Burning a Hole In My Sky by Jon Armstrong for Copyright/credit: Jon Armstrong.

Burning a Hole in My Sky

Taken on a hard weekend last summer when the only good thing was the sunset. I’d say that this was the weekend I knew that the future was going to be different and that the only good thing I could see was this sunset, but that’s most of the evenings I spent alone in 2012. And that’s a lot of drama for two sentences.

I feel so much better right now about the future. So much is waiting to be discovered, yet I’m looking at this image from the recent past, floored with how far I’ve come. Time mends the superficial wounds the most quickly. And while so many of the wounds are healed, there are still those deep, searingly painful wounds that flare up from time to time, almost crippling me. All of this from looking through the photo archives and realizing that I didn’t share this particular sunset shot.

Breathing is easier. Colder, but easier. It’s 3°F outside as I type this. In about 5.75 hours, Marlo will climb into my bed and ask if she can watch “Backyardagainagins”. I’ll tell her in a few minutes it will be time. I’ll try to forget how tired she was last night; how she couldn’t keep it together and the screaming was over the top. I’ve developed a zen approach to her tears, cupping her face, looking her in the eyes and repeating, more calmly than I have ever been in the middle of a pre-bedtime meltdown, “It’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay” and/or “take a deep breath, take a deep breath, take a deep breath.”

Usually it works. Last night, it didn’t and I told her to get into bed and I’d be in to tuck her in. When I got to her room about 5 seconds later, she was snuggled up and it looked like a pass out night. However, when she saw me come in, she said with as much sobbing drama as possible, “Ok, dad. But… I… can’t… stop… crying…”

I repeated it all again. Asked her what story she wanted to read and started to read, in the softest voice. She calmed down, we sang our songs and I turned out the lights, telling her I’d see her in the morning and I loved her. I usually pull the door to a position not quite shut. Usually, she’s done and will be out when I check on her. Last night, about 2.5 minutes after I pulled the door almost shut, I was sitting in the living room with Leta and Marlo came out, on the verge of tears. I asked her what was wrong and she started getting very mad at me for pulling the door too far shut. Clearly an overtired Marlo. I apologized with a smile on my face, re-tucked her in and that was the last of the Marlo drama.

I share this tableau because it is so different from where I was with Leta at this age and what Leta taught me. It was around this time (mid-late 3) that Leta started having issues going to sleep. After several nights of autocratic failures on my part, I did some reading and completely changed up the routine with Leta. It opened up a new relationship of quiet talking, some joking and making bedtime comfortable and not scary or full of any emotion other than a calm joy.

I’ve heard from my friends with kids that the first child is a guinea pig for the children that follow. I’d amend that with my girls and say that Leta was a training ground and Marlo gets a dad with more ways to calm her down, even in the face of a tantrum that needs to stop.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of nights where Marlo has been put into bed at an earlier hour than normal, told that she needed to be quiet and sleep and that’s it. Ignore the bad behavior and praise the good behavior, but when the kid just won’t listen, it’s bed and we’re done. I’m a lot less quick to the latter because of the skills I built when Leta would not fall asleep unless I stayed with her and sometimes slept myself.

Marlo gets the benefit of all the lessons I learned from Leta. I get the benefit of enjoying every last minute, even if it’s full of toddler drama and a need for sleep that I recognize so well.

Maybe that’s why I keep posting here. By going through the exercise of writing, I relive the past and see how far I’ve come, how far I’ve got to go and feel some small sense of accomplishment to have made it through another day, happy to have my babies at my place.

* * *

Affirmation: It will keep getting better.

  • jenniferdaddio

    like : )

  • tksinclair

    I’m 59 but I sure wish you were my dad – Okay, that’s weird..but I’m VERY immature for my age..Okay that’s weird too……or I had a dad like you! Okay, weird but better…all you can do with this parenting stuff…is be the parent you wish you had…or for some, did have. That’s about the best you can do..

  • tksinclair

    And PS…I’ve given birth to two kids, raised 6. (Step kids, nieces and nephews due to family drug problems, etc.) And YES, now at numbers 5 (age 15, 16 next month, male) and 6 (age 17, female, with a 4.2 GPA, 1920 SAT’s) I FINALLY think I may be getting it “right”…but it never gets easier…and there are ALWAYS new paths to walk just when you think you have it all figured out. Never get too comfortable.

  • Polly Cole

    I would comment here about how pertinent this is but I’m so tired…………….

  • Mindy Williams

    It WILL just keep getting better. I promise.

  • Kristan

    Awesome title, picture, and post.

    This story is riddled with words like “screaming,” “sobbing,” “drama,” “failures”… and yet, all I’m really reading is LOVE. Loud and strong and true. :)

  • Likethewrap

    I love this affirmation. And this post. I have an almost three year old boy ( 3 on Friday!) and we struggle with the temper tantrums and the battle of the wills. I love him dearly but I am running thin on patience and what to do with him. I love the idea of keeping calm when faced with a toddler. Its something I tend to forget on a daily basis. So I guess you’ve given me two affirmations. Keep calm and it will get better.

  • Beth Rich George

    A good friend just told me, “Things are not falling apart; they are falling into place.” That one phrase has kept me going as I am moving through my own challenges of being alone.

  • Linda

    You are a great dad! I need to say your affirmation daily :)

  • Dawn Boulan Slagle

    First time commenting, longtime reader. Last night we watched this flick, Looper. A futuristic movie that you have to pause to recap what’s going on just to be able to follow. Anyway, one of the main characters is this 5 yr old boy, Cid. Don’t really want to ruin the plot if you haven’t seen, but suffice it to say that Cid has a power that can destroy the world. As I’m watching the flick last night, I realized that is pretty much like raising my 6 year old.

    I hear ya and feel ya on the tears. I’ve learned that in the midst of a catostrophic meltdown, if I pull her aside and just hug her. Talk to her quietly, softly, kindly, she will de-escalate.

    Most of the time…

  • Shannon McKarney

    Dude, share the readings you read. We need some of that zen around here.

    • blurb

      No readings, I swear! I just keep telling myself that three won’t last forever and that the calmer I am, the sooner the freakouts will be over. This morning, a single drop of water landing on Marlo’s pants caused screaming, a spurning of the toothbrush in a violent fashion and a time out. We still got Leta to school on time and I had enough snuggle time with Marlo to even things out, but damn if I didn’t flashback to some mornings in 2007, Leta barking orders and slamming doors and sitting in time out.