10/09/2005

A Happy Mommy

The other night a regular routine turned into a particularly negative and adversarial process. It was bedtime, and my husband and I were ill prepared for the strategic warfare employed against us. It was exhausting, frustrating and just plain maddening. After about an hour and a half of ignoring, threatening, hand-wringing, and yes, sadly, a fair share of yelling – our three little opponents finally fell asleep. Hardly a lovely and sentimental nighttime scene. When we had finally won the battle and our kids were sleeping, we did not feel like celebrating our victory. Instead we sat for a few minutes sharing our disbelief at how badly our kids had behaved and how incredibly out of control they all were, etc.
Once we had vented our self-righteous criticisms of our 7, 4 and 2 year old children we felt slightly better. For about 2 seconds. Then we sat there together in an uncomfortable silence as truth and reason somehow managed to seep into our consciousness through the cracks in our carefully crafted shield of self-serving assessments.
Finally one of us said, "You realize they’re only reacting to the things we’re doing or not doing, right?" "Yes," said the other one. From there we began listing all the things we had gotten so lax in. When was the last time we’ve had a really quality FHE? When was the last time we had family scripture study? How consistent have we been with family prayer? When did we start yelling so much? When was the last time we enforced a rule?
These are all things we believe in and have successfully done throughout most of our kids’ lives. We never sat down and said "Let’s not do these things anymore, I just don’t see the value in them." I guess we just kind of forgot that if we don’t do it, nobody will.
The next day we sat our kids down and reminded them that we tuck them in once each night, after that if they needed to go to the bathroom they could without telling us and without being tucked in again. If they did choose to yell for us or get out of bed unnecessarily, they would go to bed earlier the next night. We tucked them in and of all the strange things -- they went right to sleep. What adorable and lovely children we have.
Perhaps you relate to some of or all of my saga. The reason I wrote about it is because it got me thinking about a statement I read several years ago. In a book by John Rosemond, I read something to the effect of "If you’re not enjoying parenting, you’re doing something wrong." I’m wondering whether or not you think his statement is true? For me it has always been true and helped me get back on track to being a happy mommy. What do you think?

15 Comments:

Anonymous Rosalynde said...

Alas, Andrea, I have to tell you that, for all my manifold failings as a mother, I do manage to do very consistent family scripture study and family prayer and FHE---and my kids' bedtime is still a complete disaster. (I do, however, yell way too much; I really need to work on this.) A sticker chart has helped the 4-yo, but the 2-yo still puts up a very painful nightly battle. (AND he's up in the night, too--ACK!)

But your point is a really good one. A few weeks ago I realized how awful it must be for my kids to end the day on such a negative note---no wonder they resist bedtime so much! I've tried to make it more pleasant for everyone---this is difficult, because it requires me to get dinner on the table by 5:30 at the latest, so we're not rushed, and this is a HUGE challenge for me---and, although the problems are by no means solved, I think maybe they're getting a little better.

Forca! (Ask your brother to translate; there's no good English equivalent.)

10/09/2005 10:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Andrea, I can relate. Bedtime used to be an absolutely horrible time for us. My two girls (aged almost 3 and 4) share a room and getting them to STAY IN BED and GO TO SLEEP was absolutely impossible. We spent weeks fighting them, yelling, pleading, screaming... One or all of us usually ended up in tears. It was awful.

We decided that what we were doing as parents was definitely NOT working for our family. So we tried a little of this and a little of that and eventually worked things out. We eliminated the nap for four year old; made sure three year old was not taking a very lengthy nap; we got dinner on a little earlier; we established a better, more predictable bedtime routine (bath, teeth, story, bed);

Most importantly for our family, we tuck them into bed each night at the appointed bedtime, but we also allow them some "wind down" time to quietly play with each other in their room (lights off - nighttime voices). (Some of my sweetest childhood memories were of playing with my sisters at night after we were supposed to be asleep.) They eventually get tired and go to sleep. Now that we aren't being as strict and unyielding, and aren't yelling over every little thing, they know that when we say it's time to stop playing and sleep, we really mean it. It worked for us.

Anyway, I think you are right. I think good parenting means that you are always willing to reevaluate what you are doing and willing to consider and look for ways to improve.

10/09/2005 11:36:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea Wright said...

