March 2, 2012

Mother Genius

OK, I am ready to brag today.  Against all my own advice never to brag about something I’ve accomplished as a parent, because my kids always prove me wrong—right when I have established victory.  But today I am feeling so good, I just can’t help myself.  I know you’re expecting something extraordinary, so I won’t keep you waiting another moment. 

For the last 3 to 3.5 years, my youngest son has had the displeasure of having to go to sleep each night.  sticker armIt’s been hard for him to sleep whilst it is possible that something might happen that he might miss.  And really it’s nothing. 

There are no circuses or ice cream trucks or children being taken to the toy stores in the middles of the night, not where we live anyway.  But still, he has the distinct feeling of missing out each and every night.  And no matter how many times we prove there is nothing lost, the feeling remains. 

Many a morning my pale-faced child has awoken looking as if he has painted himself white.  He will go to sleep late, no matter what time we put him to bed.  And he will wake up early, although his body begs him to sleep.  And I worry.  I know this trait well.  I, too, hate to miss out on anything that might happen while I sleep.  I hate to go to sleep, and I too awaken pale and tired because of this affliction.  And I hope to give him a more rich view of sleep so at my age he awakens bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  He will not have the glory of make-up to make his rough days look lighter and brighter as he ages.  I do. 

And so I have tried various methods of both positive reinforcement and punishment to help him learn that bedtime is not negotiation time or “hide your toys under the comforter” time.  And the other night, after a day working at the preschool, I tried a sticker. 

What?  No music or fanfare or loud shouts of awe at my idea? 

The holy grail of positive reinforcement—the sticker?  But it seemed too simple. 

Alas, it worked.  I told my son I would put a sticker of his choice on his arm if he was able to fall asleep in 20 minutes at bedtime (instead of 2 hours and three negotiation sessions later).  He did it!  How many times?  Three days now!  What?!  The answer to my problem is a sticker!?  Cue music of your own!  Sing a freaking song!  My life and possibly yours has reached a new level of zen if this works often!

You’re welcome and yes, the power is astounding.  It’s as if I’ve reached parenting guru status, right?!  Offer a damn sticker!  And each morning, I see GLEE on my son’s face as I show him the sticker I placed on his arm in his sleep the night before.  I may buy myself a new pair of shoes today for being so clever, so innovative, so maternal! 

And mommy and daddy time each evening?  Well, it’s quiet and rich and relaxing.  And yes, I will suffer affliction for bragging, for boasting that I have understood something about parenting, about children, about anything.  But so be it.  I shall own it for this moment! 

Here’s hoping my son doesn’t find my website and read this tonight.  That would totally suck.