My 4 year old is having her very first spring break. At first I thought, “She’s 4, this time off from school won’t even phase her.” Honestly, I didn’t really think she’d notice. The unofficial day of spring break fell on a natural school free day – Friday. I had been fantasizing about that day all week. No waking up at 7 AM for a whole 10 days (turns out I wasn’t wrong there, it just didn’t happen the way I’d hoped), coffee can be had as soon as I get up and I’ll be able to drink it without interruption; it’s spring break – everyone, including the baby, is going to take the opportunity to sleep in and be well rested which will cause us all to relax and be nice and calm. On top of that, we’re going to get along so well that my 4 YO and I won’t fight or argue. She is just going to be so excited to be with me all day long that she will obey every rule and be perfectly behaved at every turn. I see the irony in that statement when I think of the last blog post I wrote. It’s not lost on me.
Turns out she did miss me. Missed me so much that she had an overwhelming urge to creep into my room, tapping me on the forehead whispering “mom,” in that non-quiet preschooler voice, until I woke up. “Mom, mom, MOM,” she loudly whispers. “Is it time to wake up yet?” I was disappointed at what I thought was being woken up at her typical 7:30; maybe it would take a couple of days to adjust to her sleep-in schedule. Bleary-eyed I looked over at the clock on my phone and saw that it was 5:25 AM. I’m sorry, 5:25 AM? I just wanted to shout, “Do you know how beautiful sleep is? How precious Spring Break is to school kids? 5:25???” Instead, I held back that irritation and said, “What? No! It’s 5:25 in the morning! Go back to sleep! This is just-I-it’s too early!” Okay, so maybe I didn’t hold back entirely, but c’mon!
Do you know what happens around 4 PM when a preschooler wakes up that early and refuses to sleep during her nap time? Let’s just say, things were not as bright and shiny as I had imagined. There has been some fighting, usually started by Daddy and Mommy begging her to go back to sleep, some misbehavior, and even a spanking. Friday was the hardest day so far. I guess I should take solace in that because every day after, even if it was hard, didn’t seem so bad. At least, not compared to Friday – nothing compared to Friday. At first I felt pretty bad about the amount of freak outs I had on both of my kids that day. All I could do was pray that bedtime came like The Flash. It came and after one last fight with my 4 YO, I even went back upstairs to make amends and lay next to her while she fell asleep.
It was in that moment that I realized the importance of that. The importance of humility and making amends. The importance of not going to bed angry. I swallowed my irritation and made my way back up the stairs 7 minutes (weirdly precise but I look at the clock when my kids are being crazy; I want to be accurate with time frames while I rant to my husband) after I tucked them in. They were both sound asleep. Did I not mention that my toddler also refused to sleep at nap? Even so, I laid down next to my 4 YO and hugged her close. She opened her eyes and I knew that she was sad at how the night ended. She, almost timidly, asked me to sing her a bedtime song.
That’s what did it for me. I have been a Christian for a long time and not going to bed angry is something I’ve always struggled with. Who has the time, patience or energy to put into calming down? I knew that it was important but I never really grasped why. When she looked at me so sad I knew. It just clicked. I had been sort of holding onto the mentality that going to bed angry only affected me. That is so not true. When I walked out of her room the way I did, it was hurting her too. Not that I didn’t have a right to be mad, but leaving it like that, leaving her upset hurt her. There’s too much uncertainty in that. Fear, too. And I began to wonder, how often have I done that to my husband? How often had I excused it by saying that I needed to just calm down before I even spoke or looked at him? How often did I leave him with the uncertainty of fixing whatever slight (perceived or otherwise) that had just taken place?
I know humility is never the fun route, but man is it rewarding. I could take a page or two from my 4 YO’s book. Her heart desires peace and she wants things to be loving and fun. I do well enough most days, but there are certainly days that I don’t put any effort into controlling my often sharp tongue. But you know what? That is way more like the person I used to be – the one that is dead and gone. Every day, every word and every emotion is a choice. I don’t know about tomorrow or the next day, or even about two hours from now. What I do know is that right now, in this moment, I am going to choose humility and joy. I going to choose to keep making amends and I am going to try real hard to not go to bed angry.
No guarantees, though. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t make things a little harder than they need to be.