Howdy. Can you toss me a cowboy hat? Or maybe a holster, or one of those shiny plastic badges? Surely you boy mommas have some Woody-ish garb lying around. I could use it over here on the wild frontier.
‘Cause there’s a showdown going on in my house—between Sheriff Mom and The Kid.
The two-year-old Kid.
The stubborn, willful, no-I-don’t-want-to-and-you-can’t-make-me Kid.
That’s my girl.
It all started a few nights ago. The Kid discovered she could pitter-patter out of her toddler bed, trip the threshold from bedroom to hallway, and roam free. So now she thinks bedtime is only a suggestion.
“Go back to your room. It’s time to sleep.” I stood at the baby gate with fists on my hips and my mouth screwed tight. The Kid clasped the gate with both hands and batted her lashes.
“No!” A half-smile teetered on her lips. I stepped over the gate, wrapped her fingers in mine and led her back to bed.
“Sweet dreams.” I tucked her in and left the room. Immediately, she yanked her covers and followed me down the hall.
“Go back to bed.” We resumed our standoff at the gate. “I am not joking.”
“No!” she hissed.
“Okay, that’s your choice. You’re on your own now.” I spun on my heels and stomped out of sight toward the family room.
A whimper rang from the hallway. Then a rattling sound. Crash! Boom! I ran through the kitchen to find The Kid scampering toward me. The little stinker busted down the baby gate!
“That’s it, young lady!” Sheriff Mom pulled out the big guns. “I’m throwing away your stuffed animals!”
I huffed from room to room, swiping every fuzzy dog and bunny in my path. When my arms were stacked with plush toys, I sped toward the garbage can. The Kid wailed at my heels, and I gave myself a fuming pep talk.
She wants a fight? I’ll show her a fight. Pure defiance, that’s all this is. Stay strong. She needs to learn to obey. It’s my job to teach her! To discipline! To establish authority! If I fail to squash bedtime arguments, what’s next? Breaking curfew? Robbing banks? Heaven help me, I will not let my child grow up to be an outlaw!
“Mommy, I want you!”
What did she say?
“Muh-muh-mommy! I-I-I! Want! You!” Gulping for air between sobs, The Kid sputtered her desperate plea.
Not “stop.” Not “no, don’t throw away doggie.” Again she hiccupped, “Mommy, I want you.”
What kind of outlaw says that?
I froze, turned around, and released the stuffed animals into a heap on the floor. My baby girl’s cheeks were streaked pink with tears. She lifted her open palms to my waist.
“Mommy,” she whispered now. “I want you to hold me.”
Exasperation fled my limbs and I slumped down to grab her. She nestled her head in my shoulder and closed her eyes. I clutched her warm body to mine, kissed her spongy cheek, and rocked. Within two minutes, she fell asleep in my arms.
The Kid wasn’t looking for a fight after all. Quite the opposite—she wanted love.
Darn. What did I give her instead? Rules. Rants. Scolding. Sheriff Mom was so bent on training and discipline, I lost sight of that fundamental need to let love lead my actions.
Loving parents set limits, yes. I get that. But sometimes I act very unlovely when I lay down the law. Have I forgotten? Biblically speaking, the law was always meant to point us to Jesus (Galatians 3:23–25). And Jesus embodies love.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins,” (1 Peter 4:8).
I don’t have this sleep battle figured out yet. At some point, my daughter does need to cooperate or crash. But I’m raising a family, not a posse. So before I lash out the discipline, I’ll try hugs first. I’ll tame my words so they don’t hurt more than help. I’ll spare the stuffed animals, for the love of God.
On second thought, you can keep that cowboy hat. But if you have any advice on how to get a strong-willed toddler to sleep without losing your mind, I’ll take that instead.
Thank you kindly, partner.
Linking up with: The Better Mom, Playdates With God, Mommy Moments, Titus 2sdays, Domestically Divine Tuesday, Living Well Wednesdays, Grace at Home, Things I Can’t Say, and Faithfully Parenting Fridays.