Bedtime Strainer

bedtimeI just locked Pearl in her room.

Sorry, Pearlie.

I want to come get you.

I want to snuggle you.

I know if I came to get you and snuggled in your bed, you’d be asleep faster than you can say “I want another snack.”

But if I do that this time, I will just be reinforcing this cycle.

The cycle goes like this:

Brush teeth, jamazon, readabook, lights out, I snuggle with Pearl and Greg usually starts out with V. Pearl goes through a couple of versions of fussing at me – the last gasp of the day – and then konks out.

Tonight, Greg – the birthday boy, I might add – is out with some menfolk.

So we never even made it to snuggling. She wasn’t even fussing particularly, just singing at the top of her lungs while I rubbed V’s back: “I’m brother Sam. I’m brother Sam. I’m brother SAAAAAAAAAAM!!”

I offered a few times to rub her back, too. She just kept being a monkey. Mind you, if she wants to stay up all night singing and being a big brother, that is not a problem for me, as long as “staying up” is operative.

But stay up she didn’t. She came down. And down again. I carried her gently but firmly back up to her room. And the third time, I closed the door. Then I locked it. Aviva looked at me incredulously; the one time we ever locked her door, she screamed with such terror in her voice that I immediately opened it and went to her. I felt her trauma. I felt like she was reliving a past life experience of being trapped in a burning building, or something equally horrific to imagine. It was a low point. We processed it for days and vowed we’d never lock doors again in this house.

Pearl is a different kid. She laughs at me sometimes when I sound serious or what Aviva would have – at three – perceived as scary. She is so bold, defiant.

I love this about her.

Except when it is 8:45pm, and she didn’t nap today (“She’ll go down easy,” I said cockily to Greg this afternoon).

The fact that I wrote a Facebook update half hour ago that said, “Bedtime + three-year old = crazy mama” prompted this post. Why am I chronicling our bedtime saga to the world? What is this all about? Am I addicted to sharing my experience in real time? Have I forgotten how to move through my experience in a way that is not broadcast live, with instantaneous developments that nobody really needs to even hear about?


It is quiet upstairs. I’m sorry, Pearlie. Please don’t remember this night. Please let all of the kisses and snuggles and quick, loving responses override times like this, when mama hits her wall and has to reach deep down inside to not lose her shit at you.

See, there I go, writing in the third person.

Facebook, three-year old, bedtime, mama, and a blog. I’ll choose to think of this as a strainer, where I can pour the difficult moments in, shake them all around, and let some pure juices run out the bottom, some liquid love, leaving all the chokeable objects behind until tomorrow, when we can try again.

4 thoughts on “Bedtime Strainer

  1. Vicki says:

    Why is it, that when mom’s act like human beings, reaching their max, making a difficult decision, following through with that decision, knowing that it is the best, depending on their intuition to get them through the internal scream of doubt – that we follow it with – I’m sorry – please forget.

    The power we women throw away is enough to transform the world in ……

    Loving you.


  2. rowena says:

    There you go again, talking about my life. Ivy, 2, is doing very much the same thing. Her big brother stays up, and in his room for most of the night and doesn’t scream for me or come down a million times for attention.

    She just discovered how to get out of her crib and open the door and come down stairs. Screaming for me to tuck her in, yet again, or straighten out the wrinkle in her sheet, or give her more water, or one more hug and kiss, or fix the dollies in her doll house, or close the curtain or fix the…. it goes on and on and on.

    And I have to agree, the more I give in, the more I reinforce the cycle, which is really just about her not wanting me to leave. But it doesn’t matter how many time I come in to give in to her demands and give her the attention she wants, it is never enough.

    Better to cut it off. Let the screams commence. Bear through them, until we break the cycle.

    3 nights ago, I went up and down the stairs 18 times, probably. 2 nights ago, it was a dozen.
    Last night it was five or so…

    Maybe we’re almost there. Sigh.

    Good luck to you and to me.


  3. Jena Strong says:

    I had to share the p.s.
    I went to check on Pearl later – expecting her to be in a heap on the floor by the door. But she wasn’t. She was asleep in bed, where she stayed for the whole night. Around 7:15 this morning, she came in my bed to snuggle. “Did we snuggle last night?” she asked. “No,” I told her. “You didn’t want to.” “Did I go to sleep by myself?” she asked, her eyes glittering with pride. “Yes, you did,” I told her.

    She did not say, “Mama, why did you lock me in my room.” Her experience was not my experience. How much we project.

    Every day, new opportunities to shift my perspective.

    Vicki: Thank you so much for this much-needed and right-on reminder.

    Rowena: Sounds like you have plenty to celebrate.

    xo J


  4. shelli - mama of letters says:

    I’m glad you wrote this post because it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one with troubles at bedtime! We have finally gotten a little better around here, but my son is KING of stalling and sometimes it can be so hard….so hard….

    And there are so many things that I do hope he will never remember too!



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