By Chaya Houpt
Around the time Y.B. and A.N. turned two, they started to Talk. Not just words, but sentences, and then plans and games and conspiracies. Where they had previously been mostly indifferent to each other’s presence, suddenly they were partners in crime. They would stay up for most of the night, chatting and laughing and playing.
I placed them in their cribs at 7 PM as usual, but now, instead of quietly thumbing board books and sleeping until 7 the next morning, they would party.
My husband and I would go to sleep around 11 or 12, lying in bed with clenched teeth as we listed to our daughters carry on from the nursery down the hall. The next day, they were miserable company: cranky, short-tempered and whiny. Each day, the cumulative sleep debt was worse.
And naptime was a problem, too. They wouldn’t nap at all in a room together. We set up a pack-n-play and carried Y.B. down to the laundry room each afternoon, where she would often be woken early by the doorbell.
This cannot go on, I said.
So we sought the advice of our parents, mentors and friends. We tried bribing, threatening and all kinds of parental trickery. There were staggered bedtimes, later bedtimes and I can’t even remember what else. It was frustrating. Infuriating, even. We felt so powerless.
Some of the things we tried helped a little. But mostly, the girls just grew out of it. They gradually got used to the wonder of verbal communication, and they learned to be quiet roommates.
How long did it take before they started going to sleep quietly at an early hour? Oh, about A YEAR.
. . .
Another story, this one about mornings:
I have encouraged my girls to be independent and self-sufficient from the youngest age. When they entered the “I do it by self” phase, I was thrilled. I watched in wonder as my tiny children performed more and more of their morning routine by themselves: getting dressed, brushing teeth.
And then, sometime around last November, it just stagnated. They started dawdling, protesting, refusing to do anything by themselves. Mornings became a nightmare.
This cannot go on, I said.
I wrote an email to Jenny. “I don’t want to start every day with a battle,” I wrote. “Here is what I have tried.” And I listed all the tricks and strategies I had employed.
Jenny empathized and offered some ideas and suggestions, which I implemented. It helped a lot, but A.N. was still having a lot of trouble getting out in the morning.
This cannot go on, I said, and in January I wrote Jenny again.
She helped me through the situation, and said, “If things are still terrible Purim-time, let’s rethink.”
Purim came and went. Pesach rolled around, and then Yom Haatzmaut. Last Sunday was Lag B’Omer. And even this morning, it was a battle to get A.N. dressed and out of the house.
And you know what? I’ve accepted it. I don’t feel the urgency to change or fix the situation. Maybe this CAN go on. Maybe I don’t need a solution, or maybe our family isn’t ready for a solution.
One day last week, my neighbor Leah observed that my kids have a hard time with the morning transition. It was good to get objective confirmation, because Leah is no stranger to the challenges of a house full of young children.
“Is it always the same kid?” she wanted to know.
“Nope,” I said, because though A.N. might present the most challenges, Y.B. and B.A. have been known to get into the elevator howling and refusing to put on shoes as well.
And then she said something like, “You are always so calm with them.” I don’t remember her exact words, because of all the noise from the choir of angels.
. . .
So that’s the thing. Every meltdown, every dragged-out journey to nursery school, every impossible morning presents a challenge: how can I fix this? How can I get this family running like a well-oiled machine?
But that’s not always the victory Hashem has in store for me. Maybe I am simply meant to try my best to help the situation, and when nothing works, I can accept reality as it is and know that I am growing stronger, more patient, more calm in the process.
This cannot go on? Why not? Here’s another one: this too shall pass. But not on my timeline.
Chaya blogs about parenting and life at All Victories.