell me I’m doing something with a rod and my back. But the thing of it is, I don’t actually have a problem with the fact that I have a problem-less bed time with my children, and that my children get to go to sleep when they are tired. I mean sure, I’d like that quality time I talked about, but it isn’t a “need” it is a want. And when it comes between quality, quiet time or a problem-less, stress-less bed time with my children, shoot, I’d pick the latter any day. What I do have a problem with are people feeling “bad” for me. People thinking I’m some how failing my kids because I think they can figure out when they are tired, and how to remedy that problem without me telling them what to do. Sleeping isn’t something you have to “learn” how to do. It is one of those things we are born just knowing how to do it and why we need it.

I don’t see my job as micromanaging every second of every day for my 2 kids. My kids are now old enough to tell me when they are hungry or thirsty  Actually they both are old enough to go to the pantry and get a snack, pour their own drink. They know to ask me before they get a snack just in case a meal is in the near future. It isn’t my job to tell them when they need to go potty, when they are in the mood for a little art time, or when they need to run around the house because they’ve been cooped up way too long. It is my job to show them right from wrong.  It is my job to show them respect so they can learn it.

However, we’re still in a conundrum. I don’t know what to do about bed time. That is right. I admit it. I don’t know what to do. I liked our simple fall asleep when you’re tired style. However, I’m being realistic. With school starting for Max I’m not sure that style will work in a few months. Or when Rory starts kindergarten and I go back to work. Our style works now because I get to stay home. I can sleep in until 10 and still get my stuff done around the house and play with my kids. I mean some people’s kids may go to bed at 8 and sleep through the night no problem and they are considered “good” even though when they are awake they are spoiled little brats who are truly spoiled (not the spoiled from cuddling to much spoiled, but spoiled as in they are 5 with an ipad, iphone 5, nintendo 3ds, and every other toy they want and get) and my kids are “bad” because they go to bed between 10-11 but when they are awake are awesome to each other, play together nicely, help me with cooking, cleaning and whatnot.

I mean as I’m writing this, my kids are having a snack, watching “The Little Mermaid” and just nicely talking to each other about how Rory is Ariel and Max is the dog…Max. This is after they have spent an afternoon playing “bad guys vs good guys”, they played doctor with Rory’s babies, colored, played with the light table, made a fort in the hallway, played princess and batman, and helped me switch out the laundry, fold it and put it away. I mean, to me, that doesn’t sound like 2 bad kids. I know I’m bias, but let’s be honest.

So I don’t know, maybe we’ll modify how we were doing things. Maybe we’ll go back to letting them go to sleep when they are tired, and have them be in their room by 9:30 instead of 8. Let them have their light on, TV on and a glass of water, as long as they don’t leave their room. They already have books in there, but maybe I’ll have a box of toys just for that room that they can play with. I do believe this could be a perfect compromise, the kids can stay up until they are tired, they’ll have books, toys, TV, light and water. And as long as they stay in their room, they can stay up and Bill and I can have quiet time.

I guess I can’t stop other people from labeling me as a “bad” parent with “bad” kids, however, I can stop trying to be the parent I know I’m not, and continue to work towards being the parent I know I can be, and the parent my kids deserve.


2 Responses to “Being a Parent.”

  1. Felina Lune Kavi March 11, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    Let’s start at the root, which is not the bed time issue at all, but the division of good and bad as well as right and wrong. You are not a bad parent. You aren’t doing anything wrong…unless you consider worrying about such things wrong. Though even that preoccupation with what others might think of you as a parent serves, in moderation, to keep yourself in check with your own personal moral guidelines. It gets you to question what is right for you and your family. I’d say the lesson you are seeking is in your own writing. No one can tell you what is best for you and your family except you and them. There is no magical cure for nocturnal activity, it just is. Some are diurnal, some are nocturnal…and such is the way of nature, as we are not so far removed from it just because we have evolved to use the higher reasoning of the cerebral cortex (at least those of us who use our higher capacities beyond the survival instincts of the reptilian brain and the emotional reasoning of the limbic (mammalian) brain).

