Bitch or chump?

Am I too strict or too lenient? Am I disregarding my kid's deep anxieties, or am I being taken for a ride by a manipulative three year old? It’s the maternal equivalent of “virgin or whore” and the organizing dichotomy of my parenting psyche. In times of ease and equilibrium, I don’t worry about it, but when things start to go pear-shaped I always feel like I'm on one awful end of the spectrum or the other—or sometimes, impossibly, both at once—and never in between.

Ingrid is still worried that her diaper is going to fall off. Last night the out-loud worry started a good half-hour before bedtime, making me think this is an actual fear and not just a stall tactic. So, bitch. Right?

But then I decided to go to bed myself just when I put her down (8:30), and guess what? There was no crying in bed, no getting up. Seems like she knew the party was over, so didn’t need to try to stay up for it. Chump, then.

Of course, my screaming on Wednesday put me solidly in bitch territory, no matter what the real story was on her end. If I step back and look at this like a nicely put together piece of literature, it seems like that’s my real, deep-down reason for yelling: To get out of the uncomfortable ambiguous zone and solidly into territory where I can hate myself. (Then I step back into my actual shoes and think: Nope. It’s just because sometimes I’m frustrated as hell.)

A is back (yay!). He volunteered to do the bedtime routine, even after I whispered the story of the past three nights’ antics. Knock yourself out, I said. He came down the stairs about three minutes ago, and all seems to be normal and peaceful up there. We'll see if it lasts. If she comes wandering down the stairs wailing, she will find me on the couch reading a book, and she will not see me move except to blow her a little kiss.


  1. Obviously, you know Ingrid better than anyone, and I do not presume to advise you on the specifics of how you work things out with her. I will offer up something that may or may not be useful. My kids are very different - but N in particular is also a worrier, and I find that often his limit testing is rooted in needing firm boundaries. If things are ambiguous, he falls apart; if I get my shit together and act really firm, loving,and consistent with him (especially in a playful way - hello Tall Order!), he quickly regains his equilibrium. So for a kid like him, with bedtime issues it would be pretty clear that while we can talk about fears and worries and feelings all he wants, I know that he's fine and safe in his room at night, and he can take his cue from me. He wants to take his cue from me. Me validating his fears too much always backfires, because more than anything, he needs to hear that I think he'll be OK. It's a hard balance, but somethings seem to help. He loves to hear stories about how something made me nervous when I was little, and a grownup reassured me, and then I was able to be brave because I knew it'd be OK (or some variation on that). He loves to talk about times he was brave. I'm not sure it's just about being a bitch or a chump (though I know that feeling well!) Maybe it's also that sometimes kids really need to lead us and teach us how to parent them, and sometimes they also cry out for our leadership. So being firm and loving about bedtime doesn't necessarily mean just not giving into manipulation - it can also mean letting your kid feel safe in knowing that mama thinks you'll be fine, and this is the predictable and loving way bedtime is handled in this house. Regardless (and I have every faith that you'll eventually figure this out in the right way for you and Ingrid), you've certainly earned a break from the madness of bedtime, and I'm glad you'll get it. If you need a place to escape too, my kiddos are in bed early, so you could always invite yourself over for a cup of tea!

  2. I feel your pain (once again!) -haven't read your blog in a while (because it's been hellish over here too) -and now J just woke up so I can't say anymore-hang in there