My daughter has never been a good sleeper. When she was a toddler, she required a lot of convincing to stay in bed and rest. After many frustrating attempts and months of nap time battles, she stopped napping at the ripe old age of 2.
Going to bed at night wasn’t much easier. It seemed like there was always something that she gave as an excuse to come out of her room.
Anything for just a little more attention. Anything to keep her eyes open a little longer.
The simple fact that sleep didn’t come easy to her frustrated me. It pushed 2 buttons in my heart: 1. that somehow I was a failure for not figuring out how to get my child to sleep better and 2. that she was disobeying me by coming out of her bed when she was told to stay in it.
We have gone through many approaches to try to help her settle at night. Not just because it was a discipline issue (it sometimes was) but more importantly we knew it was soul nurturing. Sleep isn’t just a natural thing we all have to do – it points to rest and rest points to Christ.
But nothing seemed to work for her.
I would quietly check in on her before I turned in for the night – expecting to see her sawing logs – and she would be blinking slowly.
Just recently her love of reading sparked, we felt it was mutually beneficial for her to be allowed to read herself to sleep. It was the perfect fit to her need to unwind and my need to be done being mommy after saying good night.
Because, for me, it’s so disappointing to take off my mommy hat and begin relaxing only to be called back to attention by a child. So I thought my prayers had been answered for this child! Maybe – just maybe – when I told her good-night, it would actually be the last words I said to her until morning.
Until she started coming out to tell me about the books she had read.
I could feel my frustrated reaction start to rise, but I paused and remembered a similar experience when I reacted in a wrong way to my children over running late. I said:
What happened to me in the garage today was a God-moment. He gave me that moment of pause to see what I was becoming. Doing. He knows me better than I know myself, and He was gently and tenderly just showing me – the inconvenienced me. There wasn’t a blaring alarm going off inside my head. No avalanche of mom-guilt. I wasn’t embarrassed by the thought of what if the neighbors see me. Just a mirror. A moment to see what they see. Little eyes. Huge hearts. Taking in this moment as truth.
That moment of pause this time taught me 4 things:
- What if the way I respond to my daughter when she comes out of her bedroom translates to her what I think her worth is? Or to say it another way – how I react to her communicates loudly how much I value her. So even if I have every right to be upset that she disobeyed to get out of bed, I need to receive her unconditionally, because I never know what she has to say until I give her my ear to say it.
- As a girl who observes, she doesn’t say a lot during the day about her feelings. Her mind isn’t working in reflection during the daytime, but as she lies down to bed and starts to unwind her thoughts – that is when the story of her heart rises to the top. I’ve started just standing in the bathroom with her while she goes through her nighttime routine – and to my pleasant surprise, all sorts of stories start to tumble out of her heart. This is also when she wants to hear my stories. “Tell me again about the time when you were in college…” “Tell me the story of when you rode bikes with daddy…” “Please tell me another story about your life mommy…”
- I remember what Michael Gurian said at the Great Homeschool Convention this spring about the differences in boys and girls – specifically in how their brains process. And I accept that how she is processing and behaving is normal. Similar to how I process when I’m driving alone in the car – like having the lightbulb moments in the margin when I’m allowed to think about anything other than just my To-Do lists – the best ideas, the truest feelings, and the clearest decisions all rise. The same may be happening for her as she tries to lay her bed to rest at night. And she wants to share these heart thoughts with me.
- If I receive her heart-thoughts at age 8, and we build upon this trust, then she will be more likely to still be bringing them to be at age 18. I want to engage in listening to her stories now because she means so much to me. How I respond to her need to share will shape her heart to either open or close.
The years I have with her as a little girl are short, but they will teach her long into her womanhood. I want to make sure that my response is teaching her that if she comes to me bearing her heart – she will always be received. I want the attitude of my heart to be that I unconditionally accept my daughter. I want her to know in the fiber of her being that I am a safe place for her to run to no matter what.
I have some heart work to do for this to truly sink in and change me. I have had to repent of my sinful reactions to the simple fact that she got out of bed again. My words, tone, and looks spoke loudly to her before she even said a word as to why she was coming to me.
She was coming to me.
I want to be corrected to value her coming to me. I want to be a mama who unconditionally receives her heart, validates her feelings, affirms her worth, and listens to her stories.
I’m eternally grateful for the holy pause button that God presses to teach my heart His values in the moment. Again, I dethrone the lie that life should be easy, and I open my heart to more of His ways.
Because maybe she waited all day to come to me.