"Well," I told him, "I stayed up to finish my blog post and then the night turned into a game of musical mattresses."
After I finished my blog post, I slipped into bed with Glen, who was sleeping on the mattress in the living room because the sheets for our bed were still in the wash.
But as I laid there trying to slow my mind down, I couldn't stop thinking about how poorly bedtime with Dan and Monika had gone. Bedtime had been a disaster. Dan wouldn't do what I asked. I lost my temper and yelled. Dan and Monika cried. I left them upstairs crying while I went downstairs to cool off. They eventually fell asleep.
But I felt terrible. Guilty. Bedtime is supposed to be a peaceful transition from day to sleep. A chance for us to read a book and pray together, for me to sing to them and rub their backs. It's not supposed to be a fight.
So, I crawled out of bed and tiptoed upstairs to Dan and Monika's room. I sat down on the bed between them and watched them in the blue glow of the night light. Their beautiful faces looked so peaceful as they slept.
I smoothed Monika's hair and rested my hand on Dan's cheek. And I thought to myself:
How can these little people, who I love more than life itself, make me so frustrated, even angry, at times?
I whispered into their sleeping ears: "I love you so much and I'm so sorry."
As I sat there, unresolved guilt bubbled up in my heart. Guilt from a question Monika asked a few weeks ago.
I was sitting on the floor in the living room with Daphne. I had just finished changing her diaper and she was now standing up between my bent knees. She was grinning from ear to ear and I was smiling back at her.
Monika was sitting right next to us.
"Momma, how come you're only happy at Daphne?"
My heart stopped for a second. Time stopped. I sat there reeling as my four-year-old's innocent, honest words hit me like a fist in the gut.
Monika was right. I do smile at Daphne a lot. When Daphne beams her big smile at me and coos, it makes my whole being happy, and that shows on my face.
But am I only happy at Daphne? Do I smile that much more at Daphne than I smile at Dan and Monika? So much more that it's noticeable?
Apparently, or Monika wouldn't have asked. But, why?
The explanation I tried to give Monika only half-answered her question:
"Well, honey," I said, "maybe because Daphne doesn't whine and misbehave."
What I didn't tell Monika was that maybe if I didn't spend 86% of my time with her and Dan on refereeing and redirecting and keeping them on task, I would have more time to smile.
I also didn't tell her that I felt awful. How horrible, that my little girl would think that only her baby sister makes her momma happy.
Even though I did my best to make us all smile that morning by giving Dan and Monika airplane rides on my feet, Monika's words still hung in my head.
I kissed Dan and Monika on the cheek and tiptoed out of their room. I wrapped myself up in a quilt and tried to fall asleep in my own bed.
Just as I was starting to relax enough to fall asleep, I heard Daphne start to fuss. So, I crawled out of bed and went to lay with her.
Before I finally drifted off to sleep, with Daphne cuddled up next to me, I resolved to be a calmer, happier mom.
A few days later, this quote showed up in one of my parenting magazines*:
"Emotions are contagious
in families, and moms are the
I cut it out and put it up on the fridge.
Seeing these words on paper every day helps me remember that if I remain calm and happy, instead of losing my cool – whether it's over bedtime or supper or homework – everyone else will stay calm(er) and happy(er), too.
I'm also trying to smile more at all of my beautiful children.
*This quote was from the 5 most stressful moments in your week by Mindy Walker, published in the September 2013 issue of Parents.