For me the hard part of parenting isn’t knowing what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s actually doing what I’m supposed to be doing in a calm, kind, focused, mutually enjoyable way when there’s so much else going on at the same time. So when the going gets rough I don’t need more information or ‘helpful tips,’ I need some down time to re-charge.
Here’s an example.
We’re dealing with sleep issues right now. My daughter, M, just turned four. She’s strong willed and a night owl. The upside of this is that she usually wakes up at like 8a or 8.30a which is just in time for us to roll out the door by 8.45a to be a pre-school by 9a. No 5a wake up calls. Woot!
The downside is that M fights her bedtime and sleep like crazy, *hates* it when she’s woken up before she’s ready, and with the time change M’s sleep has been really off. Figuring that sleep is an especially big deal for her growth spurting body and her body clock will sort itself out soon enough, if she’s had a night where she’s been up reading to herself until 11.30p and then randomly up again at 3a, on mornings where it’s logistically feasible, we’ve been letting her sleep in and taking her to school late.
I cleared this with M’s teacher and mentioned something to her friends’ parents in passing. No big deal. No worries but vaguely annoying because we’re all tired and being late to school is a bummer.
Today someone connected with parent education at the pre-school, in what I’m sure was a good hearted attempt to be helpful, gave out hard copies of a parenting.com article “14 Happy Bedtime Rituals.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they were trying to help and “14 Happy Bedtime Rituals” is a solid article. I was actually familiar with it before through the magic of my phone and Google.
“14 Happy Bedtime Rituals” includes such bed time routine tips as, “bath,” brush teeth,” “wash face,” “potty time and glass of water,” “pick out pajamas,” “pick out books,” “bedtime yoga (okay that one is a little new and unusual),” talk quietly,” “read,” “deep pressure exercises,” “lullaby,” “prayer,” “say goodnight,” and “snuggle.” All great tips. And it’s good to be reminded of the basics.
But if that all sounds familiar it’s probably because you’ve heard it 87 times before. In between reading other books and articles, going online, talking, watching TV, listening to the pediatrician, remembering your own childhood, and generally learning by smartphone-conversation-life-experience osmosis, coming across basic information is the easy part.
The hard part is actually doing all that bedtime routine stuff calmly and consistently when your boss just yelled at you, your partner is late, the cat just barfed on the floor, there’s 18 loads of laundry staring at you, and your kid is throwing a fit.
And when I have days like that what I need is some me time, not yet more information on things I’m already trying to do but apparently not doing well enough. Make with the booze and the Netflix, not with the parenting.com.
I wish organizations and materials geared towards parenting education and support focused less on information distribution – everyone is constantly bombarded by information these days – and more on giving parents an opportunity to de-stress and connect. It’s really easy to feel like I’m the only parent who wants to be like, “WTF are you doing in the living room at midnight? Get your butt back into bed and your carefully crafted soothing sleep environment. Because it’s about to get really not soothing up in here if you don’t let Mommy have 15 minutes where no one is asking her to do anything. DO NOT MAKE HULK MOMMY ANGRY. HULK MOMMY SMASH.”
So on the really tough days literature like “Go the Fuck to Sleep” is way more helpful than “14 Happy Bedtime Rituals.”