The Bad Parent/Horrendous Child Ritual

My youngest daughter, she of the years given back to us, she who speaks in musical throaty sounds as much as she speaks in words, she has a way with animals. I sing a song to her, "There is a love hidden inside your borders just waiting to be free, so keep hoping, St. Francis, you'll be a free man yet, you'll see the sun shine again, over your city streets. Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they will not be put to shame." (Kristene DiMarco)

Sometimes I think she is a better mother than I. She is a born nurturer. She speaks the language of each creature she tames. The kittens of each litter. The birds she sings to and bewitches into landing on the stakes of their fort while she dances with her hands like wings behind her, the little bird cocking it's head and twittering back as if it is having a conversation with this four foot tall girl. She speaks to babies in grunts and moans and pre-verbal sounds and cocks of the head just so until they are laughing or sleeping, entranced by someone so old who still speaks baby.

She can put anything to sleep. Even the crabbiest kitten. Give her a rag to swaddle it in, and a song to sing, and a few minutes later, that kitten will be sleeping her arms, her swaying around the living room in the afternoon light proud as a peacock and happy as a clam.

Bedtimes at our house lately have devolved into 2 hours of battle to get the kids to lay in their beds. Let's face it: we parents take turns chiding, disciplining, punishing, yelling, cajoling, threatening, pleading, and sometimes swearing. The children (mostly the youngest two) take turns crying, whining, charming, stalling, and being mischievous or outright naughty.

After reading up on the issue, looking back at old journals to figure out what worked in the past, and brainstorming and praying a bit to try and figure out what we've changed lately that's made bedtime such an inconsistent and riotous affair in our household, it really turned out to be quite simple. Exhausted since I started my new job, and often working at the computer into the wee hours on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, bedtime rituals went flying out the window. Aaron, unaccustomed to putting the kids to bed, had to think on his feet, and just came up with, a) it's bedtime, b) children should get into their pajamas and get in bed, and c) they should stay there, by themselves, no matter what, for as long as it takes them to go to sleep. This came as quite a shock to the children, no doubt, who've been storied or sung to sleep nearly every night since they were little.

Last night, we put our bedtime ritual back in place. Although it did take over an hour and I nearly fell asleep with the kids in the process, it worked! Only problem: my husband, just as exhausted as I have been, was also asleep when I came downstairs, so we didn't get any evening bonding time. Hopefully we'll get that back over the next days or weeks. But at least we didn't do the Bad Parent/Horrendous Child routine for 2 hours at the end of the day as we have been for weeks! We both woke up more cheerful than we have in months - and feeling ready to start our work day with a more peaceful heart.

Do you ever drop the ball suddenly on routines or family rituals and only realize after the fact that you've screwed up? Ever done the Bad Parent/Horrendous Child bit at your house?

Life: Unmasked
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