Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Bedtime Bomb

Every night I put Judah to bed in an elaborate ritual that must be followed precisely if we are to avoid a horrible meltdown:

--Prayers (in which Judah dictates what order we pray in, the positioning of our hands during the prayer, what we should pray about, etc.)

--A "combersation" (in which Judah asks me what I like about various body parts.  Mommy, let's have a combersation.  Mommy, what do you like about your forehead?)

--A funny lullaby (in which Judah repeats each phrase I sing in a silly voice and gets ticked off if I don't find it funny and chuckle even though we've done this exact thing 47 times already)

--Sleeping together (in which I lie next to him and we sleep for a few minutes.  He usually asks to hold my hand and tells me he likes to sleep with his eyes open.  And then interrogates me about my facial expression.  Mommy, why you not happy?  Why you not smiling?  Judah demands I smile 24/7.  I usually reply something about mommy being tired but inside I'm thinking--because I freaking live with the 3 year old version of Kim Jong-Il.

--Hugs and kisses (in which we hug and kiss multiple times like what I imagine Kazakhstani relatives would do in greeting)

If any of these steps are messed up or not done in exact accordance to Judah's whims of the day, a huge meltdown ensues which makes me feel awful because (a) it takes forever to get him back to a happy place and (b) the alternative is to just leave him to sleep miserable and alone.

So every night I feel like I'm carefully defusing a bomb as I try to guide Judah through his elaborate routine as quickly as possible.  During the whole dance I'm pretty stressed out and all I can think about is how much I'd like to escape to freedom and finally finally have some "me" time!

And then as I chant a victory song in my head as I slip downstairs to brew some nice cozy sleepy-time tea, I feel it.  The emptiness.  The loss.  The regret.

Looks so sweet--I'm *almost* tempted to wake him up again for more hugs and kisses.

I realize the best part of my life is upstairs, drifting off to sleep.  And I missed it.  I was so focused on getting it all over with that I missed it all.  I wasn't "present" during the sweetest 'combersations', the jokey songs, the snuggly hand-holding, the oh so precious--how many more of these will I get in my lifetime?--hugs and kisses.

I just missed out on the best part of my day.  Again.


CM said...

Have you ever considered talking to someone, like a therapist or a child psychologist/psychiatrist, about your struggles with Judah? Because it sounds like you're not only tearing your hair out over dealing with his extreme clinginess and demands, you're then beating yourself up for not enjoying every moment of motherhood the way you think you should be. From everything you've said, it sounds like what you're dealing with is much tougher than what most parents go through. I'm not suggesting that anything is wrong with Judah or with you, but you've sounded increasingly depressed in your blog posts and I wonder if you could use some help -- if nothing else, at least to help you feel better about being a SAHM to an unusually challenging kid.

Alice in Wonderland said...

Thanks CM. To be honest I often wonder about Judah being way more high-maintenance that the average bear. Most ppl can't handle being around him longer than 15 min so I guess it's a pretty objective and universal truth. Anyway, it prob would be great to get some counseling (for this and other issues) but...sigh...the time, the expense, it's hard to find resources for that kind of thing at this stage.

CM said...

I know, I felt the same way before I started therapy. It took me months to make those phone calls and I found it stressful. But once I started making the phone calls, I found that people were helpful about making referrals. If your husband has an EAP that's a good place to start, or Psychology Today has a good directory. Anyway, whatever you decide to do, I hope you know that you're doing a great job with your kids! You experience it as being really hard, but I bet your kids don't -- all they know is that they can absolutely depend on you.

Respectfully Submitted said...

I agree with CM. Also, is Judah in any kind of preschool / mothers day out type program ? Might be incredibly helpful for you to have some time to yourself, even if it's only a few hours a week. I went from being a full-time commercial litigator to being a stay-at-home mom, and had virtually no childcare the first year - I almost lost my mind. I felt so guilty about paying someone to watch my daughters (then 1 and 3) when I wasn't working. When the older finally started preschool, I still was at home full-time with the younger, with no breaks - it was truly one of the worst periods of my life. Now that both girls are in school at least a few hours a day, I feel like I finally have my sanity back. I deeply deeply wish that I had found part-time childcare sooner - I would have been a far better mother.

Alice in Wonderland said...

Thanks for sharing your experience RS--sounds so similar to mine. I know so well what you mean by the guilt of having someone else watch your kids when you're a SAHM. I feel so lame, like how can I not handle this by myself?! Especially when I know other SAHMs that take care of 3 or 4 kids and never hire any help. So glad to know I'm not alone in feeling this way.