    If you want suggestions, I can offer them as a mother of a 7-year-old daughter who has, for the most part, always slept throughout the night (even as a baby). But do know that I offer them with the knowledge that every child is different and that no family needs to be compared and measured against another.

    I was never a very organized person prior to motherhood. I still wouldn’t consider myself necessarily organized, at least not by just my own volition. And I was always, and continue to be, a night owl. Something about the night…my creativity kicks into high gear and my physical energy levels out in order to get much of the work I do done (which involves concentration as well as creativity). A lot of my work, especially the writing part of it, requires stillness and near silence. It is not the kind of work I can do when I am needed by others.

    Alyrica, however, is a creative free spirit (like her mother) who thrives when guided with direction through routine (unlike her mother). I had to learn quickly that while our hearts and minds were very similar, our internal clocks were wired differently. I had heard all of the unsolicited advice from parents while I was pregnant that I had better enjoy my sleep while I could have it…and that when that kid enters my life, I would be up all night with her. I thought, I can handle that. I’m usually up all night anyway. No, that’s not at all how it went down. Alyrica, perhaps because she was born at the tail end of the year of the Rooster, slept throughout the night and woke up each morning with the sun. Still, to this day, it is the same routine. And much like a Rooster, her morning activities are not something a light sleeper like myself can just sleep through.

    So, she taught me what she needs in order to function best. And I have found that her own timing has eventually strengthened my own. So I no longer stay up until 4 am…but at least I still have plenty of night time to spend with my husband (who is also a night owl…though he works early on weekdays).

    Our night time routine consists of teeth brushing, a drink of water, going potty, reading a story or poem, singing a song, hugging and kissing, and then lights out. It has always been the same, each night, and she sleeps soundly shortly after the door closes. At first it was at 8pm…but as she got a little older, it has been anywhere from 8:30pm to 9pm.

    My point with all of this is that as long as your kids are eating well at dinner time, not drinking anything other than water after 9pm, and not relying on television to zombify them enough to finally sleep…your kids’ own internal clocks know best what their bodies need. If 8pm seems way too early for them, 8:30-9pm is a good compromise. Any more than that, and you lose your footing with them on enforcing rules. These rules for bedtime are often the basis for parent-child reciprocal respect. And even when you are guided by their own internal clocks for your decision-making…you, as a parent, will still need to be the enforcer with the upper hand. If they learn that you can be a pushover to their whims, you may then always be doomed to the role of the martyr.

    So, do you think it may be time for you to stop comparing yourself to other parents, and stop comparing your kids to other kids…and find out what works best for you? It is your life, after all…not theirs. From what I can tell just by your writing, you are doing a great job. After all, how many bad parents would take the time to think through such things in order to find a solution that works for all parties involved? Tomorrow night is a new moon…the perfect time to start things off on the right foot.

    Love and Gratitude,

    • mrsamk April 5, 2013 at 2:56 am #

      Thank you for your response! I am not quite sure why I feel the need to compare myself to other parents. I mean I think our way of doing things has worked out pretty well. Like you said, if the kids are well fed, have enough sleep, and are healthy, well then what really is the problem? I guess, it all got started because I wanted to “get ready” for next year. And it wasn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped, and I started to wonder if we had made a mistake in how we had been doing things and I started thinking too much about it. As a SAHM, it is mainly my job to feed, bathe, play with and put the kids to bed, and I kind of freaked out at the thought that I had been “doing it all wrong”. We have gotten back to the way we do things and things have been good. We all get the right amount of sleep we all need. We all wake up happy and refreshed. When I feel the kids have made a “bad choice” and have stayed up too late, I tell them, they understand and simply go to sleep. But you are right, I need to find a way to stop comparing myself and my kiddos to others, and just take from other situations tools and ideas that will help my family. Comparing and worrying won’t get us anywhere!

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