Monday, January 10, 2011

Bedtime: A Play in Three Acts

Cast: Mom, Dad, Rachael (nearly seven), Milly (just turned three)

Setting: upstairs of the family home, consisting of three bedrooms - one for Mom and Dad and one for each child.

Act One: Rachael

Mom: (coming out of first bedroom) Honey, would you put Milly to bed, please? I'm going to read with Rachael. (holds up book that she and Rachael have been reading together for several nights)

Dad: Sure. Come on, Milly! Give Mommy hugs and kisses and let's go say your prayers.

Rachael: NO, Milly is going to sleep with ME tonight!

Mom: No, let her sleep in her own room so we can read on your new bed for a change!

Rachael: NO, we already planned for her to sleep with meeee!

Mom: Okay then. (puts book down, tired of the arguing after a day full of the same)

Rachael: NOOOOOOO, don't put the book down! Please read to me! Please! Please! Please! (follows Mom to kitchen, whining and begging)

Mom: I told you, Rachael - I'm tired of you arguing over every single thing that I say to you. I was going to read to you, you argued. You can go to bed and read a book to yourself instead. We'll read tomorrow night.

Rachael: Noooooooooooooooo, no no no no no! Please! Please read tonight! Please will you read to me tonight?

Mom: No. Go get in bed.

Rachael: I will! I'll go get in bed! If I go get in bed, will you read?

Mom: I already said no.

Rachael: PLEASE read tonight! PLEASE! (not getting in bed)

Mom: You. are. not. listening. to. me. Go. get. in. bed.

Rachael: I'm gooooooooooo-ing! But will you read when I get in bed?

(Five minutes later...Milly is tucked into bed and Rachael is still sitting on top of hers, not having moved her stuffed animals or pulled the blankets back. Mom goes into bedroom to tuck Rachael in.)

Rachael: (incomprehensible whining and sobbing)

Mom: (gives up and waits in hall for Dad)

Dad: (heading into Rachael's room) What's going on in here?!

Rachael: (whine, cry, sob) Mommy won't read to meeeeee!

Dad: (explains for the hundredth time just why Mom isn't reading)

Rachael: Well then, can I watch a movie? (Yes, Rachael has a TV in her room. No cable, DVD player only. Yes, she is sometimes allowed to watch a movie at bedtime - depending on behavior, the next day's events, etc.)

Dad: No! You've argued with Mommy all day. Where's your book light? You can read until you're ready to go to sleep.

Rachael: (catches second wind, has similar crying/whining/sobbing fit over not being allowed a movie)

Dad: (turns off light and heads for door)

Rachael: (screaming) I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Please, can I read my book? Please! Please! Please!

Dad: (turns light back on) Where is your book light?

Rachael: I don't know. (makes no move to look for the light, although the room is clean and she just had it beside her bed this morning.)

Dad: (picks up book light, lying in plain sight) Here. Put it on your book so I can turn off the light.

Rachael: Pleeeeeeease can I watch a movie?

Mom: (exits to hallway, taking deep breaths)

Dad: (attaches book light FOR her, gives her book, leaves the room and closes the door)

Rachael: (muffled sobs from behind closed door)

Act Two: Milly

(Immediately upon closing of Rachael's door, another door pops open down the hall. Milly emerges, grinning.)

Milly: I want to sleep with Sissy tonight!

Dad: (not about to reward Rachael's rotten behavior that way) No, go back to your bed, sweetie.

Milly: (cries, stomps back into her room, slams door)

Mom: (stands paralyzed in hallway, wondering how her children turned into bedtime brats, feels as though rising blood pressure will surely result in explosion of head momentarily)

Dad: I'll handle this. (heads into Milly's room, stays for a few moments, makes all right in Milly's little world)

Act Three: Repeat

(After approximately five minutes of relative silence from both rooms, both doors open nearly simultaneously.)

Rachael: (still sobbing softly) I just wanted to give Mommy hugs and kisses! (again - this is a popular ploy for escaping from her room after bedtime)

Milly: I still want to sleep with Sissy.


