I’ve been reflecting recently on what I’ve started calling the “messy bed test”.
It runs is as follows. My younger son, for reasons known only to himself, likes to mess up our bed. He likes to pile up the pillows, mound up the duvet, push the bedspread onto the floor, and then sort of burrow into the bedding. I suppose it’s a sort of den or something.
By any objective measurement this is a pretty benign activity – it only takes 2 minutes to straighten out the bed again, and he’s not doing any harm at all, and he loves doing it.
What is interesting is how my reaction varies to (what feels like) his daily question: “Can I mess up your bed?”
Sometimes I smile to myself and say, “ok, yes.”
However, sometimes my reaction is more along the lines of “No, you can’t. I’ve only just made it, I’m trying to get the house tidy, and its me or Mum who are going to have to sort it out again.” I do my best to convert this into “I’m sorry no – not today” before it actually comes out of my mouth. It’s amazing how forgiving children can be. But I digress – this post isn’t intended to be about my shortcomings as a parent!
The difference between these two scenarios? Entirely me. The request hasn’t changed. The amount of time and effort to re-make the bed hasn’t changed. What has changed is my ability to handle what I perceive as an extra demand being made of me.
In this way, it becomes an indicator of my own mental state and stress levels. The reason I say “no” to him is because I can’t cope with it. It shines a light on my inconsistencies – why should the answer sometimes be yes, and sometimes no… or sometimes having your head bitten off?
Now of course boundaries are right and proper, and where ever there is a boundary a child will push it. It is also reasonable not to want your bed to be messed up, and to say “no” to this request. My point is simply that it is sometimes the trivial things like this which act a bit like rev counters, and show when we’re pushing the limit, and in the red zone. Or, if you like, it’s a sort of litmus test
Maybe, like me, you have a “messy bed test”