Sometimes, I feel like I’m on the edge and walking a tightrope. The stress builds as I watch my son slowly become overwhelmed by his environment. Like a full cup, I know by simple observation when he is about to overflow. Recently, this happens in the evening when we are all tired.
Simple solution? Well, just turn off the lights, put on soft music and put him to bed. Ha! I say to you. Ha! The Energizer Bunny is just rev’ing up. When I try (and I do – every single night) to put him to bed, he twists and turns, laughs and talks. He tells me about all the things he wants (“Want Mommy’s phone”, “Gonna play Smart Cycle” “Wanna play Wii” “Wanna play Pac-Man”, “Wanna cookie”). And yes, all but the cookie are electronic games. It’s a phase. The wants may not be very different than any other kid. But then, he gets up. He jumps on the bed. Yes, I instruct him to get down. He listens. Then, he slips off the bed. I have to chase him down and tell him to get back to bed. He comes back.
Then, I read a story. But, this is not the lovely picture of the mommy and the child, looking at the pictures, softly reading a book together. This is me telling my kid to scoot over on the bed so I can sit next to him. The kid has enough bed real estate to rent out a portion, but must huddle directly at the edge where I intend to sit and read. Then, once the seating arrangement is adjusted, I must read loud enough to be heard over this little guy’s loud self-talk. He will roll around. Talk to himself, giggle, rustle, kick, and toss. Usually, his feet end up in my face. And the talking. Just because I say he is talking to himself does not mean it’s a whisper.
Perhaps, when we told him to speak up for his grandparents, he mistook this for loudly sharing everything in his head. His self-talk is a series of repetitions of things he has read on a video game or heard on a TV show. It is accompanied by his eyes gazing up and to the left or right like he’s pondering something, with a tilt of his head. “YOU ran out-of-time.” “Green!” “Mommy, say, “Green light”, “You won!” “Did you win, Mommy?”. This sentence will be repeated another 25 times while I continue reading the story and ignoring his words.
Occasionally, he will chime in, appropriately, during the story. For example, “What animal is that mommy?” This is satisfying at a glance. But, in reality, most of the time, appearing appropriate is a coincidence. The other night the story was about a hedgehog. He heard “hedgehog” and thought of his Sonic the Hedgehog Wii video racing game. Then, I got the question, “Is that a hedgehog?” several more times, followed by “That’s a hedgehog” and “Wanna play the racing game” culminating with “Turn the steering wheel”. Any hope of getting him to go to bed after story time is futile.
I get up every morning at 5 a.m. This is when I do a great deal of chores and exercise on a stationary bike. I do all this so I can have peace while my son sleeps. By the time he engages in his nightly going to bed refusals, it is between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. and I finally get him into bed by 11- midnight. You see, he has cornered me when I am absolutely exhausted from the day.
And, yeah, at these exhausting moments, in order to avoid the emotional breakdowns, I sometimes, give in. I wave the white flag. I’m a sucker and a wuss. I let him do whatever activity he has requested. I let him play with a toy on the bed. I stay with him. My eyes start to get heavy. My head feels heavy and sometimes, without realizing, I fall asleep.
When I wake up, he’s next to me, eyes closed, fast asleep, toy next to him. I get up, cover him and put the toy away. After all, I have to do this all over again, in what? Five hours?! Where’s that white flag again?