Solo Bedtime: A Parent's Nemesis

It's 7pm and my daughter has brushed her teeth, had a bath, released her hair from its braided prison and had precisely half a sip of water. She's read a chapter of her current storybook and is just settling down in her bed to go to sleep.

She would like me to stroke her hair and sit beside her in the quiet darkness, as she drifts off to dream land, but I am otherwise engaged.

Enter Crazy Baby.

My baby boy is crawling all over his sister, in a valiant attempt to chew as many pages of her book as she just diligently read through.  Ricocheting from frantic hand clapping to Houdini-inspired 'safe zone' escapism...he is turning this bedtime upside down and inside out with his cute-yet-destructive baby games.

"Mummy...I can't sleep!"

Understandably, my big girl is frustrated.  Yet given the option of a quiet bedtime without mama, versus a loud bedtime with mama and baby brother, the second option wins out every time.

There are of course nights where the stars are in complete alignment and baby drifts off to sleep at the breast, while I sit beside my daughter and actually have the chance to read to her. On these nights, when both children are asleep - one next to me and one in my arms - I feel like I could solve any problem, build any bridge and lift up the weariest of hearts.

Yet there are many nights when super mummy has well and truly left the building.  There are nights that I crumble. I'm exhausted and daddy is in some far off land and time zone.  I'm solo and failing and everyone ends up getting frustrated and anxious and staying awake.

And yet it's amazing how quickly things can change; from doom to alignment in the space of ten minutes.  Last night, for instance, I swear a freakin' miracle happened.

"Mummy...he's being too loud!"

A familiar complaint.  I did something, however, that I have never done before. I reached for my phone and clicked "play" on the first YouTube relaxation music I found.  I picked up baby and walked up and down, up and down in the dark.

Not another word was uttered.


Actual silence reigned as my daughter drifted off to dream land and my son simply pressed his baby face into my forehead and fell sleep.

Actually asleep.  Face to face, while I paced up and down, up and down, to the hypnotising sound of water trickling against a background of soft wind chimes.

I don't know if it was exhaustion or just sheer relief, but in that moment I noticed my eyes well up and a feeling of contentment pass over me. More than this: I felt gratitude.

Gratitude and I aren't the best of friends, I'll be honest. I have a very analytical brain and overthink feelings of gratitude are usually accompanied by thoughts requiring justification, evidence or negation.  But last night was different, as I simply absorbed the peace of the room.

Whether or not that scenario ever plays out again, at least I can say that for once, chaos transformed into calm and I actually stopped to notice.  Because bedtimes can be hard, but solo bedtimes can beat the composure out of even the most zen of parents.

So may the peace be with you, solo bedtime warriors...and if not, may you have YouTube at your fingertips.

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