This morning I posted a goofy status update about how my daughter woke me up at ass-crack thirty because she wanted her back scratched. She did. She’s nine. Here’s the thing; mommy don’t play that game. Not this mommy anyway.
Some of you disagreed with me, but I’m guessing our circumstances are different. I have a kid on the autism spectrum struggling to understand the needs of others. One of the most difficult things in her life right now is trying to understand how important reciprocity is in relationships. This is difficult for all children, but more so for kids who have difficulty reading social cues.
Maybe our circumstances aren’t so different? Maybe we have a lot in common. My favorite color is green, I’m a Pisces, and I cry every goddamn time I hear the song Endless Summer Nights by Richard Marx. Anyhoooo….
Swoon! But I digress.
I’m super cool with your difference of opinion with regard to how much shit a parent has to put up with during sleepy-time. Really. I do want to encourage dialogue about this particular parenting issue, because you know what? Who the FUCK likes lose sleep?
Not me. I go ape-shit after just a few sleepless nights. It triggers my anxiety and depression, and makes my ADHD skyrocket. Maybe I shouldn’t have had kids? Maybe my defective genes make me less able to parent the way others do. Maybe my defective genes created less-than kids?
I don’t think so.
Here’s what I think. In MY house, when MY kids need me at night, I’m there for them. If they are sick, scared, worried, stressed out, etc., I’m all over that shit. I don’t care if they puke in my bed, well, that’s a lie, I do care about that, but I don’t get mad at them for being sick. I want my kids to feel safe and cared for, to know that they matter and that I am here for them when they need me.
But this isn’t really about sleep. Or illness. Or any other emotional something or other.
My daughter didn’t need me. She wanted me. She wanted my services. She woke up and felt “bored.” Her words, not mine. She was bored. She wanted her back scratched. She wanted a snack. Now mind you, I made her a snack before she got ready for bed. I scratched her back before she went to sleep. I also massaged her sore hamstrings and read to her. We snuggled and giggled and looked at her yearbook. I didn’t bother to wake her up and put her in her own bed when she fell asleep next to me, because I don’t really mind if she sleeps in our bed. My husband doesn’t either.
But that’s a whole ‘nother topic, isn’t it? Right now, I’m talking about something else. I’m not talking about sleep. What I am talking about is consideration.
My daughter is working very hard on learning how to be considerate. She’s learning how powerful her words are, how important it is to pay attention to a person’s body language and tone of voice. She’s learning how to manage her anxiety in a way that makes her feel strong and capable. She’s also learning how to be bored.
Everyone needs to learn that shit.
So I didn’t scratch her back at 2 AM. I told her that I was very tired and needed to sleep. I encouraged her to go downstairs and get a snack and find a book to read, or to get her journal and pen and do some writing. I told her that I loved her very much and rolled over and went back to sleep.
This morning I asked her if she understood. You know what she said?
She said, “Mom, I know that I was inconsiderate, but I was so bored and I couldn’t help myself. I’m sorry.”
So basically it was just impulse. She knew better, but that didn’t stop her from being inconsiderate. This isn’t a black and white thing I’m talking about here, people. What it is is a very good example of a very individual parenting choice involving a very unique to the individual situation. I feel very good about the choice I made. I serve my kids just fucking fine.
Neither of my have kids ever hesitated to come to me when they need something. For fuck sake, I could be in the goddamn shower and both of them would still assume that if they had a request, I’d just step out all full of soap and meet their need, whatever that need may be. Well, not anymore, but they used to. The “leave mom the fuck alone when she’s showering or shitting” is another lesson little kids need to learn.
I’m glad she woke me up. It tells me that I’m the person she wants, and that feels good and real, but it’s also a huge responsibility, because I am the one who is teaching her about reciprocity and consideration. I’m also glad I went back to fucking sleep.
I am her role model. I role modeled gentle consideration and consistency. I have set and maintained a boundary. It feels good.
There are times when every parent has to be a bit more flexible than they are comfortable with. We are growing too, but there are just as many times when we have to stand our ground and that sometimes means our kids will be uncomfortable.
Or gods forbid – BORED.
When I'm bored, I watch this. But I digressed. Again.
Much like humor, so much about parenting is subjective. So much of what we do as parents is done on the fly, when we are distracted, tired, hungry, cold, overwhelmed, etc. That’s where the gut instinct comes in. Trusting that instinct is something that happens over time as we experience moments that challenge us as parents.
I trust my instincts. Trust yours. It takes a village to raise kids, but let’s be honest, who wants to raise a kid to be the village idiot? Am I saying that you are raising an idiot if you entertain your kids in the middle of the goddamn night because they are bored?
Only an idiot would come to that conclusion after reading this blog. At least that's MY opinion.
— Richard Marx (@richardmarx) November 9, 2013