I should be in bed right now sound asleep. My son took 90 minutes to give in sleep tonight. Some nights, I am barely able to muster the energy to leave his room for my own after nights like this, but tonight, I can't sleep. Figures.
The past two weeks have been awful yet enlightening in my house. You see, my son has been fighting sleep and basically everything. The battle starts early, sometimes in his preschool room when I arrive to pick him up for the day. Sometimes, he fakes me out with a strong start to the evening, multiple yawns and pleasant conversation. Then it derails quickly. He whines. I shout. He jumps out of bed to find me in the house. I pat his back endlessly. He kicks and punches me. I leave the room. Play that record back about 20 times over and you have a typical night in our house. After two weeks of this, my soul was weary.
So, I reached out to everyone basically on Facebook. I asked for advice. Some people question my public display for help, but as a single mom, I was feeling isolated, tired and defeated. It's not for everyone, but I have a lot of parent friends who give great advice. I reviewed it, digested it and made a decision on how to take my next step. Someone suggested a parenting series. I googled it and found a free webinar. My lunch hour that day was a my standard salad and parenting tips.
I took something important away from that session. It's never as simple as the child misbehaving. It's typically both the child and parent. The child is responding to the environment. His behavior change was intense and sudden. I didn't want to face it, but my son was responding to the change in my life. Work went from constant to beyond hectic. I kept saying yes to things that I should be saying no. Work was something that was hidden from my son in my life, but now, I was in the other room banging on the computer while he was awake.
Another realization that day was that my son was lacking both my attention and any real source of power. I made all decisions, options that once existed were gone since options means time. I have to be ready to give him whatever option he chose and some options took more time. For instance, don't offer him noodles since he will always say yes and they take time to cook. Instead, fix him chicken and a salad. That's quick.
So, it's been hard but that night, I changed the rituals of my house hold. That night at dinner, we chatted about being nice to each other. After dinner, we immediately got ready for bed. Getting ready for bed meant that bed time was coming and bed time was the enemy. Now, it means, lets get cozy. Every where I could work in a choice, it was there. Which kind of pajamas do you want to wear- dinosaurs, robots or bears? Pick out your shirt for the day. Do you want me to brush your teeth or do you want me to do it? What book do you want me to read in your bed tonight?
It's not perfect. He's three. He still has meltdowns and throws tantrums. Work time is now once again when he is asleep - which means less sleep for me. At least there is peace in my house....for now.
P.S. Parents never talk publicly about the beat downs they receive from their kids. This fact that kids do this still stuns me. I didn't see it coming, honestly. I get it, my son trusts me completely and has complete meltdowns around me that he would never have with others. Plus he is young and lacks the understanding that it's not me that made him tired, Life did it.
If you are considering parenthood, ask your friends with kids about this rarely spoken about phenomenon. It's happening, but few of us talk about it. I saw a parent get beat down by his toddler at a science museum today and his reaction was telling - he was trying to act like it wasn't happening while others were watching. It's real folks. It's hard to describe what it's like when your favorite person on the planet decides to lash out at you physically. It's not something that parents like to discuss.
I have to confess something. Sometimes I wonder if I should adopt a second child. The adoption process is long, complicated and at times, painful. It took three plus years to bring my son into my life. Why would I ever dream of doing it again? Let me explain.
I grew up with siblings and cousins. There were always other kids around me. I watched my son play with other kids during the holidays getting caught up in the noise and laughter. I worried that I made a bad decision of raising an only child. My son asks the clerks at our local grocery store to come home with us. He wants people to come over to our house every day.
Also, I have noticed how different I am from parents with two or more children. My brother and his wife have three children and they have a comfort level that I don't have. After you survive the first kid worrying about everything, you approach parenthood a bit looser with the other children. This is not completely true for me. At a playdate in November, the other mother sent all of the kids upstairs to play unsupervised and while the parents sat on the couch drinking coffee. While they talked, I worried about everything that could happen to my son upstairs. In hindsight, my son needed that distance from me to gain confidence and explore on his own. I needed it too.
I am 46 years young and plan to retire in 21 years. Yes, I waited until later in life to become a mother and I don't regret it. I spent my twenties getting two college degrees and living overseas. My thirties was about finding my career path, owning my own business and buying a house. My forties are focused on parenthood. Once I hit 40, I was at peace with having just one child.
My thoughts about adopting again are not for me. I love having just one child and giving him my full attention. My concern is watching my incredibly social son play with others and beg for more time. BUT, something always brings me back to reality besides my bank account. When I am home alone with my son and we are talking just to two of us over dinner, it's amazing. My son is happy. If his birthmother reaches out to me with another, I will make it work, but right now as my son and I like to say, "We make a good team."
Today in the car, my son was asking questions about families. He said, "We have a small family". "No, we don't", I said. "We have a large family". I rattled off everyone in his family. His reply, "Yes, I have a big family and my family loves me." My son is very loved and will be the child who asks for all of his friends to sleep over at his house often. I am OK with that - just like I am OK with being a parent of an only child.