Tonight’s Bedtime

Tonight’s Bedtime

Since this blog has of late become a chronicle of Ben’s sleep woes, I thought I’d jot a brief note about tonight’s bedtime.

Today was a touch day all around. we were all cranky and a little off. Also, Saturday night is always our most stressful night because it’s bath night. That just adds a whole nother layer to our bedtime routine. Especially with the need to brush and braid the girls’ hair after baths. And also Ben hates baths right now.

So during nap time we got the toddler bed out of the shed. We hadn’t been talking it up much with Ben because we weren’t sure how he’d take it. But we did prep Bella so she wouldn’t talk so much about it being her bed. We told her it needed to be Ben’s new bed. Then after Ben woke up from his nap we took down the crib and put up the toddler bed in it’s place. At first he was a bit distressed to see his old bed go and this new thing in its place. Then when it was in place he climbed up on it. Hard to resist new furniture.

And then Bella performed a heroic act of generosity. She offered Ben a present of her truck blanket, which has been one of her three must-have blankets since she moved into the toddler bed. Id commented recently about how she and Sophie each have several blankets and quilts but Ben doesn’t have any and how I’d always thought the truck blanket would go to Ben but how obviously that wouldn’t happen because she was attached to it. And then I forgot about the conversation and made a note to try to find a nice quilt or blankie that could be Ben’s own. (I started a baby quilt for him when I was pregnant with him and it’s still in pieces.) But Bella has of late been committing many acts of profound generosity. Inspired by a book Grandma B sent her she has spontaneously made little sacrifices, done good deeds just to make someone else happy. It has warmed my heart to see it. There is a little bit of looking to see if we’re watching and hoping for praise; but I think she is also doing these acts for the sake of the one they benefit as well.

Sophie and Bella then proceeded to shower Ben with all sorts of blankets and toys and books, to each of which he sweetly said, “No, thank you.” But the gift of the truck blanket obviously meant a lot to him as well.I think he did understand its significance.

So at bedtime we had one stroke of luck which was that Anthony went to sleep and was tucked into bed before we said our prayers. One advantage of a bedtime delayed by baths I suppose. That freed me up to brush the girls’ hair and then to devote a lot of attention to Ben. Sophie fell asleep during her story, which was another stroke of luck. So when it came time to tuck them in it was just Ben and Bella. Ben was nodding over his books but Bella startled him awake again. (I mentally cursed but managed to not berate my bumbling five year-old.) After her stories were done I sent Bella off to bed under protest and had Dom tuck her in and then carry sleeping Sophie to her bed and then turn out their bedroom light. Normally Sophie would insist on me tucking her in.

So with three of our usual conflict points gone and having been able to spend some cuddle time with just me and Ben it was much smoother. Even so he fussed about the light being off and refused to get into his bed. I sat down next to his bed and calmly told him that I was going to sing Bella her songs and then I’d cuddle him. As I began to sing he began to cry and I stopped and calmly told him that I knew he was upset and didn’t want me to sing. This is the part of the evening where you just start to cry and tell me ‘no’ an I don’t know what to do and you cry and we’re all unhappy. And that’s ok. I’m going to sing Bella’s song and you can fuss and then we can cuddle. He cried through the first song and then quieted during the second.

I was searching for his blankies during both songs and finally realized they weren’t in the room. So we went to look for them and found them in my room. Blankies in hand, when we got back to his bedroom he crawled into his bed with a satisfied and only mildly cranky little grunt. He grunted a few more times as he buried his face in the pillow. And then I tucked the truck blanket over him. I whispered to him a bit about how much his sister loved him to give him such a present. How much I love him and daddy and Jesus and everyone. Lots of listing of people.

Then I talked over the day with him, reminding him of all the highlights and reminding him of looking at the stars last night and of Auntie Tree cuddling him and talking over his fussing. I looked forward to tomorrow and going to Mass and eating pancakes and talked about how nice it would be to see Jesus and how much Daddy loves him to make pancakes.

Then I blessed him and finally hearing my phone beeping told him I needed to go stop it and go to bed myself. I asked if he wanted me to leave the door open and he grunted. So I left quietly with one final blessing and closed the door behind me.

So far so good he’s still asleep. May God grant us all a peaceful night.


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  • Wish I had some advice…you are in a difficult season with all those little ones but you’ll get through it.  Children love routine and order, but their job is to push the boundaries, to test how firm are these limits.  This is what creates the conflict.  So, know it’s quite normal and keep consistent as much as possible.  Stay firm and keep consistent.  Know in your heart that it’s perfectly normal what you are going through albeit with more at once than usual….you are NOT failing in some way.  It’s perfectly normal.  Just respond with consistency and patience.  You feel a sense of failure that is not true or real.  That is just how children are so have peace about that and respond, again, with peaceful, firm consistency even when they resist.  And, this will pass!  wink. Prayers your way!

