Ever say something to your child that you wished you could take back? And then in the same thought, considered that maybe you shouldn’t take it back because kids need to understand the reality of life as much as they need to learn how to tie their shoelaces or wipe their own bums?
I had one of those moments tonight.
I was putting my daughter to bed and she wanted me to read her another book. All I could think of was all the work I had piled up on my desk downstairs. Before I could stop myself, I told her exactly what I was thinking—Mommy has a ton of work to do and I just don’t have time to sit here and read books all night.
Ugh. I think my words hurt me more than they hurt her. So I back peddled a bit—Maybe Daddy can read you another book while Mommy goes downstairs and finishes up her work so we can spend more time together tomorrow?
She seemed content with that. I slipped into my son’s room where Daddy was putting Little Brother to bed and quietly asked my husband to read our daughter a bedtime story. He nodded his agreement and I slipped out of the room.
On my way back past my daughter’s room, I stuck my head in to say goodnight and she asked me why I couldn’t read her another book. I explained again that I had work to do and that it was getting late so, really, there was only time for one book anyway, but that Daddy had agreed to read one more short book to her.
The questions continued—But why is it too late? I can sleep in tomorrow morning and then I’ll get enough sleep. (She’s quite good at reasoning.)
So I told her that we have to get up early tomorrow and every day thereafter so that we would be used to getting up early when school starts next week. There are only a few days left of summer and, therefore, only a few days left to get over our sleeping-in patterns that we developed over the lazy summer days.
She looked at me very seriously, then asked, “Summer’s almost over?” and I started to regret having told her any of that. She looked so disappointed. (This is her first summer as a school kid, so from here on in the precious days of summer will become like gold to her. Until now, she has not had to deal with that reality. I swear I can still feel my own disappointment as the last rays of summer disappeared into a starry night on the eve of the first day of school.)
But that’s it. I didn’t say anything damaging to her. Nothing that will send her to a shrink as an adult because Mommy ruined her childhood with statements of the way things are. But I question myself nonetheless.
Should I shelter my children from the reality that is work and school and schedules? Or should I have done what I did and told it to her straight—Mommy has to work, so I can’t fit one more bedtime story in tonight. And besides, you need to get to sleep because it’s late and we have to reset our internal clocks to be ready for school next week.
Is there a right way or a wrong way? What do you do with your kids?