Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Seth Noble Asks: A Nightly Ritual or Thorn in My Side

He's so handsome.  I think he is.  He is so good, too.  GOOD.  He has always wanted to do the right thing.   The obedient thing.  He has so many questions.  Questions of which I stumble in the answering.  

The girls were all tucked in.  It was 7:36 or so and Avery seemed to have fallen asleep to the quiet chatter of her older sisters.  They've learned that keeping their voices down upstairs means they'll keep the mama downstairs.  I marveled at the easiness of it.  Getting them in bed.  There were a few weak protests quickly drowned out by requests for goodnight kisses--the best kind.  

I walk out not quite shutting the door completely behind me and take the long walk down the stairs.  Dread filled my chest.  I turned the corner through the kitchen and the laundry room switching off lights that were brightening rooms for no one.  I leaned into his doorframe, familiar now with it's knobby spine in my arm.  It is here that we battle each night.

I effortfully spread sweetness all over my face letting it drip into my voice, "Seth!  Guess what time it is?"  His whole 7-and-a-half-year-old frame sinks.  "Time for bed! Hop! Hop!"  The inevitable (and anticipated) protest plus plead comes.  It is always different.

But I'm not finished with this track.
I just want to set up the rest of these dominoes.
I'm not tired.
But I'm starving!
I don't want to go to bed.

 "Okay, I'll set the timer for 5 minutes then right to bed, okay?"

The five minutes passes slowly and quickly.  It is never enough to ease him calmly into the covers.  Nothing would ever be enough.  Then it begins.

A slow watering of the eyes, giving them a good soak.  This breaks my heart but I am also instantly angry because it is the same each night.  Then breathtaking tears, many hand flops into his blankets.  Laying down and sitting up.

He is full of anxiety for this everyday event.  His explanation holds its own.  He doesn't have the answers, only the questions.  I hate going to bed.  It is so boring just laying here waiting to fall asleep.  Why can't I be asleep right when I lay down?  Why do I get frustrated?  I don't know how to stop crying.  This is the worst part of my life.  Why can't I just learn to do this?  

I sit beside him.  I lay next to him.  I hold him.  Or hug him.  Once, I stomped a foot.  I stand listening and answering.  The same listening and answering from yesterday and the day before that and all week long.  So much the same that the sameness of it forms a rock in my throat that I refuse to burst.  Because no one needs to add more tears to this watery bedtime.  

I am getting better at the answers.  Using the words that make them up to "low" and "gentle" my voice instead of raise and fan his flames.  

The ache comes after private tears in another room.  Sitting by the lamp.  Or the glow of my screen like now.  An ache at his pain.  Questions fill our lives.  Everything has its opposite.  Full and hungry.  Soft or angry.  Frustrated or placated.  Happy and sad.  After all his, I only have one left.  One question.

How do I teach someone else to choose to be happy?


sherrie said...

I'm a silent reader who loved this post and am finally willing to leave a comment - even though it feels weird to comment on a strangers' blog. I'm not a big blog reader...but I LOVE yours.

Anyway, I have four boys and I have an idea for you...recognizing that when a mother is worrying about something she most likely has already thought of all the ideas anyone could give her! I could not (NOT) survive night time with these four boys without books on cd. I check them out from the library and they look forward to this every night (saved only for bed time)- it helps them calm down and relax so that they can fall asleep easier...sometimes they fall asleep while listening which is great! Worth a shot?

I had a terrible time sleeping until I was 12 years old! I hope it doesn't last that long for Seth.

You're a GREAT mom and inspire me all the time.

iambetharoo said...

I am also a stranger...but I have an answer for your question, how do I teach someone else to choose to be happy? By example, of course!

sherrie said...

ps As for teaching someone that they have to choose to be happy? I have one that I'm trying and trying to teach that to...so please post if you figure it out!

Crystalyn said...

oh jordan, i'm crying here too. i know the ache. and the struggle. the continual trying to choke down frustration so as not to fan the flames.

i can't say i have an answer to your question...i wonder the same for mine, but i can say that seth is lucky (oh so very lucky) to have you as his mom. hugs sweet friend.

thanks for sharing...

Heidi said...

