As the tea kettle began its high-pitched whistle, releasing steam from the boiling water inside, I felt it to be the perfect metaphor for the emotions steaming within me. After an hour of bedtime antics, I was D.O.N.E. We would sternly warn them not to get out of bed, they would say, “yes ma’am,” to indicate understanding, and as soon as we settled into our comfy spots on the sofa, we would hear yet again the tell-tale pitter patter of feet on the floor above us. Too bad for them, it’s a squeaky floor in an old house and so there is no hiding their delight to exercise their newfound freedom now that they’re in “big girl beds.” We would parade upstairs, trying to be firm and unemotional and the PARENTS-whom -they -should-respect-and -listen-to-and-obey. We would enforce our consequences, march them back to bed, trying to be no-nonsense and all business. And it would not even seem to matter.
So after about the fourth round of this, I did what every sane mother does: I put on the teakettle and told Seth that it was all him from here on out. I was here for his emotional support, but I could NOT take it anymore. It shouldn’t surprise me that monumental transitions for my daughters are equally difficult for me. And yet this one seemed to catch me by surprise in the intensity of emotions their “failure to comply” evoked for me. Their dream performance on their first evening in big girl beds (with absolutely no testing) also lulled me into unrealistic expectations for the future evenings. Which have become progressively worse with each bedtime. It certainly didn’t help that last night’s bedtime fiasco followed a day in which we were cooped up at home due to Hurricane Sandy. All of us were stir crazy, and apparently they still had some extra energy to burn off at 9:30 pm – a solid two hours past their bedtime.
Ironically enough, I am preparing to be part of a panel for moms at our church on the topic of “Nurturing Emotional Health as a Mom” and my focus will be anger. Strictly from a clinical standpoint, of course, utilizing my counseling training/etc. Ahem … right. And if you believe that, you must have skipped about half of my blog posts about my struggles as a mom. It never fails that anytime I am preparing to speak or teach on a certain topic, God makes sure to arrange that I have plenty of “fresh material” to use. It keeps me humble, for sure, and I can only hope that how God meets me in the depths of my struggle with anger as a mom will and can be used to help other moms who may feel isolated and alone in similar ways.
So right now, what am I learning? First of all, it’s usually when I think I’ve turned a corner on an area in my life that I’ve been working on that God sees fit to test me – to reveal how deeply I still need the saving work of Christ to forgive my sin and to empower me to overcome my sin. As I was working on this anger material (in quiet nap times, in coffeeshops on the weekends while my husband watched our daughters), I thought that I had really begun to get a handle on it. Then last night I was faced again with how quickly my heart can be triggered into irrational anger. I still want control of most things. I still want peace and quiet and feel like I deserve and am entitled to those blissful gifts at a certain time (7:30 pm or shortly thereafter, to be precise). I still don’t really want to serve my children. And I still doubt that God is good and is here and cares about me, even in moments when I’m pretty frustrated.
I wanted to begin doing some major internet research and friend research into the best methods to keep your two-year-old in bed once they’re not in cribs anymore. And I did start a little of this. Which isn’t bad, of course. But a wise friend wrote the following to me, and I think she captured the heart of my struggle right now:
I wish like crazy that I had some advice for you but unfortunately all I know is that this transition is just one that takes time and patience. Child rearing is such a sanctifying experience as it provides us with so many opportunities to practice patience, flexibility, empathy with others, etc. Hang in there. It does get better with time. The novelty will wear off and a routine will develop. The girls will learn to go to bed and stay there till the morning. I promise.
I’m clinging to those last three sentences in particular. And I’m asking God for the endurance and wisdom to learn and practice patience, flexibility, empathy with others … etc. Join me in this? We need one another on this journey. And as for tonight, after a few rounds of the spring-loaded toddler out of bed act, I decided to give everyone a break and split up the twins for the night. Lucia’s now peacefully asleep in her pack n’ play in the guest room, and Alethia finally settled down for the night in her big girl bed in the nursery. Whew. Exhale. Breathe. Reflect, and ask God for strength for tomorrow. Because I’m sure I’ll need it then, too.
Now I’m going to read a few more chapters of my latest favorite book, “Unglued,” by Lysa TerKeurst. You’ll be hearing more from me on that front soon.