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The Big Trouble


The Ups, Downs and Sideways of Working Motherhood

The Big Trouble

Alex Steinman

There's something magical about putting a toddler to sleep. Wait...did I say magical? Sorry, I meant insane. I preface this by saying my children are sweet baby angels once they're out. They sleep through the night and wake up at the late hour of 6am. Praise be.

HOWEVER. The toddler has figured out how door handles work, and he's been making a point to come out of his room every five minutes to check on us. We had it made for a while, knowing he couldn't get out of his room on his own. We like our independent children, but enjoyed the limitations a closed door presented to tiny hands and developing motor skills. Now, we hear the pitter patter of squishy little feet on the wood floor; the aggressive rattle of the handle that sounds like the Ghost of Christmas Future is coming to murder us all; and the whack of the door against the wall. #Gingerbaby stumbles out of his room with such gusto, like a drunk college student pouring into his dorm after a long night.

We try to catch him before he gets too far into the living room, but damn that kid is fast. We shuffle him back to his room, doing the full bedtime snuggles for the first few rounds. After about the third time, there's a steep decline in tenderness, resulting in avoiding eye contact and instructing him to close his own door on his way to bed.

When that doesn't work we have to get creative.

One night, I told him if he got out of bed again, he'd be in big trouble. I didn't really know what that meant, but I figured an ominous, unknown future would do the trick. #Gingerbaby called my bluff. Two minutes and a sip of wine later, he was out of bed again.

Frustrated and fascinated by his curious nature, I had to buy more time. "Do you want a time out?" I asked. He thought for a second. "Yes," he answered. Well of course he did. He wanted to do anything but go to bed. Either way, I needed time to think of the "big trouble." I paced his room while he smiled in timeout. Not a mischievous "I'm going to murder you in your sleep" smile. More like a "I'm just happy to see you mama" smile. Which is far worse when you're trying to discipline a toddler, and all you want is your full glass of wine and a plate of microwave nachos.

What can we do that doesn't prolong bedtime but has a lasting impact? Then I stumbled on an idea. Actually, I tripped over a stuffed elephant. "You and all your friends are coming with me," I thought to myself and hopefully not outloud because those are the words of a crazy person talking to an inanimate object. I gathered all 15 stuffed animals piled high on #Gingerbaby's bed in one trip for maximum effect. It looked dramatic in my head at the time, but I ended up leaving a trail of animals from his room to mine. Not thinking through where I would put them, I tossed the creatures on my bed. His loss was my gain (not really because stuffed animals are actually annoying to sleep with).

#Gingerbaby's sweet smile faded fast, and he broke down. I'm sure he was more surprised that I had actually come up with something in the "big trouble" territory. After feeling triumphant for about 2.5 seconds, the guilt set in. "Mama took my animals. I need my mama to snuggle me up," he stuttered in-between sobs. My cold, dark heart melted into a puddled as I dried his tears, sang him a song and kissed his sticky, snot-laden cheeks. He promised to stay in bed, and I promised he could have his animals back in the morning. This kid has me figured out. As I got to the door, he said, "Bye bye mama, you took my animals. I love you." Stabby stabby stab stab right in my soul.

He did stay in bed after the "big trouble," but boy did I feel like an asshole with all those animals laying at my feet. I'm no militant mom (clearly), but sometimes we gotta do what we gotta do. I guess I should start brainstorming "big trouble" options, so I'm quicker on my feet and the impact is longer lasting. The next day we went through the same thing only this time, #Gingerbaby came out of his room and suggested I take his animals. You've got to be kidding me.

If you liked this post, you may also like Pooped Parent and The Self-Negotiation of Naptime.

Photo Cred: Sarah Karnas