Two of the words most kids don’t like to hear are: “It’s bedtime!”
If we would only let them, most children would probably be more than happy to play, read, snack well past midnight, and don’t like to be told that it’s time to hit the sack.
But as all good parents do, I try to keep my children’s bedtimes pretty fixed so that our daily routines of school-home-sleep aren’t disrupted too much.
In some families, you have your nightly rituals of reading a book or having a glass of warm milk before bed, but given our family’s schedule (dinner at grandparents on Mondays, enrichment class on Tuesdays, and church activities on Fridays and Saturdays, to name a few), we don’t really have a proper bedtime routine.
Still, there is one thing I try to do every single night before my boys go to bed, and that’s to give them a kiss and a cuddle, and say these three words:
“I love you.”
So simple, I know, but so easy to forget.
Especially if this comes after a long day of breaking up fistfights, soothing tantrums and coaching on their school work. And more so if any one of the above happened just before bedtime.
It’s tough on days when I’ve been worn thin by their whining and grumpy attitudes; it’s almost unthinkable when they’ve said or done things that pierce my heart with sorrow and bitterness.
But I need to say these three words as much as they need to hear them – especially on those difficult days.
I love you… even though you messed up.
I love you… and I’m sorry I messed up today.
I love you… even though I’m still angry about what you did or hurt by something you said.
I love you… even though you’re upset with me.
There have been those nights when one boy has a meltdown just before bedtime. Sometimes, the one who had a meltdown is me. Or some nights, it’s both of us.
One night, about three years ago, that was us. And I remember being so angry that I didn’t even want to say goodnight to my son, and sent him to bed crying into his pillow. I sat on my bed in my room and cried along with him, separately.
After a couple of hours of soul searching, I went into his room, and he was sound asleep, clutching his blanket tightly. I knew he had worn himself out from crying, and my heart broke.
It was a night I will never forget.
It’s not worth it, that holding on to anger for another day. It’s not worth the shame and regret and anxiety and heartache felt on both sides.
The next morning, I gave him a long tight hug when he awoke. “I’m sorry about last night.”
Ever since that night, I’ve made it a point to make things right before bedtime. Or at least, to say “I’m still mad about what happened, but I love you.”
In life, we will all make mistakes and hurt each other along the way, but our failures don’t define us – love will. I want my boys to know that. And I hope they will also remember this when they become parents one day.
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