We’ve been lucky. Cheeky Chap has always been a pretty easy child for the most part. He’s generally a happy, chilled and polite child. Oh sure, we’ve had our challenges but I’m sure they’ve always been short-lived. We have never really had any bedtime battles since he was a toddler.
Even through the so-called Terrible Twos, Troublesome Threes, Fearsome Fours and mine and the husband’s separation I don’t think we did too badly. The eight-year-old though…? He’s a whole different ball game.
For the first time in my parenting life, shortly before the summer holidays, my son’s behaviour drove me to tears.
It was bedtime. Bedtimes in the last few months have become a little more tricky than before. Again, we’ve been lucky in that the vast majority of the time, since he started to self settle around three years old, Cheeky Chap has gone to bed easily. In the last six months, it’s been all change.
Most nights, Cheeky Chap will get up a few times, beginning just a few minutes after sending him to bed. He will come into the front room and declare that he is unable to sleep. I will send him back to bed and this will happen several times over. Then I hit upon the idea of letting him read in bed. Even so, he will still get up a couple of times, I will threaten that if he gets up again there will be consequences, then he will give up.
Then one night
A few months ago, there was this night. This was different. I couldn’t even get him to go to bed, much less stay in bed.
After an afternoon and early evening of normality, spending a bit of time together, doing some homework a switch was flipped in Cheeky Chap. Every single aspect of bedtime was a battle, from turning the PlayStation off, reading together, getting into his PJs, a final drink and/or snack and brushing his teeth. Everything was a battle. When it came to brushing his teeth, I started to lose control. I shouted. I pleaded. I invoked a screen ban for 48 hours, for a week. Laughter followed (and not from me). Eventually we made it to the wet room where he promptly turned the shower on and aimed it at me. The rest of the evening passes in a blur. A haze of begging and pleading. At some point I burst into tears, thinking he had stayed in bed but he came in saw me crying. And laughed again.
In that moment, I realised I did not recognise this child as my own.
I actually found it really difficult to like him. Of course I still loved him more than life itself but my happy-go-lucky, fun loving, polite child had been replaced by someone else.
I sent the husband a long rambling text, telling him the events of that evening. He called, in the middle of a busy service, spoke to Cheeky Chap and with that, he went off to bed declaring he hated his life.
It’s an evening I wouldn’t like to repeat, but I’m sure that there will be more. There’s been one since, very similar, although not quite as bad. Behaviour in general has been somewhat testing. He’s always been a little sensitive but seems even more so now. Whereas he used to get upset at things, he now also gets angry and moody. If someone says he said or did something, he can be absolutely adamant he didn’t, to the point of crying. If he doesn’t get his own way, he will fill up with rage, slamming doors and stomping around.
Parents of babies bemoan the lack of sleep. Parents of tweens question the boundaries to have in place. Those that have teens are navigating the waters of options, further education, alcohol and relationships. And parents of adult children have their own worries too!
The truth is, parenting is a job that is never finished. Each and every stage of life brings it’s own highs and lows. And for the majority of us, the highs outweigh the lows.
It’s the most challenging and emotional job in the world. But you know what? I really wouldn’t change it for the world. Even if some nights, I do wish he’d just go the *&^% to sleep.