Not My Finest Hour


If you’re a parent – especially if you’re a stay-at-home parent – you know all about it.

Naptime is a brief sanctuary of time that provides much needed minutes of solitude and silence. Although the kids don’t realize it, we all need this restful reprieve from each other. It gives each of us a much needed time out for rest and quiet and leaves us better equipped to handle family togetherness in the evening.

But, family is made up of imperfect people. And so sometimes, naptime does not go how I want or need it to.

Wednesday was one of these days.

I had a lot to do on Wednesday. I had just photographed three families over the weekend and was in the middle of a photo-editing blitz. My email inbox was absolutely bursting with unanswered email and no matter how much I tried to get a handle on it, it just continued to pile up (sorry if you’re waiting for an email from me. I promise you will hear from me. I just can’t promise when you’ll hear from me). Mess was building up on its own around me while I tried to focus on doing work instead of housework. I was looking forward to naptime so that I could maybe, possibly put a dent into my growing to-do list.

I should know by now that nothing goes smoothly when you really need it to.

Gavin was tired. Cameron was hyper.

We started our regular routine. Everyone got cleaned up from lunch. Diapers were changed. Books were read. Superheroes jumped off beds (sigh). Both boys laid together on the toddler’s bed while I sang one song. Then two. Kisses. Hugs. Goodnights. And then the baby and I were off to get him settled down.

Cameron napping

As I walked past Cameron’s bedroom after finally getting his baby brother down to sleep, I hear: “Mama? It’s me! Cameron O’Rourke! OPEN THA DOOR, Mama!” I know better than to indulge. Going into his room just means that the whole sleep process needs to be restarted and it pushes back the possibility of him actually falling asleep. But the longer I didn’t go in to see him, the louder and the whinier her got. Finally, I went in… but I was not happy about it.

“Cameron! It is sleep time. You need to be in bed now. And you need to be quiet. Gavin is sleeping. Just rest. Please!

I left the room, but nothing got better.

With all the commotion coming out of the big boy’s room, the baby woke up – tired, fussy, and angry that he wasn’t asleep.

My patience snapped. I had felt it being pulled thin and tight, like an old, cracked and dry elastic band. In retrospect I should have expected it to snap. I should have taken a moment and calmed myself down so that I could be the mother my children need. But that’s what naptime was supposed to be for – resetting. And naptime wasn’t happening.

I threw open his bedroom door. BANG! You have just woken Gavin up! You need to get into bed NOW! I grabbed his arm. I dragged him to bed. He started crying. “I scared, Mama. I scared how you talk to me.”

Yup. Not my finest hour.

After nursing Gavin enough to realize he would not go back to sleep, I began to understand that naptime was going to be a total bust for everyone. I opened Cameron’s door and let a tear-stained toddler out of his room.

“Mama. I all done crying now. You not mad anymore?” What could I say? How about “No. I’m still mad, Cameron. You didn’t sleep. Naps are important. And because of you, no one got one.”

Sigh. I’m actually the worst Mom there ever was.

A few minutes later, Cameron came up to me. “I not sleep Mama. You got upset.” My little boy – my precious little first born – was trying to make things right between us. He was stepping up. He was protecting our relationship.

“I think what you’re trying to say is ‘Sorry for not sleeping.’ Is that right, buddy?”

“Sawwy not sleepin’ Mama.” I gave him a hug and sighed. “I forgive you. Thank you for apologizing.” Thank goodness. Lesson learned. I’m raising a good little boy. Gold star for this Mama!

Oh, how wrong I was. Oh, how much I failed my boy that day.

We all make mistakes. Parenting is tough work. We need time outs and breaks and sometimes, especially when we get to the end of our rope. Our children aren’t perfect. They will misbehave. And yes, it is good for them to learn that their misbehaviour hurts those closest to them. It is good for them to try to make things right.

But it is also on us to control how we react to our children. It is on us to have our behaviour in check. It is on us to apologize when we do something wrong. It is my responsibility to teach my children how to act in all situations, even when things don’t go our way. And it is my responsibility to show my boys that I too am a flawed individual, that my behaviour isn’t always exemplary.

After getting his brother to sleep that night, I tiptoed into Cameron’s darkened room. As I straightened out his blankets and tucked him in, I talked to him about our day. “You know how Mama got upset because you didn’t nap today, Buddy? Mama wasn’t very nice, and I am very sorry. I scared you, and I am really sorry. Mama loves you, Cameron. With all of my heart. You are my boy and you are important to me. I never ever want to hurt you, and I am sorry that I did today.”

I screwed up on Wednesday. Royally. Yes, I hope Cameron took a few lessons out of that day. But, more than anything, I hope I learned a few lessons myself.

What is your most recent parenting regret?

Do You Need More Reassurance That I’m Not Perfect? Read On!

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