Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You're Tired

By Kelly

My Mom is a genius.

All my life, she’s had one phrase that covers every childhood problem.

She would simply say, “You’re tired.”

Fighting with a sibling? “You must be tired.”

Cranky the day after a sleepover? “You sound tired.”

Whining about having nothing to wear? “Someone’s tired.”

Broken arm? “You must be tired.”

I’m kidding about that last one. I think.

But sometimes, that’s how it felt. Tiredness was to blame for everything. I wondered if the world would end and my Mom would blame it on exhaustion.

And I hated hearing it, honestly. I hated that she had a calm answer when I wanted a dramatic reaction. I hated that she didn’t seem to care about my life-altering problems. I hated that she acted like she knew me better than I knew myself. (“Like I wouldn’t know if I was tired,” I would snort to my teenage self.)

But now that I’m the parent, I see the genius in that phrase. Because my Mom wasn’t just diagnosing a condition.

She was showing us grace.

She was saying, in essence, “I believe you know how to get along with your siblings and stay kind even after a late-night party and be content with the clothing you have. I believe you can do better than this. Surely, it’s the tiredness that’s making you act this way. You must be tired.”

I understand this now, because I watch my two-year-old after a week of not taking naps, and I see how she melts down when I tell her no, she can’t have marshmallows for breakfast. And I know she can do better than that. I’ve seen her have better reactions.

She must be tired.

And I watch my older son and daughter bicker and pick at each other all day after a weekend of swimming and late night ice cream cones and extra reading time before bed. I know they can treat each other with kindness. This isn’t like them.

They must be tired.

It’s a beautiful thing, really, to believe my children can do better if they just had a little more sleep. It’s a way for me to give them the benefit of the doubt. I believe in them. They just need more rest.

And now, it’s time for me to go to bed. Because tonight, I found myself getting annoyed when my toddler wanted to hold my hand while she was falling asleep.

I must be tired.

Kelly blogs at Love Well, when she's not too tired.


  1. It's true, you know. Lack of sleep is the biggest cause of all kinds of mistakes, accidents, snubs and fights. If we all slept until we woke up, without alarms or sirens or barking dogs, there would be no wars.

    I could be exaggerating here, but probably not.

  2. What a great spin on this! My son, now 6, hates it when I tell him that (when he's crying and obviously having a meltdown).

    "Crying doesn't mean you are tired! Everyone in my class agrees!"

    But yes, it's grace.

  3. That's a good one. I'm going to have to use that. And, try to get some more sleep myself.

  4. Oh, Kelly! This is one I use with my kids, too, for the same reason. It is the ONLY LOGICAL explanation for behavior like ... well, today, for example! In fact, reading this post makes me feel empowered to use it more liberally.

    Once when my sister was little and falling apart about something, she heard my mom saying to my dad, "I think SOMEONE is t-i-r-e-d!" She squawked indignantly, "I am NOT T-R-S!" So now "T-R-S" is the family codephrase for a kid who's tired and cranky. Like my daughters today. :-)

  5. Brilliant genius truth. Really. Mama does know best. My mom always said, "someone is overly tired." I can remember cringing. It's a diagnosis I give out a lot these days.

    I love the connection to grace. LOVE.

  6. You are AWESOME! I love this post! Thank you for sharing.

  7. I have found myself using this a lot lately with my 3 year old who it seems is constantly testing my patience. yes, it is summer and we are traveling and things are in upheaval, but oh. my, word, he must be soooo tired! ;)
    I'm glad to know that it can mean grace for him!

  8. This is sooo true! I've had a shorter fuse for the last week or so and I'm EXHAUSTED!! I feel so guilty for snapping at my daughter when she does typical toddler things, some of them that are actually adorable like being excited about getting ice cream. I can definitely do better, I must be tired.

  9. I say the same thing to my kids. Fatigue creates a domino effect of negative actions and emotions. Sometimes, they are just being mean. Sometimes, it really is because they are tired and I can completely sympathize.

    You are spot on that acknowledging exhaustion is an act of grace. We all need that kindness and mercy.

  10. Just finished reading a great "parenting" book that gave just this advice! Instead of dramatically reacting, just say, "I know", "probably", etc. Simple answers that say you understand the wealth of excuses and are ready to offer grace even when there is still choices that need to be made by the child. What a smart mother you had! :)

  11. [...] Do you remember the post I wrote a few months ago about being tired? [...]