The songs don't come easy

Last night was one of those nights that's more common than it is rare these days--I simply couldn't make it out of work and home much before the girls' bedtime. Just one more meeting. Just one more email. Just one more stupid 2 train that didn't come until forever.

When I walked in, the girls raced towards me on wobbly legs, arms outstretched, screeching MOMMEEEEE breathlessly - always the happiest part of my day, cheesy and cliche though it may be.  No sooner had I hugged them that Sage jammed a fist into her eye and my sitter declared that she was ready for bed.

This is the point where I'm supposed to tell you that I patiently helped them change into pajamas, combed their hair, read them three stories and kissed them all sweetly.

But I didn't. I was tired too.

I was less patient than I would have liked to have been. I asked three times for them to get into jimjams themselves, each time with increasing annoyance. I told them that no, we didn't have time to read a chapter book and that it was very late and we need to get into bed right this second.

It was partially true. But it wasn't just for them.

Then the guilt strikes. I realize that I'd seen the girls for a whole hour in the morning, followed by...nothing. They've waited all day for me to get home and play with them, do something fun, hear about their days. But sometimes I just don't have it in me. I don't have the sweetness and the devotion and the patience for a long, drawn-out bedtime routine.

"We don't have time for a book," I told them, but seeing their disappointment I offered a compromise.  "We have time for a song. Just one each. Who wants to start?"

Sage of course picked something I've never heard of, that had something to do with Shrek in the mud. Instead, I sang that Smashmouth song from the credits while they protested NO MOMMEEEEE NOT THAT ONE. I sang it anyway, off tune as always, and felt myself start to lighten up. I giggled with them. I allowed the fake protests to go on too long. There may have been tickling.

Next Thalia spent forever trying to figure out what her song would be while I volunteered the first bars of whatever popped into my mind - You Are My Sunshine. I Won't Grow Up. Eat a Bowl of Cherries by Rhythm Child, from the previous day's Kindiefest show. The Family Guy theme song. Every time they screeched NOOOOOO I feigned surprise: What? Not that one? But that's my faaaaavorite!

Finally Thalia gave up and sang me some song she's been learning at school with absolutely no tone or melody whatsoever, and I realized the poor thing has inherited my voice. It still sounded beautiful to me. I flipped on the nightlight, and tucked her in with only a few of the nightly protests. I stroked her back through the cover, but only for a minute. I watched her breathing steady and the day start to escape from her.

It all seemed like the easiest thing ever, kneeling by a toddler bed and singing songs and being silly with the people I love most in this world before kissing them off to sleep.

It wasn't. That's the secret we never tell.


Blogger Kate said...

absolutely true. thanks.

5/4/10, 9:08 AM  
Blogger Mara from Motherofalltrips said...

As someone who just spent the half-hour before preschool pretending to play a paleontologist finding a lost little brachiosaurus for perhaps the tenth time this week (longing all the while to be sipping coffee and checking e-mail instead) I will concur: it's harder than it looks. I'm guessing you did a good job though.

5/4/10, 9:15 AM  
Blogger The Empress said...

Yes. We do what we need to do to create a feeling of being loved and wanted for them. Why? Because they will remember.

I know it's easier for me to do that it is for others to do.

But, that, sadly is due to the fact that I grew up with a mother who always said no. And was always too busy.

And I remember when I stopped asking for the bedtime stories and hugs...what for? She always said not now.

I remember that little girl that I was, and that gives me the patience to do what I need to do, and I re-raise and re-nurture myself in the process. Actually, I do it for the first time.

Beautiful post. Thank you

5/4/10, 9:37 AM  
Blogger Marinka said...

I love your blog, but some posts should come with a warning. Like "Do not read if you snapped at your kids to get to sleep already because you wanted to watch Real Housewives of NJ in peace last night and now you're feeling guilty because childhood is so fleeting but the Housewives are not."

5/4/10, 9:54 AM  
Blogger Alex @LateEnough said...

I am so grateful when I can switch gears just long enough to be the mom I want to be (or a very close second).
And I think singing off key is the BEST way to sing.

5/4/10, 10:19 AM  
Blogger Loukia said...

Wait. Your kids get their pj's on by themselves?

Hmm. We're having a family meeting tonight.


Okay, now I'm going back to read the rest of this post...