We let the kids take turns having a "night up" with mom and dad. JUST mom and dad. They get to pick what activity they would like to do. Usually it is watching a movie, popping pop corn, and just being together. Each of our kids has one night a week. They look forward to it so much every week. Maybe you could do something like that with him? That way, each night you could remind him of what he has to look forward to on "Wednesdays" or whatever day? Or, have you ever thought of putting Lucy and Seth together in the same room? Maybe then he would feel some security? Good luck, Jordan! You are an amazing mom. I wish I had your cool when it comes to bedtime!

Rebekah V. said...

Milo asked me the other day at bedtime ( in similar paroxysms of tears), "Why would God send us here just to SUFFER!?!?!" I am unnerved that he is already broaching the difficult question of evil at eight years old (and that it is spinning him into despair). This question has stumped philosophers and theologians for ages. Heavy stuff. I tried this trick a therapist once taught me where you list three things you did well that day and three things you enjoyed that day on him. It calmed him (miraculously) and then I asked him to just keep thinking of things he had mastered and things he took pleasure in. The truth is that I am still learning how to stop ruminating and start actively looking for things to be happy about. This Pleasure/mastery trick has helped me at times when I have felt anxiety or depression and it did help milo that night too. It is a pretty powerful way to make a new pathway in your brain, actually. I hope it is a tool you can use in your repetoire.

Rebekah V. said...

Sorry, just a quick note on how the Pleasure/Mastery tool works. You ask (yourself or someone else) "what are three things you did well today?" then you ask "What are three things you enjoyed?" I was given the assignment to do this three times a day right after my dad died and was really amazed at how much of the anxiety and sadness I was feeling were helped by dwelling on these questions.

Also, a book that I have found REALLy helpful for our, lets call it, "intense" crew is called "The Optimistic Child" and for grown ups "Learned Optimism". They are both really about taking minds that see possibilities and have a tendency to dwell on the negative and teaching them to go down another path. Very useful reading.

Rebekah V. said...

Oh! I just have to say one more thing! I just wanted to say that this is beautifully written. I think your posterity are some pretty lucky folks who get to look back and look through these windows onto the scenes of your life.

ps. a bit of coincidence. The word verification down below is "prose". something you at which you excel.

This is me said...


This website has relaxation techniques, music, etc for kids. It helps them calm down in all kinds of situations and helps with sleep also. I downloaded The Angry Octopus for my iPad and Lauren watches it at night and is almost instantly asleep. It is the best thing I have found for her so far. Plus, it means I can put her bed, hand her the iPad and walk away. Which means I get to be stress free too. Good luck and know that you are not alone.

The Original Mangums said...

Love to our Seth and to you! I don't know the answer to your question. I do know that you are a great mom and you will find a way. All of the above sound great - just love him.

Michelle said...

This is the question of life- how to be happy. If you get any answers tell me, our Rose gets this bug every so often. Maybe we should remember that their brains are still developing still making connections of how things work- how life works. If only the drama wouldn't be so easy to react to. You are a great person I'm sure the way you live will carry both of you to a good end.

Jordan said...

I am grateful that you are out there and willing to "pitch in" here to answer my not so subtle cry for help. We talked with Seth and set a bedtime (weird that we have never really declared one out loud). But, now he knows at 8 o'clock, no questions asked, he is to be in bed. Three days now and not a hitch (crossed fingers and clasped hands).

Rebekah, yes, we have used those very questions--I didn't know it was a "thing" though. Things work for a while and then they don't. We are also going to try calming music.

I chalk it up to just giving Seth time to work out "life" in his own mind. We'll keep coming up with these tools for him to use in that process. Just like you were saying, Michelle.

Thank you for your confidence and love.

k a t y said...

Glad we're not alone in our struggles. Seth is much like Divine. She needs to know specifics, not just that it's bedtime, but what time specifically. I think the music or recorded books are also great ideas.

Tasha said...

By your wonderful example. You ARE teaching him. It may be harder for him to be content than it is for you to be the optimist. I have the same worries. I try to make these happy days with my girls and then the witching hours, and I wonder what happened to the last 12 or 18 hours when I tried so hard and we enjoyed each other so much? You and Craig will teach him, you both see such beauty in things that most of us pass right by.
Miss you.