* An overtired Hercules

Fatigue is hard on little Hercules. Witness our interaction last night:

After dinner he finished a movie he started earlier, and then he needed something to do. It's still too early for bedtime, so I suggest that he pick out a book to read to me.

"What about my snack?" he asks hopefully.

"I'll get you one after you read to me. You can't read with food in your mouth."

His whole body droops and he wails in protest. I shrug. "OK then, I'll just finish folding laundry until you're ready for bed. It won't be long."

He tries getting online, but I cut him off. He's been home with Pa all day and he's had plenty of computer time. He continues to fuss and groan and beg for a snack. I continue folding clothes.

"I'm not getting a book, you know!"

"If you say so, Rio."

"I don't want to read a book! Why can't you read a book to ME?"

"OK, sure, after you read to me, I will."

"OOOOOH! FINE! I'll get a BOOK!"

He scuffles along, dragging his feet for effect. But by the time he returns he is waving a book at me excitedly.

"I found Word Bird!"

"Adventures with short 'a'! Perfect!"

We sit on the couch together and I circle my arms around him so I can pat him and squeeze him for encouragement. He sails through the book with ease, and only once do I offer him a hint. I'm very pleased. I praise him lots and then tell him to pick out a book for me to read to him while I get his snack. I fill a cup with his favorite: cheez-its (well, store brand, but he's not picky) and I hide a mini chocolate bar in the bottom for a surprise.

He brings me "Yes, No, Little Hippo" and he munches away happily while I read it to him. He is, of course, thrilled to discover the chocolate, too. When the story is over I direct him to the bathroom to brush his teeth and go potty. He wants a drink of water of first.

Unfortunately, drinking before bedtime is a big no-no. Rio still wears pull-ups to bed at night, and even with that precaution he fills them to overflowing so that at least once or twice or week I'll have to change a wet bed. Consequently, drinks before bedtime are strongly discouraged. However, Rio did just finish a snack of salty crackers so I was feeling a wee bit sympathetic, but still reluctant, so I offered this suggestion:

"You know, brushing your teeth will make your mouth feel a whole lot better. How about you try that first and then if you're still thirsty you can have a little drink."

Well that didn't go over like I hoped. In fact, he burst into tears and commenced to wailing with new ferocity. I took him into the kitchen and tried to gently persuade him to quiet down so we could talk about it and reach an agreement. I tried, I really did, to get through to him between his wails and moans that hey, I don't really care if you have that drink before you brush your teeth. But having a dry bed is something we really need to work on and if I give you a drink it's going to be a very small one. Unfortunately I was getting nowhere so finally I just hollered over him:

"I'll give you a drink of water already if you'll just BE QUIET AND LISTEN TO ME!"

That worked. So I repeated my previous line of reasoning, then filled a cup with just a few mouthfuls of water and handed it to him. He promptly threw it on the floor. More wailing.

Deep breaths. In. Out. Slooooowly.

I hand him a towel and instruct him every so nicely to wipe the floor. His wails rise in pitch and volume. I say, OK, just go to bed then.

"NO!" More bawling.

"Then you need to clean up your mess."

He protests loudly but he does it, grudgingly half-ass but better than nothing. Then I ask him if he still wants a drink. He does, but he wants a lot more. I tell him he can take what I give him or nothing at all. He accepts it with a scowl. Then he storms off toward the bathroom. I ask him to please pick up the towel he used and put it in the dirty clothes.

"OOOOOH! Why can't YOU do it?"

"I didn't make that mess, you did that."

"STUPID! You're just STUPID!"

Oh man, I don't like that word. Stupid and shut up are two (well, three) words that I don't tolerate in my house. I go for a swift and severe punishment: I smack him on the mouth. Not hard, but he wails all the same. Then I turn around and leave him alone in the bathroom. Standing in the kitchen, I am overcome with regret. That was too much of a reaction to bad behavior, better to just ignore it. But hey, I'm on a learning curve here. Cut me some slack, it's been a rough night. And what would your mother do if you called her stupid? I thought so.

I am defensive though and it's because I know I could have handled it better. Lesson learned. Move on. Rio is done in the bathroom and now I follow him into his bedroom. He's still scowling but he'll be down for the night soon. That's the light at the end of this tunnel.

Not so fast, says Hercules. In his room he goes into a tirade about how STUPID he is for committing some past offense. Strange, this. He's crumpling before my eyes and I just want to comfort him. I try but he rejects me. Instead he announces that he is NOT READY TO SLEEP despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I ignore his protests.

"This shirt is dirty, let me help you out of it."

"I'M NOT GOING TO BED!"

"How about your pirate shirt? You want to wear that tonight?"

"I'M NOT GOING TO BED!"

"Let me go get it out of the clean clothes. I'll be right back."

"I'M NOT GOING TO BED!"

When I return he is on his bed, sitting cross-legged. I help him into his shirt while he continues his objections, but the volume is diminishing.

"I'm not going to sleep unless you go to sleep with me!"

"I'm not ready for bed yet, Rio, I still have chores to do. Come here, I'll give you some love before bed."

I tried to embrace him but he fought me and started yelling at me with renewed vehemence, so I pulled away. I got up and went to the door and turned out the light. He screamed, "NO, DON'T LEAVE ME!"

"Well, Rio, I don't want to leave you. I want to love you and snuggle with you. But you wanted to fight with me and scream at me. If you want me to stay then you can't fight and scream, OK?"

"OK."

So I climbed into bed beside him and he snuggled up to me. I held him and stroked his hair and told him how sweet and clever he is, and how whenever I think of him my heart gets a little tickle that always makes me smile. As I soothed him with my words he wrapped both his arms around my neck and clutched me tightly. Soon he was snoring in my ear, but it took a little longer for his arms to relax their grip. Before I pried myself loose, I laid there with him for a few minutes, soaking up the tranquility. And I silently pleaded with God to bless him. Just bless him. And thank you, God. Thank you for this.

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