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Tortured Soul(s)

Bryce has been in an increasingly disturbing phase at bedtime. I don't know what brought it on, and with Bryce there is simply no way to know. The smallest change in his environment can send him into a tailspin, and he brings me along for the scary, difficult ride. I normally blame any stalling and bedtime intensity on his being overtired, since he rarely naps, wakes up early, and doesn't stop moving all day. But today, he did have a nap. My next assumption would normally be hunger, since he hardly eats anything, despite (or because of) our ridiculous catering to his pickiness. But tonight, he ate a big dinner, dessert, and then more dinner.

John is away at a wedding, and Bryce hasn't seen him all day. As bedtime approached, Bryce started whining and asking when John would be home. He is used to the situation, so I told him his dad was working and that he'd see him in the morning. I asked him to wait for me on his bed while I put Quinn down, but the tears that had been building up behind his lids hit the corners of his eyes: "But I'm scared to be by myself!" In an attempt to avoid the argument, I told him he could stand quietly by the chair while I sang Quinn's songs (if I don't specify, he runs around the room laughing, which doesn't exactly lend itself to getting Quinn into his crib successfully). For some still unknown reason, I started to bust a gut during Quinn's first song. Bryce was just standing at my elbow holding his blanket, looking straight ahead like some sort of bedtime soldier, and I think the absurdity of it just got to me. He chuckled when I did, but he thought he would be in trouble for not staying quiet, and said, "I don't want to wait in my bed!" I ruffled the top of his head and told him he was doing fine, that I'd thought it was funny to have him standing there so still and serious while I sang...he didn't reply. I started singing the next song, and Quinn started to laugh, which made me laugh. I looked over at Bryce in the dark, and he was still standing there like a nervous sentry. I poked him and he gave a tentative giggle, which I thought was strange. But I continued. This time, on Quinn's last song, Quinn's soft head shaking with the baby laughs emanating from his little chest was too much, and we both gave in to gales of laughter. Bryce looked straight ahead and cried out, giving in to the (apparent) pain that had been weighing him down; I was shocked, and stopped immediately: "What's wrong??!" He replied, through genuine tears, "I just don't like it when you guys laugh at meeeee!"

OH. GOD. My kid thought his mom and younger brother were ridiculing him. In the dark, while he was scared. For doing what I TOLD HIM TO DO. I apologized profusely, and told him we were laughing because sometimes we just do that during the songs, and I really can't explain why (which is true) - not because of him. Tears. Streaming. Down. His face. He said, "Oh. Well, I just didn't know that [sniff, more tears]."

He never recovered after that. He stopped crying, and seemed okay, but after Quinn was in bed, I gave Bryce his water and started arranging his covers, and the stalling started. He was afraid of monsters (I told them to leave), he was hungry (I wouldn't let him get up to eat), he was thirsty (I conceded to more water), he was sick and had to "spit up" (I let him go to the bathroom, he "forgot to spit up" and we did it all over again, at which point he stood over the toilet as if he were going to be sick, then said, "I think I'll need to try again in the morning"), he didn't like his bed (I made him stay in it), he wanted John (I promised to send John in to his room when he got home), his "body kept waking him up." And this went on for an hour, with him crying and yelling from his bed, me threatening to take away Noir if he got out of bed one more time, me closing his door and getting halfway down the stairs, then hearing his crying, yet also adult-like tone when he'd say, "oh no, not again, not again" followed by his door opening and more crying, a new, awful reason he couldn't go to sleep or stay in his bed for even two peaceful minutes.

I have no idea what to do after four or five successfully patient warnings and concessions with this kid. My blood pressure goes up, I feel anger and resentment, I see him as manipulative and demanding and high maintenance, rather than scared and lonely and four years old. Our final interaction was terrible, and exactly the type of interaction I wouldn't want immediately preceding his going to sleep. And for the hour following that last impatient hiss from me and the last frustrated, desperate sob as he put himself back to bed (I'd told him I wasn't coming back to his room anymore tonight), I felt lonely, scared, and intensely frustrated - much like I assume Bryce felt tonight, for whatever reason. I suppose if someone from a different walk in life, with different motivations and more knowledge and history, were refusing to listen to me as I tried desperately to explain these feelings to them, and were tuning me out and repeating themselves in a frustrated, impatient voice ("this conversation is over. i've already answered your question. get back in your bed. this conversation is over."), I'd be screaming and crying and making up new excuses to try to get through to them, too.

Maybe one of these days I'll figure out what the hell I'm doing. Hopefully it will be soon enough that the kid will actually benefit from that knowledge.

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