It’s 9:30 at night, and I’m back downstairs. I am not alone. The 2-year-old is on the couch with me, and we are both sobbing. Bedtime started two hours ago. The lights went out over an hour ago. The original plan was for my husband to put them to bed. Snuggles with dad shouldn’t be cause for hysterics. But there was hyperventilating, and banging on the door. My son nearly made himself throw up. So back in I went.
I try and I try and I try to give him what he needs. But what he needs is so, so, so much of me. All of me. More of me than I think there is to give. And I’m 10 weeks pregnant, and tonight I needed to draw the line at him needing one hand down my shirt to fall asleep. It’s too sore. It’s too much. I’m allowed to draw a line.
And maybe I should have drawn it sooner (but I tried that). Maybe I’m a pushover. Maybe we should be sleep training (but we tried that). Or I should get over myself and be more patient (tried, tried, trying). Or, or, or… throw it at me, internet. I expect what you say to me will be kinder than the things I say to myself.
Every time, I lose my patience. Every time, I fail to hold my ground. And when I succeed in holding my ground? I’m screwing it up, I’m screwing it up, I’m screwing it up.
Until here we are. Sobbing together on the couch. With the ultimate assurance that I was right, that I am screwing it up, as he momentarily swallows his tears to look up with concern to wipe away mine. Good job, mama. Way to go.
And I’m texting anyone who might listen; “I’m going to implode. This is too much.” I’m trying hard to stifle my rage and breathe through the feelings of suffocation and failure.
Until finally, now as I type, he has fallen asleep. Sweaty head on my shoulder. Contented sighs finally filling the air. Both of our tears have dried up, though mine remain dangerously close to the surface.
That’s how I wanted this to end. But as I finished typing, he raised his head up with yet another burst of overtired energy. Desperate to fall asleep with a little body that betrays him, he tosses and turns, whimpers and whines, and conducts an unseen orchestra with his hands. I give up on alone time. I give up on peace. I search desperately for my zen and head back upstairs for round two.
And so, my friends, maybe your nemesis isn’t bedtime. Maybe it’s the dreaded trip to Target, or soccer class, or playgroup. Maybe it’s mealtime. I don’t know what your battle is. Maybe it hasn’t come yet. But I know you’re doing your best. I know how hard you’re trying. I know that sometimes you feel crazy and alone. I know that you’re thinking, and worrying, and texting anyone who will listen. I know it’s too much. I know you’re trying not to implode. Trying to stifle the rage and breathe through the suffocation or embarrassment or frustration. Trying to shove down the feelings of failure. And there’s the kicker, because I know you’re not failing — so how, then, to find the ability to believe the same of myself?
Tonight and tomorrow, and the next day, let us remember that our personal battles may not look the same, but we are each other. Let us give grace to each other, and to ourselves.