  • Melanie,

    I have enjoyed reading your blog for a while even though I am no longer in the young mom stage.  Somehow I came across The Wine-Dark Sea right about the time we finally had a granddaughter join our family.  Not really knowing what on earth little girls were like ( having four sons and two grandsons before her arrival),  I have loved reading what Bella and Sophie were up to and seeing the pictures of your gorgeous children. 

    Presently I am in the stage of old mom with grown kids and now five grandchildren, four with us including another granddaughter and one little boy in Heaven who lived an hour -just enough time on earth to be baptized and cuddled and loved his whole life before he went home – yea! a for sure saint in the family!  By the way, Hayden was born and died around the time as your little Francis. 

    Anyway, how I got to this stage so fast still has my head spinning.  I’m sure you have heard it said that no matter how slowly time goes when your children are little, you will look back with wonderment at how fast it all went.  That is a truism, but believe me, while my boys were little the only thing that kept me sane was trying to look at things with a sense of humor.  (I know, I know, that is the hardest thing to try to do when you are in the thick of life with kids.) So Erma Bombeck (may she rest in peace) was my sense of humor role model for a long while. 

    And I had a wonderful older neighbor who used to come over to cheer me up.  So I am here in that capacity for you – only problem is the 3,000 or so miles between our houses is not exactly like a quick stroll across the cul de sac.  I do have an idea to cheer you up though and thank you for your blog and sharing your family life with all of us blog readers.

    When sorting my book shelves the other day I came across my copy of A House with Four Rooms by Rumer Godden.  I remember you once wrote in one of your book blog entries that you would like to read this book.  So if you are still without a copy and if you will e-mail me back an address I can send the book to, it will be on its way asap.  Meanwhile, remember to laugh. 

    God bless you and your beautiful family,
    Mary Frances

    P.S.  Sorry this is so long.

  • Mel and Mary Frances, what great posts!
    Melanie, I can’t add anything to the above two posts but perhaps you might like to have a talk with Auntie Leila at Like Mother, Like Daughter blog.  She has seven children, now grown.

    or you can email her at
    leilamarielawler (at)

  • Thank you all. I was so tired as I wrote this that I lost my original train of thought which was leading up to thinking about God’s plan in all this. How I feel such a need to be in control and how all of this seems almost a purposeful way of leading me out of myself and into radical trust in him. It is precisely in that moment when I don’t know what to do that I am driven to prayer. And so often it is in those moments of extremity that I finally stop to listen to what God is saying.

    I write in large part to figure things out. To think things through. It helps me to see more clearly. And to listen as well. Sometimes for me writing is a form of prayer, a way of being open.

    Mary Frances, Such a sweet offer. I would very much like the book and will send you an email soon. Probably tomorrow.

    Sharon, Actually Leila is well known to me. We’ve even met in real life once when she came to my wedding! Her husband, Phil, was Dom’s boss for years and years and Dom always said she gave him the single best piece of advice on dating. (So perhaps she’s a bit responsible in a tangential way for our marriage as well?) I do think she’s one of the wisest women I know.

  • Dear Melanie, Be confident that you are providing the non-negotiables for your dear children: nourishing food, sufficient sleep-time, regularity and order, and the security of your loving control. There may be times when they may not like the way things are but that’s ok, if it’s for their good. Be in overall charge: they need that. Give them the small negotiables to make decisions over: they feel empowered by the little, little choices just now. With my love and prayers for you and your household. Good health to you all, peace and blessings.

  • Oh, Melanie, you do sound tired. From where I stand (sit), your family looks just beautiful. Your children are happy, and they will always, always have the gift of each other, a gift you and Dom have so generously given them. You are building a beautiful temple!

  • Thank you for writing this, Melanie.  I am right there in the trenches with you.  #5 is due next month and I have to admit I’m a little panicked at this point thinking about trying to juggle everyone’s needs.  Even with my current four I feel overwhelmed on a daily basis.  They are all so young and needy and irrational…definitely God’s way of humbling me, I’m sure, but I’m not taking the lesson well some days!

  • Thanks, all, for all the prayers and well wishes.

    Valerie, So true about the little choices. It takes so much effort to be mindful but it does pay big dividends.

    Erika, I’m actually maybe not quite so tired as this sounds. This piece was really more of an “emotion recollected in tranquility” piece rather than a cri du cour. While this has been a trial, I’m hopeful that we’re over the worst of the current mess. Mainly, I’ve been pondering how God uses these trials to draw me closer to him. I need to get to the point where I don’t know what to do because it is only then that I will stop and ask Him.