Rosalynde, none of us is ever going to everything, but you've at least stuck to some great priorities. I do agree those things are not any guarantee of a smooth bedtime, however, in our case everything had just become so contentious (at one point during that night, my 7 yr. daughter yelled "I feel like I live in an orphanage, because no one loves me!") so I do think scriptures, prayers and FHE can definitely help in that respect.

I went to a baby shower where one Mom's advice was, "make sure you make bedtime a sweet loving time so they go to sleep feeling loved." I had some serious guilt after she said that! Oh well, another ideal to shoot for, right? My two year old still wakes up in the night too :(
I'll ask Ryan for a translation.

Anonymous, I agree that a good routine really helps and some flexibilty. I tend to vascilate between really lax and way rigid. Now that my oldest has to read for 20 minutes each night for school, I let my girls each read or look at books after I tuck them in and that has been a great way for them to wind down. If I could just figure something out for my 2 yr old!

10/10/2005 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Mark IV said...

Parenthood is a humbling experience, no?

He is on a mission now, but I can still remember the shame I felt when I flew off the handle at a nine year old boy, and realized one second later that he was just repeating to his brother the words he had heard me say the day before to a driver who had cut me off in traffic. And the power struggles over bedtime - I'm certainly glad they are over.

Here is something that worked for us. When our boys 5 and 3, they shared a room. When they had trouble getting to sleep, I used to go in and lie on the floor between their beds and tell stories. Funny stories, made-up stories, stories about their grandparents, stories from when I was their age. We kept the lights off and talked softly and, usually, the little sleepyheads dropped off to sleep. The payoff came ten years later when they were teenagers and came home late. They didn't mind that I came into their rooms and stretched out on the floor and talked with them in the dark about their dates and what they were doing out until 2a.m. My wife tells me she always felt a great sense of security when she could look across the landing at a dark room and hear low voices and giggles.

10/11/2005 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, maybe if you answered the phone when their uncle called to tell them a story, they would be better about going to bed. Just saying.

10/11/2005 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

DH and I talked about the whole "enjoying parenting thing," and I'm not sure I agree with your quote. I think parenting can be enjoyable on a macro-level, if you will, but there are things on a micro-level that are just maddening and unenjoyable, no matter who you are. I don't care if you're a saint, sleep deprivation can make anybody absolutely crazy! And everybody needs a break from a job that requires virtually 24 hours.

That said, I do like the idea that if you aren't enjoying what you are doing, fix it. I'm sure I can take that advice on many levels!

We have been able to curtail the bedtime evils with a very, very consistent routine that we seldom vary from, if ever. (Bath, teeth, jammies, stories, lights off, sing songs, say prayers, lie down for a minute with him, then goodnight kiss and we're done.) Jacob often protests if, for example, we don't read another story, but I can usually just so, "No, it's time to sing songs", and he is ok. It's the only time during the day where he gets his mother's or father's complete and undivided attention, so he actually likes it, I think.

10/11/2005 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

About the whole "feeling loved" thing--A child pyschologist in our old ward talked about the messages of love that we send our children, and how they can often be misinterpreted. For example, parents often say, "I love you. You're such a good boy." We think we are praising the child, when in fact the child might hear, "My mother loves me because I am good. If I was bad, my mother won't love me anymore."

This particular child pscyhologist suggested that we tell our children things like, "I'm so glad you are in my family", or "I like spending time with you", or "I like it when we do such and such together." That way, the child gets the message that you just love him because of who he is, and not if he's good or bad.

I try to tell this to Jacob a lot, and one time he said to me, "I'm so glad you're my Mommy. I like having you in my family," and let me tell you, that totally made my day!

10/11/2005 02:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to agree with the quote that "if you aren't enjoying parenting, you are doing something wrong." and respectfully and lovingly disagree with Heather's micro analogy.
Heather, I agree sleep deprivation can make anyone not be themselves, but the quote fits this senario perfectly. The "something wrong" you are doing is not getting enough sleep. If you fix that and get more sleep, you can enjoy parenting again :-)

A better analogy (although still can somewhat fit the quote) might be how someone wouldn't necessarily "enjoy" having certain talks with their children. We have 3 daughters and have to have "the talk" with all of them about the private parts of their body and that no one is suppose to touch them there. This is not really a pleasant talk and I get somewhat upset that we even have to have this talk and that there might be some scumbag out there that would do this to children. Although not really enjoyable, there is a certain sense that we are being good parents and we find a certain joy in knowing our kids might be a little safer.

