My three year old doesn't like to go to bed. I've had an exceptionally hard time dealing with this. I work hard to keep our lives running smoothly. Having a little strong-headed Bean making a wreak out of my schedule on a daily... sometimes hourly... basis... *sigh* I don't always handle it well. It's humbling and frustrating and embarrassing.
The first night in her new room, she climbed on her mattress and slept peacefully. She was proud to be sleeping in her big girl bed. She loved the new special space we'd made for her. We'd succeeded.
That night marked the last peaceful night sleep she got for months. At first I thought it was a phase. I could wait it out. But as the nights passed I grew weary. Putting a 30 pound child back in bed 30 times a night was wearing on my already over-extended (literally) body. I began to search for answers. I read books. I sat with my husband in the dark devising strategies. I emailed friends begging to know how they did it. I called my mom. I prayed. I began to doubt every choice I'd ever made as a mother. Few solutions were offered and those that were sounded like criticisms.
Four weeks went by like this. Inchie was days away from being welcomed into the work. I was exhausted. I second guessed every action I took. I criticized my husband's actions. My world was coming apart at the seams. Something had to change. With tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, I gave up. We borrowed a second crib to set up in Bean's new room. I had to do what was best for me and my family. In one month, we had gone from happy-loving-laughing to sullen-sniping-yelling. I felt as thought I failed my little girl. I'd told her the wonders of being a big girl and then I'd demoted her to a cage when I couldn't handle it.
The crib stayed in her room for four months. They were not peaceful months. Bean still fought bed time and fought the cage we called a crib. The damage had been done. That crib bought us enough time to welcome Inchie into the world and get her sleeping through the night. I settled back into work. Life began to resemble something I could handle. Then Bean climbed out of the crib. It had outlived its usefulness.
Nothing helped me deal with this reality. No book or piece of advice or blog post or restraint system showed me the magical formula to get my girl to sleep at night. To this day I don't know how we manage it. But we do manage it. More often than not she sleeps. Quite often we don't. But over the past year and a half I have gained something.
There is a peace inside me I didn't have when this all started. An assurance that I will grow and stretch myself to any length to raise these girls. I will take risks and make awful decisions along the road all in hopes of raising these girls in a safe, loving, healthy environment. I will reevaluate and modify my beliefs if necessary. I will not give up on them. I must not give up on me. There exists no woman in any world who loves my girls to the extent that I do. I am the first and best mother they will ever have. I am Mom Enough.
This post was inspired by the reactions I've read to the cover of this week's TIME magazine. A mother stands on the cover breastfeeding her 3 year old son in a non-conventional pose. The title is "Are you Mom enough?" My reaction, like so many others, to those 4 words is visceral. There are as many ways to parent as there are children being parented. I share my story to illustrate one daily struggle which defines me as a mother. With experience, I am Mom Enough to answer that question without doubt. However, there are moms out there whose hearts and minds are filled with doubt. This Mother's Day we need to appreciate them for all that they do. And support them however they choose to accomplish it.