I see the signs of her impending meltdown long before it happens. She’s been up since 6:30 this morning. She’s been to school. She has done her homework. She has gone to church. She has come home at 9pm. She is tired.
She whimpers when I ask her to go upstairs. She goes limp as I usher her into the bathroom. She screams. She stomps. She screeches.
I heard someone once say Never blame a child for what they do in public after 8pm. That phrase always stuck with me. When a child is tired, they lack the ability to make good decisions. The are reactionary. They are out of control. Their bodies and their minds are exhausted…
So when I make the decision to let my children stay up late, I also take some of the responsibility for their bad choices and behavior. They don’t know they are tired. They don’t know why they are so emotional. They don’t understand what they are feeling. When I ask my daughter to stop whimpering or whining or screaming, she looks at me with wide eyes and tears streaming down and says, I can’t!
She’s right. She can’t. She doesn’t know how. In time, she will learn. She will learn to listen to her body. She will see the cues too. And as she becomes more aware of them, she will learn control.
In the meantime, I will choose to be patient with her when she can’t stop. I won’t assume it is defiance, I will look at the clock and know it is fatigue. I will cover her in kisses and tell her silly stories. I will snuggle with her and I will make her smile, so her last moments awake will leave her in no doubt that she is loved.