10/12/2005 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Tigersue said...

I feel like our family has fallen behind. I had a baby 17 months ago and our scripture reading went caputs, and now I'm expecting my 4th, my oldest is in swim team and my husband works late. I have no clue when to get scriptures back into the habit, we had done so well for so long.
As to loving being a mom it is great.
Come to my Blog, I just started it and I'm trying to find some good places to go visit, and keep my sanity in the next few months.
http://tigersuesjungle.blogspot.com

10/12/2005 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger Tigersue said...

my husband works late. I have no clue when to get scriptures back into the habit, we had done so well for so long.
As to loving being a mom it is great.
Come to my Blog, I just started it and I'm trying to find some good places to go visit, and keep my sanity in the next few months.
http://tigersuesjungle.blogspot.com

10/12/2005 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger Tigersue said...

Sorry I posted twice, my computer stalled and didn't go past this page. sorry

10/12/2005 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Bell said...

This is a great post, Andrea, thanks. And I agree with Rosemond, and your approach after the horrible, no good, very bad night-- to look at what you're doing, instead of blame the kids. Parents have so much more power over their kids emotions and behaviors than they often think they do, but it's never right there in the moment. It's based on the structures and programs and routines and interactions of the family, all of which the parents have a lot of ability to change.

And by the way, I have to disagree with the lady who told you that your kids need to go to bed feeling loved. Seems like sentimental nonsense to me. Of course we need to always try and make them feel loved, but if a kid acts out at bedtime, that's not some moment over which we need to feel especially terrible for standing up to him.

Rosalynde: "Forca! (Ask your brother to translate; there's no good English equivalent.)"

Yes, especially without the c cedilha. :)

10/13/2005 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger Us said...

I disagree about enjoying parenting. I believe that part of what makes new parents feel inadequate is that they feel as though they are doing something wrong when it's not all laughter and cuddles. You are tired and dirty and feel like a human milk factory and the baby is crying for reasons you can't yet deduce. And then someone tells you that you have to enjoy that or you're doing a poor job of parenting?!
Let's be honest, there are some times that being a parent really stinks. I think the love is shown by muscling through those times and continuing forward.I always enjoy being a parent, but the actual act of parenting..not always so much.
When my son throws fits, particularily in public, I speak to him calmly, never give in to his demands(toys, treats, keys to the car, etc), and try my best to find humor in the situation. Yet he still insists on trying that tactic. I talk to him as I would like him to talk to me, which often works, but I realize that I am dealing with a 3 year old and so sometimes logic, reason, and sanity simply don't register with him. Sometimes a little kid is just a little kid.
(and sometimes you just flip out and have to resist the urge to pop their little heads off like the top of a dandelion as you run around the house like a blithering idiot, but perhaps that's just me)

10/15/2005 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Us-

Thanks for your comment. I was also going to say that telling somebody that if they are not enjoying a screaming child then they are doing something wrong just adds to the already huge load of guilt that mothers have, in addition to the guilt of not knowing why the child is screaming in the first place! I think parenting is one of the hardest things a person will ever do, and hard things aren't always enjoyable. I think the trick is to keep a persepctive, remind yourself of why you are doing what you are doing, and try to take some time to pull yourself out of survival mode to enjoy the person that is growing and, hopefully, thriving right before your eyes.

I definitely think everybody can benefit from advice to get more joy out of parenting, but saying that if you aren't having joy you are doing something wrong seems like a guilt inducing and improper message to parents.

10/17/2005 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Andrea Wright said...

Thanks for all your comments. I've been out of town, so forgive my absence.

Ryan, I agree that we should put discipline off just because we want bedtime to be warm and cozy, but it is a nice thought to have our kids slumber in love and peace.

Heather and Us, you bring up a valid concern, but I disagree. Obviously there are days and even phases that are just plain hard. I don't think sleep deprivation, tantrums and pacing the floor with a screaming baby are fun. However, I do think if I'm miserable day and in and day out I am probably missing some things. There are probably a lot of things I can change to eliminate unnescesarry stress and chaos. I think the question Rosemond suggests is a helpful one every now and then to help me assess how I'm doing.

I'm not a fan of guilt and if that question is guilt inducing than I agree it's not productive. I have found it helpful and motivational.

10/17/2005 11:52:00 AM  

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