Mom: (opens laptop and looks for nearby military school that will accept 3- and 7-year-old girls)


* * * * *

Okay, perhaps I'll stick with my day job, as I obviously won't be hired and paid outrageous sums to write plays anytime soon. But seeing as this has become a typical night for us, I thought I'd share some of the drama here.

I'm really having some issues with Rachael lately, and this proves (to myself, if no one else) that I am nowhere close to being a perfect mom, for if I were, surely my child would not behave like such a spoiled brat. She'll argue nearly anything that I say to her...whine and beg and plead when she's denied a privilege...and keep up the theatrics no matter how many times she's told no and reminded why things are happening the way that they are. She seems to think that saying "I'm sorry" or "I'll stop arguing" means that we should immediately rescind punishment, faithful that she will be nothing but perfectly angelic from that moment on.

She will be seven next month. She was a perfect little angel until she was about 4 1/2. Did becoming a big sister ruin her for life? I'm beginning to think that that may be the case. Does that excuse her behavior? Absolutely not.

She has never blatantly shown jealousy toward her little sister. She never asked to send her back when she was a baby, never hit or pinched or otherwise tortured her. She was remarkably patient with her while she learned to crawl and then walk, even when she toddled toward a beloved toy. "No, no," Rachael would tell her gently. "This is Sissy's toy - but you can play with this one instead!" They adored each other. And most of the time, they still do.

But Rachael can't stand for anything to not be 100% fair...unless, of course, the advantage is her own. If Milly is given a treat, Rachael expects one too. If Milly gets scared at night and crawls into bed with me, Rachael whines that she doesn't get to come too. (No room, kiddo!) If Milly sits on Gene's lap, Rachael thinks she needs to sit on the other leg. I'm not sure where this has come from, exactly...we certainly don't dote on Milly and force Rachael, Cinderella-like, to scrub the floors while the rest of the family frolics elsewhere. They're both loved, both read to and played with and cared for.

And I am at my wit's end with her. She knows how to behave, she knows not to argue, not to whine and beg when we've told her "no", she knows not to yell at her little sister and not to whine and complain when it's time to do math...but she does these things anyway, and regularly. We've scolded, we've done "time out" and "time in" and removed privileges (which, of course, means that "it's not fair" when Milly gets to do something that Rachael is currently prohibited from doing, regardless of the reason.) She's written sentences, she's been reasoned with and talked to and yelled at. She's even been spanked. Nothing changes the behavior.

I may be a great mom in some ways, but I clearly suck at discipline.

Although I would in no way describe either of my children as "out of control" - after all, they typically exhibit lovely behavior in public - I have to wonder why nothing seems to encourage good behavior at home.

If you separate them, they are lovely children. Sweet and happy and just a joy to be around. Together, though, they are (at least half of the time) simply horrible. Which wouldn't be such a problem except for the fact that they are always together - and I am always right there with them.

My lack of ability to just stop their ridiculous whining is wearing on me. More and more often, I have to go into a separate room and stay there until I calm down enough to be around them again. They make me so angry, and I turn it all back on myself. WHY do they do this? WHY do they argue, WHY do they fight, WHY don't they understand that NO means NO? It must be MY fault...I haven't taught them well enough. I thought I had. It seems like they know, sometimes. When they WANT to. Why can't I make them behave ALL the time? Do other peoples' children behave like this? If they do, they sure ain't blogging about it or bragging about it on Facebook.

I am burned out on the Mommy thing. I daydream about booting them into public school and daycare and going back to work. The only thing that keeps it from becoming reality is that I know, rationally, that they are so much better off at home. (For now. If they keep doing backflips on my last frayed nerve, that could very well change.) I would give a kidney for a few days away from them...both kidneys, if they would just be sweet children again after the separation, rather than constantly going at each other like rabid badgers.

I shouldn't want to be away from them so badly. And, cue more mommy guilt - what kind of mom just wants away from her kids?! Not very June Cleaver-ish, is it? June always had milk and cookies and hugs for her boys, not to mention all of the answers to every problem. Her children also went away to school all day, leaving her to her own devices while Ward was at work. Sounds pretty wonderful to me right now.

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