I don’t know when this happened. The lines are kind of blurred. Bedtime used to be one of my favourite times of day. A time of day I looked forward to almost from the moment I woke up. Laying in bed between my two little angels reading stories, chatting about our day and cuddling is my idea of heaven. Everything I imagined of parenthood. After our moments of bonding, I would leave them to fall asleep quietly and peacefully, feeling safe beside each other. Their little eyes heavy with sleep, their breathing slowing, becoming a rythmic dance with each other. I then made my way downstairs where I relished in a little alone time; usually only for an hour or so before I, myself, headed up to join them in bed. Time to watch tv or a movie, write a little maybe even fold some laundry.
I don’t know when this changed. It feels like it was an overnight change. All of a sudden bedtime has become a battle. I try to continue our routine. I lay in bed with stories and it begins. They argue over which story is read first. One speaks over the story wanting to go back a few pages to show me something, once the page is turned back it’s not clear what is to be shown. There is tossing and turning, kicking and flips and sometimes jumping! I leave them to fall asleep but instead of tired little eyes slowly drifting off into slumberland I hear two children giggling under covers. To hear them giggle with each other before bed time may be sweet and delightful however it is not as pleasant when it eventually turns into yelling, crying, begging and tattling. Inevitably myself or Mr. C will have to perform the walk up the stairs reminding Mr. T. to keep his hands to himself and scolding Ms. J when her chatting and jumping around is keeping Mr. T. awake. I often hear “mummy” being whined from upstairs and someone tells me the other hit them, turned on the lights or won’t stay quiet. Mr C. and I will take turns stomping up the stairs firmly demanding they stop fooling around and go to sleep or else they will each be remanded to their own beds. Every time we head up the stairs we become more frustrated and less effective. Each round of scolding is followed by discussion on the efficacy of our methods, what we are doing wrong, if we should be forcing them to sleep in their own beds, what is the solution. If it’s been a particularly difficult night, as was tonight, I will spend the rest of the evening feeling incredibly guilty. Guilty because their day ended in frustration. Remorseful beause I didn’t handle the situation better. Afraid that they are going to be tired the next day because their bedtime was dragged out for so long. Confused because I don’t know how to handle the situation better.
There is also an immense amount of guilt in the feeling that I’m not enjoying this time with them the way I should be. We still cuddle and read however I spend much of that time anxious. Waiting for the chaos to commence. Mr C and I have been known to argue over who is taking bedtime tonight, each claiming it’s the others turn. I’m ashamed that I don’t always jump at the chance to do bedtime. My head tells me that in just a few short years they aren’t going to want me to put them to bed. They will prefer to close their door, shutting me out of their private thoughts. Falling asleep all alone without mummy cuddles is going to be their choice. How, when I know that is coming sooner rather than later, can I not enjoy every precious moment of such a special time? I spend way too much energy allowing these thoughts to make me feel like a bad mother.
I know I’m doing something wrong. I’m not 100% sure what it is yet. I’m not entirely clear what caused this break in our bedtime routine. I think the answer may be found in the reason behind the shift, I just have to determine what that reason is. Do I sit back and just let it be? Let them figure it out on their own. Do I force them into their own bed? (see my past thoughts on co-sleeping http://bit.ly/XYIauk) Am I ruining their sleep patterns? Am I messing them up for life? Am I failing at this thing called motherhood?
I am really trying hard. Every time it begins I take a deep breath and try to live in the moment. I try to focus on the wonderful aspects of bedtime with my babies. I try to focus on their little arms around my neck. I listen to their favourite parts of the day. I appreciate their begging me to cuddle them first and just a little bit longer. I always tell them how much I love them.
I’m hoping that this is just a phase. That I can somehow make this easier for us all. That our bedtimes can go back to cozy cuddles in bed and have less disorder. Because bedtime can truly be the best part of our typically hectic day.