The Princess is refusing to go to bed these days. We have a bedtime routine, possibly the only successful parenting strategy we have adopted and, until now, it has worked perfectly. She might have got up during the night but she always went to bed. Recently, though she has been stretching the bedtime routine. It’s been taking about an hour and a half from when bed time is first mooted to lights out. In between there is bathing, singing, pyjama putting on, hugging, bottle taking, story reading and chatting, not necessarily in that order. And then there is a howl when we close the bedroom door which is a new and unwelcome feature. And the time between getting the Princess finally into bed and collapsing into bed ourselves is getting shorter and shorter.
Last night was particularly grim. Her father put her to bed and at 8.30 refused to get an extra bottle and closed the door. For a while we listened to her thumping the door saying “papa, papa” and sobbing hysterically but I crumbled and said I’ve got to go into her. He promised to come and rescue me, if I wasn’t out in ten minutes. When I opened the door, she was sitting on the floor red in the face with tears streaming down her cheeks. Her little body was all hot and she was shaking. She was, however, down but not out and she looked at me balefully and said “Go away Mummy, I was calling Daddy not you”. Why, thank you sweetheart. Anyhow, I took her into bed and sang to her and calmed her down and then her father came and we both talked to her and then I left and then, finally, he left. And by the time we had finished, it was well after nine.
In consequence of last night’s late bed time, she was like a briar this morning. She woke up at 7 (too bright Mummy) and climbed into bed beside me (Mr. Waffle was not there, having been in with the boys polishing off the later night shift) and lay there like a soggy sock (I was originally going for limp rag but I thought I would try to invent a new cliché). She wouldn’t eat her breakfast, she wouldn’t get dressed, her chair was too far from the table waah, waah, she wanted a nut from her father’s muesli but he had EATEN THEM ALL (cue Mr. Waffle going to the kitchen to sift through the muesli box for a nut) – you name it, everything was dreadful. She would try the patience of a saint, in fact she did and Mr. Waffle spoke quite harshly to her in the matter of putting on shoes. She came running to me, sobbing hysterically “Daddy scared me”. Poor Mr. Waffle was crushed.
Normally her father walks or cycles to school with her, but this morning, for a variety of reasons, we all ended up driving there in the car. Mr. Waffle deposited the Princess and me outside the school and drove on to the creche with the boys. I suppose we should have realised that this change in routine would confuse her but I wasn’t really expecting to end up holding a wriggling hysterical child who was calling after a departing car “just one last hug, Daddy, please” as other parents looked at the ground and presumably thought “newly divorced, the poor child won’t see her father until Monday”. I brought her nto the classroom and there was prolonged wailing when I made to leave. I stayed for ages, but in the end, I had to go (I know I have the most accommodating job in the world but they do actually expect me to come in in the morning). Her teacher chose this morning to tell me that she is not having very good days at school at the moment. After I left the classroom, I hung around outside for a moment to check that she had calmed down. Even if she cries, she usually stops when we’re not there to hear her. But not today. Peering through the glass pane at the top of the door, I could see her clutching Hop Hop and crying as though her heart would break a good five minutes after I’d left the classroom. But I really had to go, so go I did.
I’m not sure what all this is about. I suppose our dizzyingly complex childcare arrangements for the month of April are taking their toll on her. If it is hard for her father to know who is doing what, it must be even more difficult for her. Breda O’Brien in the Irish Times has taken over from Oliver James in the Observer (he seems to have been tossed out in the revamp) as my guilty conscience in the matter of childcare. If you wish to know the kind of guilt Breda is excellent at inspiring, see this. A couple of weeks ago she said that parents who work full time must get used to their children sleeping less well at night as they try to make up during the night, time they couldn’t spend with their parents during the day. I wonder, could there be something in this? I’m her mother; it’s all my fault anyway, isn’t it? The boys, however, seem to love the creche though they both have runny noses. More guilt, but different guilt. Variety is everything.
i adore your blog…and your writing style. although i have not yet figured out how you find time to have 3 children and a job, a husband and a blog. whatever you think, you ARE wonder woman in my eyes!!!
Brother Lawrence says
Princess is three years old, Waffle. As brilliant as she usually is, you can’t expect her to be completely rational. I wasn’t rational until I was well over 30!
I read that article. I was struck by this sentence: “Constant, wearing
guilt is a feature of many peoples’ lives”. And doesn’t she love piling it on? If you didn’t work you’d probably feel guilty about the fact that you weren’t providing useful income on which to live and eat and other useful things like that. And that your children are going to be less sociable with other children because they have too much aduilt interactions. And that you’d be more ratty with them because you’d have them ALL THE TIME and only a saint could be with a 2 or 3 year old ALL THE TIME and not get ratty. Or maybe that’s just me. That’s the only thing she’s totally right about – we all feel guilty all the time about everything we do – it goes with being a parent – so the least she could do is leave us to get on with it.
geepeemum said it all I think.
Chin up Waffly.
About 50 years ago many people worried about nuclear families that the support network was gone. I suppose those parents felt guilty too. I also wonder who looked after Brenda’s children while she was busy teaching
Thank you so much for your thoughts about Breda O’Brien, this, of course, was precisely what I was after. Vindictive, me? Oh and, obviously, adoration is also very welcome. Thank you Susan.
We’ve had similar with the little boy. We thought it was him using his bedtime routine to test the boundaries (another cliche, I know), but we felt after a week or so of the routine getting more and more elaborate and long that we just had to hit the nail on the head and stop his behaviour. We reasoned that if we allowed him to keep on changing things and effectively be in charge, then that actually might be quite scary for him – after all, we’re the parents and we need to be in control. Cue several nights of turbulent bedtimes (he and the baby girl share a room, so the crying disturbed her), but he has settled down again now and is much happier.
The only way I keep the guilt at bay at the moment is that hopefully, he won’t remember any of this as an adult.
By the way – and at the risk of repeating myself – I am full of admiration for the way in which you manage to juggle everything and still be full of good humour.
Lilo, it appears to have passed…but who knows what’s next? It’s all excitement, isn’t it? Thank you for your kind words, I am not, however, full of good humour, at the moment, I am murderously cantakerous.