The Bedtime Monster Isn’t Who You Think He Is

Sheri Little

best-costa-rica-travel-site-sponsorHere I am again sitting on the top step on the bunk bed stairs. My tailbone is aching, as I’ve been here for nearly an hour. My voice is cracking, and my grace wearing down from singing Farmer in the Dell for that entire hour. Tears come to my eyes as my five-year-old sits up — after a three-minute stretch of rest — to announce that he is hungry again.

We’ve already struggled through many battles this evening. We discovered that his nightlight, made by his grandmother, is not working. He insisted that we keep the overhead light on, which burns in my eyes and keeps him awake.  As soon as his Dad carefully tucked him under the covers, he popped up asking for a sip of water. Nothing in this situation gave an impression of  “I’m about to fall asleep.”

As soon as he asked for a snack, my thoughts flew into a rage: “ He is manipulating me” and “He knows my weaknesses and is digging in deep.” As my annoyance begins to rise, I feel spiteful words bubbling to the top of my parched throat, but before I speak, I take one deep breath.

Wait, what am I doing? I’m about to become the bedtime monster.  If I yell at him, he will wake up. If I yell at him, I will also  wake up his little brother, who is fitfully sleeping on the bottom bunk. I don’t want to be a monster. I want to be a mother.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an unusual occurrence. I’ve actually become the bedtime monster before, and I always regret it. I have made my sweet boy cry, I have denied him “one more cup of water,” and I have woken up the baby. Oh, what painful memories I have of being a “mean mommy.”

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t just sleep train my children. Maybe if I had let him cry it out as an infant, I would be peacefully sprawled out on the couch downstairs, staring at my phone or watching something mind-numbing on Netflix with my husband. But what would I be missing out on? His sweet voice asking me to sing again. His precious love you’s and compliments.  I would be missing the warmth of his body on my arm as he goes in for a good snuggle, the feeling of his little heart beating fast like the wings of a tiny hummingbird.

The next night his little brother — pulled away from the action of Nerf guns and Lego movies because of bedtime — cried “I don’t wanna go to bed” and put up a quite a fight for a three-year-old. Once he had been begrudgingly tucked into his bed, still holding to his claim, he added something: “Hold me.”

Could it be that at bedtime we can gauge whether or not our children have had enough physical touch for the day? Have they had enough human interaction? Have I spent enough time talking to them? Looking them in the eyes — my gaze surpassing the iPhone for their sweet innocent blue eyes filled with curiosity? Have I given them enough snuggles? Enough compliments? Enough love?

With this in mind, the other night, I was prepared for battle. Snacks had been provided, water had been given, daddy tuck-ins were completed, and I was determined to be an efficient, yet kind bedtime mother. I was ready to run through this bedtime, but then it struck me. Why am I in such a hurry? Yes, I’m tired. Yes, this is the most uncomfortable place to sit. Ever. Maybe this is a time for me to get my daily quotient of snuggles, hugs, and compliments. Even if I had remained calm, if I had rushed this moment, I would have become the bedtime monster. I would have missed that sweet moment when he covered my face in kisses and told me that I’m the best mommy before he promptly fell asleep.

This post was written by Sheri Little exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.

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Sheri Little is a health educator, social worker, trauma-focused parent coach, and the mother to three children. She has been trained and certified in four evidence-based parent training programs and is also develop my own materials based on current research. She is dedicated to helping families grow stronger and more resilient through parent education and the identification of resources for the children.