This post is part of our Ordinary Time, Extraordinary Mercy series, in which CatholicMom.com contributors will share their own experiences of living the Year of Mercy. Beginning at Pentecost and continuing through the summer, we'll cover many aspects of the Works of Mercy in family life.
Lying on my back on the floor of my daughters' bedroom, staring up at the wall as I wait for them to drift off to sleep, one in a toddler bed on my right, and one in a toddler bed on my left. I have to wait until the two year old is truly out, because as soon as I move to leave the room I hear, "Mommy!" coming from her corner of the room and she immediately starts to stir when the hallway light hits her face. I know because it has happened a million times before and so I might as well just lie here and wait. It may be awhile.
The soft swishing of blankets sliding on sheets and the lulling lullaby of the sound machine fill the room. There is no audible heavy breathing yet so I know they are still awake, but their eyes are closed. At least that is a start.
Bedtime can be so challenging for parents. You are exhausted after a long day of work and school schedules, homemaking, chauffeuring, breaking up fights and cleaning up messes. You are so ready for your kids to just go right to sleep. No questions, no arguments, no asking for water or a bedtime story, no whining, no stirring, no wandering out into the living room, dragging their blankets and teddy bears when you literally just tucked them in.
"Just lay down and go to sleep!" Period.
It's tempting to be frustrated when bedtime is a struggle, when your kids still need you and you are just so DONE with being needed. You want some alone time to unwind and relax. Even just a few minutes of quiet before you yourself doze off in the easy chair from pure exhaustion. Is that really too much to ask?
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." -Matthew 5:7.
As parents, we are constantly being called to live out the works of mercy in our homes as we serve and care for our families, bedtime is no different. Sometimes our kids demand a little bit more of us when we have already reached, (or exceeded), our limit. It takes a high level of self sacrifice to set aside our own weariness and calmly, patiently help our children to bed. Especially on those nights when they are a little more demanding.
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So take a deep breath, say a prayer for strength, and dive generously into bedtime. Of course, you still have to have boundaries. They need to eventually go to sleep for your sanity and theirs! A consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine is a must but there is nothing wrong with balancing it out by showing a little mercy at bedtime.
Give your kids a little extra of your attention and savor these nightly little moments, because before you know it, they are going to be grown up and gone. Then you won't have any idea when they are even going to bed, nor the privilege of tucking them in at night anymore. So as tempting as it can be to hurry through bedtime....don't!
Here are some ways to be merciful to your kids when you would rather they just go to sleep:
Let them stay up 10 extra minutes.
Sing them a lullaby.
Read that second bedtime story.
Give them a massage.
Make up a story or tell them a story from your childhood.
Stroke their hair.
Let them tell you about their favorite part of the day.
Snuggle with them on their beds.
Tell them how much you love them.
Apologize if you were angry with them that day.
Say night prayers with them.
Softly recite a decade of the rosary in the bedroom.
Kiss them goodnight.
Trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads with holy water.
Sit and hold their hands until they fall asleep.
Pray for them and for their future vocations and spouses.
Whisper: "God love you and keep you in his care."
Remind yourself that someday they will be too old for this and you will miss sitting here watching their eyes droop and listening to their breathing slow down. For now, as tired and worn out as you are, try to enjoy the fact that they are here, that they are still your babies, resting safely and soundly under your roof.
How are you going to show mercy to your kids at bedtime?
Copyright 2016 Hannah Christensen. All rights reserved
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