Sleep is probably the most challenging aspect of parenthood. If you search mom groups or browse google you will find a plethora of questions related to getting children to sleep. Bedtime can, at times, be the worst part of your day.
Every parent experiences the frustrations of getting their child to sleep. You have been giving 100% of yourself to your child all day long and now, when you are exhausted, tapped out, running on empty… they are needing you even more. Sometimes it feels as if you have nothing left to give. You just want them to go to sleep so you can have a little bit of restorative “me time”. But instead the babies don’t want to be put down, the toddler is afraid of the dark or needs water or has to go potty, the preschooler needs to have some decompression snuggles and talking time, and there is a very good chance that someone, or everyone, is screaming or crying.
To say that bedtime is challenging is an understatement. At times it is a battle, and there are nights when you feel as though you have lost. And to make matters worse, this could just be the start of a very long night; a series of battles stained with pleas that go unanswered and tears that don’t appear to have an end. Everyone is exhausted, and you may even question your ability to do this whole parenthood thing.
All that being said, I want to say how much I absolutely love bedtime. And no, it is not because I cannot wait for some time to myself, where I don’t have someone asking all of what I have to give (although that part is nice too). I love bedtime because when you look at bedtime through a different lens it is one of the most special and connected parts of the day with your child. It is during bedtime that I become so overwhelmed with love for my children that I could just cry, and sometimes I do.
I can get frustrated that my baby is fighting sleep. Or, I can view it as this is a time where she is struggling, and she needs her mama now more than ever. And makes me the most important person in the world to her. That is special, the fact that she needs me so badly because alone she cannot find the calm amongst her own chaos.
I can be exhausted and desperate for the baby to just let me put her down when she is sleeping. Or, I can find joy in the fact that she feels the most safe and secure in my arms. That in the absence of Mama’s loving touch she feels alone, possibly scared, or some other feeling that is unknown to me because she is not able to communicate it to me. Instead of being upset I can choose to find an opportunity for our love to grow as I meet this nighttime need of closeness.
I can get annoyed that my preschooler spills her guts out as soon as the lights go off and she wants to say “just one more thing” (for the 10th time). Or, I can see that it is during this intimate time, when all the world quiet and it is just she and I laying in bed as I snuggle her to sleep that she feels comfortable to open up about all the things on her mind. I can be connected with her in a way that I otherwise would likely have missed the opportunity for.
I am not saying that I don’t get frustrated, because I definitely do! But on the nights when I choose to look at bedtime through a different lens, one where I am attending to my children with love rather than with frustration, that things often go more smoothly; and even if they don’t, I feel more at peace, more connected, and have even more love for them than I thought possible.
Our children are only little for a short period of time. And while the time seems to pass slowly by when you are in the thick-of-it, the reality is that these babes only need us to meet their nighttime needs for such a short time. And rather than wasting energy on frustration that damages the relationship and makes bedtime more of a struggle for my children, I would like to spend it growing love and creating a sense of security that will last a lifetime.