Both of my girls have Oh the Places You’ll Go books that I have their teachers sign. I started them when they were teeny tiny. Everly’s first note was from Ms. Pam at PCC. She only wrote three words: “Little, but loud.”
Ms. Pam was our favorite teacher. She loved Everly the best of all the teachers. And considering Everly was only 11-months old when Ms. Pam wrote this three-word note, she hadn’t had much time to make her assessment. But, she was right.
You know that Shakespeare quote: “though she be but little, she is fierce” — Everly should have come out holding up a sign that said those words. It sums her up. It summed her up then as a baby, and it still does as a 4-year-old.
Two Christmas Eves ago, we made a (then seemingly harmless) decision to let the girls sleep together in Sadler’s bed. This past Christmas, they were still sleeping together. A whole year had passed, and we hadn’t made the move to get Everly back in her bed. Somewhere around the new year, we made the move and got Everly back in her room in her “big girl bed”. Bedtime routines became normalized. No one cried (and by no one, that includes me). For a long time prior to this, bedtime was this loathed part of my day that I would literally work myself up into a frenzy over as the hour approached. I realized that routine does any human good, and certainly small children. Moving Everly back into her own room was a good idea. So, the first 3 months of 2020 were filled with generally pleasant bedtimes.
Then COVID-19 happened. All hell broke lose. All sense of normalcy in everyone’s life seemed to disappear. And one night I caved and said yes to letting the girls sleep in the same bed– because let’s be real here: those first few days were just weird and everyone was a little batty and maybe you caved on something, too. It happens to the best of us.
But I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that bedtime has become kind of a pain again, and there has been very little routine. I told Everly tonight that she was going to sleep in her bed. At first, she didn’t seem to mind. She found a lovey in the laundry room that was accidentally washed with her comforter and carried it upstairs, tucked under her neck in a headlock. You know the kind of kid death grip I’m talking about. She had a smile on her face. For sure this will be easy, I thought.
I told her she could stay in Sadler’s room for story time, and once story time was over, I noticed she was in the floor under the bed, peeling stickers off that she had put there at some point over the last two years.
I think in that moment, had she complied with my request to get back in bed, I would have let her sleep there. However, when I asked her to get into bed (her sister’s bed, mind you), she stomped away and said, ‘I’M SLEEPING IN MY BED!!!’
Daggum right you are, I thought to myself. Isn’t that what I said all along? How could I be such a pushover?!
I seized my opportunity and walked her across the hall to her bed. Then it all started. She protested. Screamed. Kicked. Flailed her entire body. She was not happy.
As she repeated at the top of her lungs over and over, ‘I WANNA SLEEP IN SISSY’S BED!!!!!!’ and I ducked and dodged so I didn’t take an elbow or foot to the face, I noticed this overwhelming peace over me.
I didn’t react. I didn’t say anything except for “I know”, which seemed to fuel her fire. I let this go on for 30 minutes. At one point, I felt sweat hit my skin that had flung off of her flailing body onto mine. She was literally in a fit of rage, and I let her stay there.
In past episodes similar to this one, I probably would have pulled one of my counting tricks (y’all know the ones – counting to 5 like you’re actually gonna do something BIG when you get to 5). Or worse yet, I probably would have popped her bottom for acting that way.
But tonight, in this moment, two things happened. First, I saw the face of my pastor who often on Sunday mornings will share a parenting story with us and how he calms his kids down when they are throwing tantrums. How he patiently waits for them to ride the waves of their crazy emotions and just showers them with love when it’s all over.
Second, I remembered a line in Danny Silk’s Loving Your Kids on Purpose where he talked about spanking not being a good form of discipline because fear doesn’t cast out fear – only love can do that. And let’s be honest, anger is typically fear at the root. She was afraid of being alone and maybe even a little afraid of not winning the battle.
So as this peace washed over me as my 4-year-old thrashed her body onto her bed and screamed at the top of her lungs, I remembered those two things. And then, out of nowhere about 30 minutes into this, she stopped. Her body laid still and I felt her whimper and shudder as she took a deep breath.
As she laid in fetal position, facing away from me, I leaned over, kissed her on the side of the head and whispered, ‘I love you’. She took a breath or two and whispered back, ‘I love you too, mama’.
She turned over, reached out her little arms, and looped them underneath mine, and with a very tight grip, she settled in to go to sleep.
I felt a single tear fall down my face. It landed on her arm.
I felt victorious. I knew that what had just happened would not damage her in the long run, nor would she likely remember it tomorrow. We both grew in our character tonight.
It would have been easy to give in and let her sleep with her sister.
But as crazy as it sounds considering these have been some of the hardest days our society has ever faced, it wouldn’t have been worth it.
I think it’s so easy (for me at least) to think that we have permission as big people to have bad days. To think that our emotions are somehow different than those of the little people in our lives. They have bad days, too. Their emotions matter. And letting them go through them all the way and being there to love them when they come down from the high of it all, that matters.
So, yeah. She is little. And yeah, she is loud. And tonight’s win may have been tiny, but it’s still a win. And it matters to us.
P.S. I may also add that parenting is mostly hard because we often suck at being consistent. I’ve had a book on my shelf for months that I borrowed from a friend called How to Have a New Kid by Friday. I seriously am considering leading a virtual small group on this book. Certainly not because I have it figured out, but precisely because I do not. It takes a village. So, if you would be interested in joining me for this virtual small group while we are quarantined and can’t go anywhere anyway: email me.