Toddlers are wonderful and strange little creatures. One moment they are smothering you with kisses and the next they are making a beeline for the nearest trouble. They are unpredictable; and while they charm the sense right out of their parents, they secretly plot to take over the house (and maybe the world).
My youngest daughter has generally been quite charming and compliant at bedtime. She appreciates the value of sleep and loves the opportunity for extra cuddles before drifting off; but there was a brief period during her second year of life when her senses took a departure… and we battled. The “little sleep war” had been going on for a week and, on one night in particular, for well over an hour. She wouldn’t stay on the bed. She didn’t want to be held. She wanted to play. It was 11:45pm and her siblings were awake because of her chatter and we were all very, very tired. Moans and groans were heard from the various rooms where sleep-deprived children waited for the noise to cease. There was no end in sight and her fatigue was only fanning the flames of her obstinacy. I’d been in this situation many times but not often with this particular child.
Kisses aren’t working. I feel the weight of exhaustion pushing me to my emotional limits. For the sake of all involved, this must end gently but it must end now. It’s time to be firm. I sigh heavily as I prepare to follow through with the most difficult part of motherhood. I resolve not to lose my cool.
“Jellybean,” I say calmly to my defiant little bundle of spunk, “If you do not lay down right now, I am going to leave the room and close the door.” She does not like the door closed but she is not currently rational.
“ME DET DOWN!!!”
I leave her on the bed, walk out of the room and close the door. I hold the handle firmly so that she cannot open it. When she realizes that escape is impossible, she expresses her displeasure loudly. Very loudly. I’m counting slowly to 100. If I open the door too soon we’ll have to start all over again because the lesson won’t be understood. If I open the door too late, she’ll become frightened and learn that I will not come.
My oldest gets out of bed and comes into the hallway. “Maybe you should open the door, Mommy. She’s pretty upset.” Go back to bed, son. I cannot open the door yet.
The younger son yells from bed: “Pleeease pick her up! I can’t sleep with this racket!” You weren’t sleeping anyway, dear.
My 10-year old daughter (whose compassionate heart always inspires me) emerges from her room on the verge of tears. “How can you be so mean to her? Please open the door!” I know it hurts. It hurts me, too. I’m sorry you do not understand.
I open the door and a tearful Jellybean runs into my arms. “I’m sorry I had to do that, sweetheart. Are you ready to go to lay down now?” She nods a drippy nose into my shoulder and I carry her to bed. I lay down beside her, she snuggles into me and we talk…
I love you, little one. I don’t like it when you cry. Jesus loves you, too. He wants you to sleep. He made you. He made your pretty nose….
Yes, and he made your pretty eyes….
Yes. He made all of you. He made you His princess….
Yes. His pretty princess. He loves you so much.
“Jesus wubs me. Jesus wubs me. Jesus wubs me.”
She falls asleep in the arms of her mama with Jesus’ name on her lips. I am sad that I had to discipline her and that the other children see it as an injustice. I hope they will understand in time that love sometimes requires us to stand behind that door and wait.
While I lay there with her sweet little head on my arm, I reflect on something my oldest daughter said in the hallway: “She doesn’t know you are there! She thinks you are gone. Please open the door.” I recall the times I have wondered why God must hide Himself from us. Why won’t He just open that door? Why won’t He show Himself?
I know it is unwise to build an image of God based on my own inferior model. I won’t draw the comparison out too far. But my mothering heart catches a tiny glimpse of something true and beautiful about the love of my heavenly Father. Why does He hide from me? I do not know. I do not understand. Many times I have cried out at what seems so harsh. But I know that He loves me. And I know that He will do what is necessary to draw me closer to His protective arms.
Jesus, I trust in You!
Copyright 2011 Melody Lyons