5/4/10, 10:23 AM  
Anonymous stacie said...

the baby's been up for about 15 minutes now, 1/2 coo'ing 1/2 whining to get out. he's still in there because i was desperately trying to finish a post. ironically, about him and how well i feed him. (is that ironic? hm. i never use that word correctly.) and, now, here i am, replying... instead of getting him. it's twisted. but true. it's so hard to balance what we feel like we want and need for ourselves and our kids. even though, at the end of the day, if everything but my little boys disappeared, i'd be just fine. happy even. all this babbling to say, thanks. you're right. our secret. we don't have to tell them, but it's nice to share with each other every once and a while.

5/4/10, 10:24 AM  
Blogger Loukia said...

I'm back. Thanks for this post. It's true, what you said. I see my kids in the a.m., and even then, I have help, because either mom mom/grandmother/mother-in-law is over, too, to take my oldest son to kindergarten, and to babysit my 2 year old, while I rush out the door to go to work.
I get home (or to my parents/in-laws house) and eat a dinner that has already been cooked for us, and so basically, I have my boys (during the week) from 5 to 9 p.m. And even though it's only those few hours, I sometimes complain, and am tired, and whine. And why? I feel so guilty about this, of course. But some nights are just perfection, though. Nice to know that we are not alone in feeling this way.

5/4/10, 10:27 AM  
Anonymous twojams (Shannon) said...

I live a similar experience so many nights. Great post.

5/4/10, 10:29 AM  
Blogger faintstarlite said...

That was so sweet to read. :) It's not easy trying to make time for everything and everyone - we all have days where there's less patience than there could be but I love that you all ended the day being goofy & singing songs... those are the special moments kids remember.

5/4/10, 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Julie @ The Mom Slant said...

Bedtime is not my forte. And I still feel guilty, even after spending much of my day with the kids.

Glad the day ended on a sweet note after all.

5/4/10, 10:59 AM  
Blogger tara said...

so well put.

5/4/10, 10:59 AM  
Blogger fer said...

Oh goodness, this is why we have blogs. So I can read that you had my evening too and feel cosmically connected and just a wee bit less guilty. Thank you.

5/4/10, 11:15 AM  
Blogger sharonbially said...

It never ceases to amaze me thatthe myth that "it's easy" keeps spreading! So many people go through moments like this, and the truth is, it IS NOT easy. It never is! And we all know it. I wish somebody would validate this in a way that makes it okay for all of us parents and moms in particular to hurry the kids into bed or whatever else we need to do when we're too tired to spend quality time, guilt free. I'm not ashamed to admit that I do it all the time.

5/4/10, 11:25 AM  
Blogger MicheLe said...

Thank you. This helped me in the hard. Also reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Frederick Buechner: "It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are-even if we tell it only to ourselves-because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the real world will find it more acceptable than the real thing."

5/4/10, 11:56 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

@fer YES, cosmically connected is exactly what it is. Thank you.

And @micheLe, I just love that quote. Won't be able to commit it to memory for another few years but thanks for introducing it to me.

5/4/10, 11:59 AM  
Blogger cheri said...

it is always hard. and this true. but i guess that's why we were chosen to be their moms...

5/4/10, 12:24 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Isn't a shame that we all get each other at our worst times? My daughter (she is five) is just fabulous in the morning and into the afternoon. .. and so are my husband and I. It's about 6 pm that we all turn into grumps, just about the time that we all get together again after going our separate ways in the morning.

It's tough.

5/4/10, 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Kami said...

This is resonating so loudly that I can't hear anything else. Finding that last. little. bit. of give. is so hard it hurts sometimes. The evenings I can pull it together and simply enjoy the bedtime routine are such gifts. The evenings I lose my shit and put them to bed without books or songs or the right stuffies suck. And I hate myself for it until I see them the next morning. Their capacity for forgiveness is amazing.

5/4/10, 1:48 PM  
Blogger abbeyviolet said...

So true. Love this. We all just do our best and keep trying. Hugs all around!

5/4/10, 2:06 PM  
Blogger Sarahviz said...

This fellow working momma couldn't have said it better herself.

5/4/10, 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Julie @ The Mom Slant said...

Oh, The Empress made me sniffle - for myself as a little girl, and as a reminder of why I try to say yes when I can.

