It’s 2:03 a.m. and that heart-stopping scream from my 2-year-old son’s bedroom rips me from my sound sleep, and I fly upright in bed.
Like every good loving mother does, I cautiously hold my breath and wait those long 30 seconds, listening intently, hoping and praying it was just a yell in his sleep and he’s now blissfully snoozing again.
“Moooooom! Come heeeeere”. No such luck.
I may or may not have mumbled inappropriate statements as I stumble out of bed. No wait, I mean, I rush to my sweet child’s side, eager to address his every need. Now I know what you’re thinking, poor little guy had a nightmare or something woke him up, poor thing. Don’t be fooled, this fiery little redhead of mine is a mastermind at getting what he wants. Aren’t all toddlers? I know one day I’ll see the benefit to his strategic tactics, but right now, it’s an every day challenge to make it from breakfast to dinner without losing large chunks of my sanity along the way.
And this middle of the night stuff is just not playing fair, in my opinion. I’m caught unawares, and many times make valuable game-changing mistakes. For example, this night in particular I make the mistake of assuming a sweet calming word from Mommy, a stroke or two through his hair, a kiss goodnight, and a speedy exit would make everything all better.
Rookie mistake. The sweet calming word became a plea for me to talk to him more, to “not leave…ever.” To stay and read ALL of his books. Like every good loving mother does, I refuse all of these requests (I may be tired, but I’m no idiot, I recognize a trap when I see one), and move on to the stroke or two through his hair. Nope, no good, he’s now grabbing my hand and not letting go, whining that I lay down next to him and keep “petting” his head. I start to panic, realizing that my ‘speedy exit’ is becoming less and less feasible as he becomes more and more awake. I go in for the goodnight kiss and bolt for the door. Then the panicky, whiney squeals for “Mommy don’t gooooo!” start. At this point I realize my mistake and am contemplating how hard the floor next to his bed really would be. Have I mentioned it’s 2 a.m.? That I have a head cold? That his 10-month-old baby brother will probably be awake in about 3 hours?
All of these things are running through my mind as I’m standing at his door attempting to make a rational, loving parenting decision on how to deal with this situation. Isn’t that always how it works? In most jobs you get adequate training, manuals, protocols, step-by-step procedure outlines. In parenting, you’re lucky if you get 10 seconds to stop, weigh all your options, and think through all the scenarios and possible outcomes of the decision you’re about to make.
So, like every good loving mother does, I end up bargaining with him. If he agrees to stop screaming and go back to sleep, then I agree to leave his light on and not take away his special flashlight that he sleeps with. Yup, threats and negotiations, that’s what works with my kid. This takes a couple tries, as I leave the room, he screams, I go back in, etc etc. After the third time, he must be tired too, and so finally settles down and is back asleep probably five minutes later. I of course, lay in bed for who knows how long, going over and over in my head whether that was the best way to handle the situation.
As a Mom, I second guess EVERYthing. I never used to. As a student, a career woman and a wife, I always felt pretty confident in my actions and decisions. But something about having a little person in my care can be humbling. I love that fiery redhead in a way I never knew I could love, and the thought of somehow letting him down or messing him up in some way, well, it keeps me up at night.
But like all good loving mothers do, I eventually shrug my shoulders and think “well, at least I’m giving his future therapist good topics for discussion”.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 2-year-old James and almost 1-year-old Luke.