Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Bandaid Thing - Parenting Mistakes at 3am

It's a common scenario: 3am. A child's bedroom door creaks open. The looming child-shaped silhouette. The soft voice calling, "Mom?" or "Dad?" The called-for parent startling awake or cringing and thinking "Ugh... why??" The unrequested parent smirking sleepily.

3 AM

Audrey came in this morning (3am is TECHNICALLY morning) asking for her Dad. "I have a mosquito bite. It's really itchy and I need a bandaid."
I was silent, feigning sleep and hoping Ben would wake up and get out of our comfortable, warm bed and deal with the issue.

First, let me say, in hindsight, this is the way it SHOULD have gone: Bandaid acquired, lovingly placed on itchy bump, child sent to the potty, child kissed, child sent to bed, parent goes to bed and everyone is happy.
This is not the way things went.

Let me tell you about The Bandaid Thing.

The Bandaid Thing has become the mountainish molehill involving an entire box of 100 bandaids being used by 2 children in less than a month. 
Scratches (nature AND sibling/self inflicted)
Bug Bites
Sibling Bites
The Mysterious "it's bothering me" Spot
Dry Spots
And the Super Annoying "I feel like it's going to bleed" Spots

So, I became a bandaid hoarder. Ben obligingly joined in the hoarding.

I suppose part of me is bitter because my children never took to my Mom's Magic Kisses administrations. (MY mom's kisses were ALWAYS magic..)

Oh, and the cost! Gasp!!

So, now, on to Ben's Suggestion.
After a brief pause, in which Ben might have been contemplating The Bandaid Thing (I know I was), Ben suggested a damp paper towel placed on the itchy bite.
Audrey trustingly and willingly went to gather the needed item and went back into her room.
The peace lasted about 15 seconds.
Audrey came back, insisting that the paper towel kept falling off her bite and that it wasn't working.

What SHOULD have happened: Bandaid acquired, lovingly placed on itchy bump, child sent to the potty, child kissed, child sent to bed, parent goes to bed and everyone is... mostly happy.
This is not the way things went.

Instead, we entered the Battlefield of Wills. Ben's curt answer was for Audrey to go to bed.
Whereupon, Audrey proceeded to do what made the most sense to her at 3am: a whiny, leg-flapping, foot-stomping tantrum. The one thing I will say about this performance is that it's really hard to take her seriously when one leg is jiggling around like a fish out of water while she simultaneously tiny-hops in place and her voice steadily raises in pitch to a dog whistle. We are usually so put-out by this time that we can't see the humor in the situation anymore.

Ben reiterated his order to go to bed, a little louder, and Audrey eventually obeyed in a loud, choking sobbing kind of way that threatened to awaken the sleeping brother.
Thus, Ben went to the kids' room and a series of fierce whispers, reprimands, sobbing, wailing and threats of punishments drifted out of the room to my ears.
It was then that I decided I needed to get up.

But, first, let's talk about The Principle of the Thing. Sometimes we call it Sticking to our Guns or Teaching a Lesson. I catch myself saying, "I'm the parent! I know better! Deal with it!" This is an interesting concept and I'm sure The Principle of the Thing has an appropriate application, BUT, a bandaid at 3am for a child just doesn't fit the bill.
The sibling of The Principle of the Thing is the unspoken, but sininster, I Have To Be Right.. All The Time. Usually with a mental, snobbish sneer.

At 3am, I had an odd epiphany. All of theses aforementioned sentiments are the ugly faces of Pride. Overwhelming self-importance in spite of being wrong.

So, I got up - not to save the day, but to repair my mistake of refusing to parent at 3am and leaving my hard-working, exhausted, allergy-inflicted husband going solo.

I found them both in the hall. Audrey weeping. Ben silently Bull-Snorting. The bandaid was finally bequeathed upon my child, but talk of grounding floated through the air.
I held my daughter close to me and whispered, "Is a tantrum going to make it better?" She shook her head through her tears.
I instructed her to get her bandaid on and went and sat with my husband on the edge of the bed. I rested my head on his shoulder so that he could see in spite of the darkness that what I said was only meant In The Most Loving Way Possible.

It's 3am, I said. She's tired. You're tired. She came to you with her own solution but still took your advice. When that didn't work, she came back hoping for relief.
What I didn't say but only realized later was that she did everything right. She may not be equipped or experienced to deal with frustration, disappointment and discomfort very well (who is at 3am?) but she asked for help, willingly took advice and then returned when faced with difficulty.
At 3am, is The Bandaid Thing worth it?

What is the value of a bandaid versus the worth of a child? If a bandaid cost $1... or $10... or $1,000, at what point would the pain or distress of a child be worth less than the cost?

Heavenly Father sent His Only Begotten Son - an unfathomable cost at the highest price. All because he believes we are worth it. If the most perfect being in existence believes we are worth the highest price, who are we to disagree?

So, Ben, without any prompting from me, went in to talk with Audrey. I don't know what he said, but he told me he apologized.
In that moment, I became a good wife and thanked him for being a good dad. Apologizing, for me, is one of the hardest things to do. My desire to be right makes apologizing painful. And Pride rears its ugly head.
Ben felt he didn't deserve to be called a good dad. He felt that everything he did that required an apology excluded him from the Good Dad List.
I said the first thing that came to my mind. "A good dad is willing to learn." Translation: A good dad (or mom) strips away pride, becomes humble and does what is right, even if it means admitting he (or she) was wrong.
Some people say that our children need to see their parents make mistakes so that they know it's okay and human to do so. No one is perfect. But, I say, much more importantly, that they need to see how the parent handles being wrong. And they need to see their parent apologize, humble themselves and repent for what they've done wrong. Love and hope comes from seeing that there is a chance and a choice to become better.

As Ben was settling back down to sleep, he said, "All this fuss for a twelve cent bandaid." By all parties, yes.

My last trial came as his words sunk in. I had a sudden need to find out if the bandaid really did cost twelve cents. My need to be right, factual, precise, correct. My own pride.
I wanted to get up, turn on my computer, look up the cost of the box of bandaids. A little simple math and I'd KNOW how much that dang bandaid cost. Was it a big or small bandaid? What is the abstract cost of missed sleep?
Would I feel worse if it turned out to be a five cent bandaid? More justified if it was a twenty cent bandaid?

Then I remembered. It doesn't matter.
So, I refuse to look it up. My daughter's worth, my husband's ability to be a good dad, my need to be right.

It doesn't hinge on a bandaid.


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