zero to three

Deployment Is Confusing for Children, Which Makes Children Hard on Parents

An installment in the New York Times Deployment Diary

I recently read somewhere that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results was not the definition of insanity, but rather, the definition of parenting. The sentiment perfectly sums up bedtime with our 2½-year-old: routinely insane. We’ve cried it out and cuddled it out. We’ve bathed, read and rocked our way into different routines, to no avail. We’ve finally settled on “good enough” which consists of a bath, a story, only two trips to the bathroom, bedtime prayers and a hug and a kiss. In my son’s defense, I was (and, let’s be honest, am still) the same way. The struggle is real. I don’t like going to bed any more than he does.

Bedtime around here is the time I feel my husband’s absence the most. We generally tag team dishes and bath, so once the kids are asleep we can enjoy some precious alone time (we also have a 4-year-old daughter). With him gone, I keep holding out hope for a fairy godmother to come do the dishes and fold laundry while I handle bedtime.

After several snow days last week, getting both of my babies to sleep was particularly stressful. My little guy would not stay in bed. The sound of those size 9 extra-wide feet running on the wood floor reverberates through the house. I’d already gone through our routine and I’d already been up an extra time to tuck him in.

About the fifth time he got out of bed, I went up the stairs prepared to use my scary mommy voice. I paused about halfway up, took a deep breath, and reminded myself that getting angry at him would not make my night any easier. I walked into his room, where he was standing on top of his (bolted down) dresser. I put both hands on my head, and felt myself literally trying to pull my hair out. Another deep breath. I gently picked him up, placed him on the floor and knelt beside him.

Trying to stifle my exasperation with the only ounce of patience I had left, I asked him, “What is going on?”

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