Burning a Hole in My Sky

Burning a Hole in My Sky
January 14, 2013 Jon Armstrong
Burning a Hole In My Sky by Jon Armstrong for blurbomat.com. Copyright/credit: Jon Armstrong.

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.

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Affirmation: It will keep getting better.

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