Sending you to bed doesn’t make me happy: an open letter to my son

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I sent you to bed early again tonight. By the time we got home and you got ready for bed, it was actually only 5 minutes early, but you weren’t allowed a bedtime story, and we ended the night in tears. Let me just say this much about that, I HATE ending the night in tears. I HATE skipping bedtime story. I HATE sending you to bed early. It all makes me feel like an awful mom. 

You have been pushing the limits, which, if I’m being honest, I really don’t mind. I like that you push limits. I enjoy the idea that you are figuring out for yourself what your boundaries should be and challenging the rules because it means you are using critical thinking skills. I don’t mind that you ask for a reason for the rule or the edict handed down to you. I want you to grow up challenging what is expected because it means you will be one of those people who will not accept unfair practices simply because “it’s always been the way we’ve done things”.

The problem is, EVERYONE around us has a different idea of what is acceptable behavior in a child and for most of them, children are seen and not heard and accept everything they are told no matter how wrong it may sound. There are a lot of things I see you do and chalk up to you being 5-years-old. I am willing to let a lot of that go, but when everyone around you is reprimanding you, they are also questioning my ability to raise you as a respectful and well-behaved young man. 

It’s exhausting! For both of us! I have to sidestep the opinions of the “well-meaning” adults, while limiting the inevitable outburst from you when you only want to know why what you did was wrong when all you were doing was following your natural impulse. So, the early bedtime becomes a necessity. You have to wade through the varying degrees of punishments to determine whose law you should follow. I know you don’t get it, but we’re both tired, and when a person is tired, they can’t process their thoughts and emotions properly. You need the early bedtime to help your brain get the rest it needs to self-regulate those outbursts and help you sidestep the people who want to keep you under their thumbs.

Unfortunately, right now, you’re 5 and from your perspective, Mommy is mean and cranky. And so, we end the night with me feeling like an awful mom, trying to make a stupid point, while trying to escape the judgement of the other moms who don’t get the point of allowing a certain freedom to encourage cognitive growth in my boy.

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My kid is sad and it’s probably my fault

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I have the most lovable, happy-go-lucky kid in the world. Usually. Lately, though, he’s been less than happy-go-lucky. His spirits are a bit low, not terribly low, but low enough to be noticed. It’s easy to blame the recent changes in his life: suddenly having to move to a new house, in a new town, in a new school district; graduating preschool, which he was not looking forward to, by the way; Grandma and his cousins getting ready to move to Myrtle Beach; Grandma and his cousins not moving to Myrtle Beach.

His poor little world has been thrown into such uncertainty even a sane, well-adjusted adult would have trouble dealing. Unfortunately for Boo, he does not have a sane, well-adjusted adult in his life to model so he deals as best he can. He smiles while you’re looking. He continues to talk non-stop about whatever topic dejour has struck his fancy. He continues to play with his toys and create complex play-lands with in-depth back stories.

Like me, he still enjoys jumping in puddles in the rain, watching the clouds swim across the sky, and thrives on knowledge. 

Also like me, he smiles less brilliantly when the audience is gone. He chatters less when your ears turn deaf. Like me, he stares off into the ether until snapped back. 

It’s easy to blame life’s new challenges for the slight, oh so slight dimming in his bright blue-green eyes and let’s face it, I want to blame life. But there’s this nagging thought at the back of my mind, a tiny whisper, what if it’s not the recent changes upsetting him? What if it’s me? What if my tendency toward anxiety is rubbing off on my poor boy? 

This playful little boy, full of curiosity and love looks to me for his queues. ‘Are we OK, Mommy?’ As much as I may try to keep up the brave face, is it possible my queue anxiously and indirectly tells him, ‘No, we are not OK’?