    Celeste, yes. Irrational. It is the fact that I can’t reason with them that is often so unnerving and exhausting. And yes, it is so very humbling.  Prayers for you in the trenches.

  • I have spirited kiddos, and a minor adrenalin disorder myself. It’s a horrid combo. I am constantly refocusing and finding new tactics. I have learned a few things that have helped me with the two and I hope to carry over to more one day. It sounds like you’re really doing awesom, but if another perspective helps, I’d like to offer it. this is a long one. sorry.

    I’m trying to practice honest parenting, and i think that is how you build trust – which is so important throughout their lives. If i snap, or am short or extra grumpy – I apologize. I ensure that i don’t lose my authority, but i am honest about my lapses in good behavior. Claire is almost 4 and is a smart cookie. She is aware that grown ups can overreact and has a decent sense of justice.

    I do for myself what i am teaching her. I have always had trouble with impulse control which is the phase Claire is in. We do a lot of pausing, getting down on her level, counting, getting a change of scenery. when I am having a hard time, I take my own advice and take a few moments. I or we pray, sing, read, count. something to calm the mommy. Claire and I will even talk openly about it. “Mommy is grumpy, what should we do?” we’ll sing, we’ll talk about what helps her to calm down, she likes to say a prayer for me, we put on music and dance a little…

    Schedules are great, but sometimes they break down. You need a game plan for those times. We have an ideal night night routine. We rarely get all the things in, but some are almost-always-happens. Tub time every night – this relaxes them and corrals them at the same time. I don’t use soap every night because they have tender skin, but a warm rinse (especially after texas sweat) is a good thing. But we also have times when all hell breaks loose and nothing happens. In those instances we put a priority on happy, hopefully calm. I send daddy to bed, I turn out most of the lights, and we lay out a sleeping bag and pillows. We’re all in jammies and read or talk on the floor, with popcorn or popsicles, maybe a short kids show. Then we’ll all cuddle on the couch together and go to sleep (kiddos moved to bed soon after). This often means a late night, but if the household is crazy stressed and hollering, it was probably going to be a late night anyway. The point is, other options may be available that preserve the calm.

    I can snap and get short very easily, and the best thing for me has been to observe this same issue in other parents – like my hubby. when he is stressed he doesn’t have the patience and I get a different view. Seeing it from the outside in has helped me to develop rules for myself. I try to always speak lovingly. Even when i’m very frustrated, just having this as a “rule” makes it more likely to happen. and I try to remember that very often, the kids behavior is not their fault. Often it’s mine for not covering all the bases. This gives me a perspective and makes me less likely to “blame” them for a frustrating situation. I answer every question and let Claire talk when she insists (she gets a bit single minded), correcting her immediately afterwards about interrupting and the polite way to do so. The answering questions thing has been amazing. We are almost programmed to get annoyed at the “why, why, why,” but just taking the time to answer all the questions rather than trying to get them to stop, has cut down and drama and frustration. Also – Claire knows that I will answer her questions regularly, so if i can’t it must be for a good reason.

    I remember H.A.L.T. It’s a tool addicts use, but totally applies to toddlers and parents. In the situation, is anyone Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired? Addressing those issues can resolve or greatly abate the problem and get everything back on track, before it gets out of control.

    I remember that this is such a short window of time, and so worth the investment, despite the frustration. Sometimes all we have to offer is some broth, but how warm and satisfying is a simple broth from a loving mother.

  • Good, holy, and loving Mothers are changing to world one diaper at a time.  St Anne and St. Joachim pray for our families

  • Melanie, I’m so sorry things are so trying right now. I’ve been assuming that the chaos at our house has been caused by all the upheaval of the past few months and will subside once things settle and get a little “normal.” It frightens me it could be just as chaotic without a move and too much screen time.

    I am 1 chapter away from finishing the Duggar’s second book and in it Michelle recounts when she thought she’d loose it. And she did the same thing – prayed for help and praised Him. The next day she discovered a friend of hers loved to do laundry and offered to help. It may have been humbling, but she accepted help in the form God sent it. I know it can feel like being a failure. I know too well. I sometimes half-joke that there must be an award for having all four children crying at the same time. You are their mother. You want to be so much for each and every one of them and your own limitations seem like failures because you can’t. Maybe that is part of the lesson they are learning: that while their parents are so much for them, they aren’t everything but God is and He is there for them in many ways. Your sister is not only an answer to your prayer for help but also another window through which Ben can see God’s love. I think it is hard for any mother to not be everything for each of their children. I know it is for me. But maybe it is God’s way of drawing us and them to Himself by making us all realize that we are not physically capable of being everything for each other.

    Just a few over-tired, over-stressed, needing-to-get-to-confession thoughts. God bless you.

  • Sorry for the typo, is the above comment should read “are changing The world……” which is a quote from Kimberly Hahn.