ChangingDad

Making the most of a new life

Powerless in Yorkshire II

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So the problems with the electricity were soon fixed and I re-composed myself for the rest of my weekend with the boys. We had a relaxing day on the Sunday doing nothing in particular, and then I had a good day with Sam on Monday while Jake was at school.

By Monday evening, though, I was shattered and the events of the weekend were catching up on me, and I was starting to recognise the old signs of sleep deprivation and the general crankiness that goes with it. As a result bedtime did not go well.

I was desperate for the boys to go to bed because I needed both sleep and a little time to myself before achieving that. I think that it was because of this, I probably pushed bedtime earlier than I should have, I also think that the boys spotted my desperation and saw it as an opportunity to buy some time, and get some attention as well. They were all over the place, running round the house, opening the blinds, jumping in and on each other beds, and generally creating mayhem. It was the first time that I felt that a situation with them had gone completely out of control and I had no idea how to get it back, and no backup. I felt powerless and I really did not like it.

After what seemed like an age, and after an awful lot of shouting, things finally began to settle down; but I felt really bad. Bad because I had got so angry, bad because I had felt powerless, and bad because I was too tired to feel good. I also knew that this bedtime may have set a precedent for future evening, and I really needed some sort of strategy to, what I saw at the time, wrest control back.

Now, as regular readers will know, bedtime is something of a recurring theme here (see ‘Bedtime hour’ and ‘Ok, so I was wrong’); and is an issue for most parents at one time or another, often for the reasons I have described already. So once Karen came back I was able to think more coherently about how I coped with what did become a recurring theme of boisterous bedtimes.

The answer was something that was surprising to me, and taught me something about my need to control every situation. I got the boys to the point where they were ready to get into bed and…I did nothing. I just sat on the floor of their bedroom, head bowed (I eventually did this because Sam thought it would be a great wheeze to lick my nose and it made me laugh), and I just let the storm rage around me; and after a while it blew itself out and the boys declared themselves ready for bed.

I did the same thing the following night and, starved of the oxygen of attention, the boys quickly decided that that particular game was not fun anymore and quickly settled down. I have to say that I was elated. Completely surprised, but elated.

Since then bedtimes have settled down again, and if there are any shenanigans they are met with indifference from me.

Do not ask me why this works at bedtime and not any other time of the day (when it would be far less appropriate to ignore the boys), but I am just happy that, for now, it does.

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One thought on “Powerless in Yorkshire II

  1. Hey, whatever works! It’s a strategy I often apply to varying degrees – sometimes the best way to deal with a fire is to let it die down on its own.

    Your point about your kids recognising your mood and capitalising on it rings a definite bell. I’m always amazed at how tuned in to my mood all my kids are. They sense when you’re desperate to do (or not do) something, and they are utterly ruthless in exploiting it. I make a big effort to portray an air of Zen-like calm in such situations – I don’t always succeed – but when it works it really works. My wife struggles to contain her emotions as easily, and I’ve seen the boys in particular play her like a guitar in some circumstances. (They do the same to me when I’m not on my game too.)

    Painful though the experience is, there’s no substitute for having to devise your own coping strategies. I’m going through the same at the moment – day 3 of 9 with no mummy – and what I’m finding is that I’m gaining the confidence to use a mix of my wife’s methods and my own different approaches to see myself through this extended absence. If she’d been here, I definitely wouldn’t have stretched myself so hard. Hopefully I’ll come out of this as a better – and more confident – dad.

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