5/4/10, 3:22 PM  
Anonymous WellVersedMom said...

Wow. Yes. Mine are past the bedtime stories stage (mostly), and now it's just "Come up and say goodnight!" while I'm busy cleaning the kitchen and making lunches and pondering the workday and what I need to do by tomorrow at 6 a.m. when that alarm jolts me awake. Sometimes it seems those smallest of things take such a huge effort. But I'm always glad when I can muster that last little bit of energy and head upstairs to make their evening complete.

Thanks for a really lovely post and gentle reminder.

5/4/10, 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

I used to have a love/hate relationship with bedtime. Loved the cuddles, but did often get impatient with how long some parts of it took, especially if there was lack of cooperation or begging involved.

Now I'm on bedtime hiatus. Since becoming a (temporary) SAHM a few weeks ago, my partner has been on bedtime duty (voluntarily). After my very long day with the kids and cooking dinner, I get to sit down at my computer for either work or relaxation while he wrestles the monkeys.

5/4/10, 3:33 PM  
Blogger amy gleason said...

I love how you said that after you started singing, "you felt yourself lighten up..." Sometimes it's so hard to remember that if we just let go in the moment, we'll make our children happy and ourselves happier.

5/4/10, 3:37 PM  
Blogger SeriousMom said...

That was the thing I hated most about working full time.

5/4/10, 3:40 PM  
Blogger Aging Mommy said...

Whether you are a SAHM dealing with your child all day long or a WAHM juggling work and child or a working Mom doing all you do having kids is hard, really hard because it always feels like you don't have time for yourself. I am a SAHM with just one daughter and always feel that way and I know most Moms have far more to deal with, but this new life is so much more all consuming than my old 70 hour a week life as a business woman. I always feel guilty if I try and make time for myself and have yet to figure out a better balance between being a Mom and being me, but I intend to try, for my sake and that of my daughter. And sometimes yes, it is hard work to not show the frustration or tiredness. Great post

5/4/10, 4:38 PM  
Anonymous roolalenska said...

That was a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing it. I've been feeling a little inadequate myself lately. It must be going around.

5/4/10, 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Bryony Boxer said...

"I was less patient than I would have liked to have been." Thank you for this. I feel this way every single day.

5/4/10, 5:21 PM  
Anonymous Tracy Hahn-Burkett said...

A million times yes. Sometimes it's just plain hard, even when we know it's not "supposed" to be. (Who decided that anyway?)

Your post crystallized so well what I've been feeling recently that it sparked me to write my own blog post on the topic. So thanks for the wise words and empathy; it's like I've just shared a cup of good coffee with another mom who "gets it" in the blogosphere!

5/4/10, 9:19 PM  
Blogger Elaine A. said...

You're a trooper for still hanging in there and singing and tickling, etc. All three of you needed just that little bit, even though you were all tired. It's so good. So, so good...

5/4/10, 11:31 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

I am so grateful that my husband does bedtime. So grateful. He used to be out all evening and he couldn't, and those were rough times.

5/4/10, 11:55 PM  
Blogger Caroline Alexander said...

Oh boy...thanks for this. Everyday I promise myself that I won't loose my patience tonight. Somedays I make, often I don't and feel like crap afterward. Even sometimes feeling like I should skip Mother's Day this year. Not feeling like I've been a great Mom. Anyway, thanks for reminding me that June Cleaver doesn't exist.

5/5/10, 8:44 PM  
Blogger Issas Crazy World said...

I only have my kids half the time now and I'll be honest, some nights bedtime make me want to poke my eyes out. It's hard at night to parent. Because you are tired, they are tired and yeah, sleep already dammit. Ha.

Just know, you're not alone on this one. We've all been there. Often most likely. You can always try again tomorrow, you know?

5/6/10, 12:46 PM  
Blogger GratefulTwinMom said...

Thanks for posting about this. I feel this way any night I come home late. I have to remind myself that this is just a blip on their radar. Sometimes the quality time they spend with me is more important that the quantity.

5/6/10, 2:53 PM  
Anonymous julie said...

I really have nothing to add here. I just need you to know that both your post and The Empress's comment have hit hard.

While it's nice to know I'm not alone, it doesn't make it any easier.

6/1/10, 4:50 PM  

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