Parental guilt, redux

I’ve felt terrible all morning and I can’t shake it.

It’s been getting more and more difficult to get the Little Man to go to sleep at night. He is already sleeping with me for now–until we can get the Little Miss out of our bed and into her crib, the Little Man sleeps with me and the Little Miss sleeps with Kelly. Now, when he comes to bed I have to lay they with him until he falls asleep. Which takes FOREVER! He wants to play. He doesn’t want to sleep. And now, it’s not like I can just lay there myself. Now he isn’t happy unless he’s got his head in the crook of my shoulder. Or unless I’m holding his hand. It’s at times like these that I really wish we’d fought the battle with him when he first wouldn’t stay in his own bed, but you can’t go back in time.

I was tired last night and frustrated and not in the best of moods. The Little Man finally fell asleep and so did I, but every time he’d wake up in the middle of the night, he’d want something. “Chocolate milk, Daddy!” “Hold my hand, Daddy.” “Sleep here, Daddy.” And the problem is, in the middle of the night, you don’t have the sensitivity that you do in the light of day. You’ve been sleeping restlessly. Your filters are down. The Little Man would whine and I’d snap at him, “There’s no need to cry! Go back to sleep!” Of course, this only made things worse because now he thought I was made at him, or disappointed. Or both. I wasn’t. I was tired and frustrated and half-asleep. But how do you explain that to a twenty-nine-month old.

A few days ago, the Little Man had a toy car in his hand and he was playing and got excited and smashed the toy car into my knee. And it hurt. I didn’t say anything, just sucking in air and bit my tongue, but he could tell it hurt. His expression changed to one of concern and he touched my knee very carefully and said, “Sorry Daddy. You okay, Daddy?”

How can I snap at a kid who is so polite and sensitive to others? He’s two. He’s doing what any other two-year old does. The last think I want to do is give him the impression that I’m disappointed in him or angry with him for something that he almost certainly can’t control.

And so this morning I feel terrible, bitterly terrible. I feel down-right rotten for snapping at him in the middle of the night. That’s not the kind of parent I want to be. How long will it be before I’m looking back on the days when the Little Man was just a toddler, sleeping in my bed and wanting to hold my hand just because I’m his daddy and it makes him feel safe? How long will be it be before I’m sitting around wondering where the time went? I should be embracing those moments. I wish I could control my mood better when I wake up in the middle of the night. I wish I could better try to put myself in his place.

Right now, though, all I want to do is go home, dash over to his school, pick him up and say, “I’m sorry, buddy. You okay?”