​Real-Life Stories of a Disabled Mom: The Long Night’ s Journey to Bedtime

Posted by Kieran O'Brien Kern in Life After Paralysis on April 19, 2022 # Lifestyle

bedtime storyWhile I don’t distinctly remember giving my mom a hard time about going to sleep, I also don’t remember being asleep at the designated time ever. One of the hallmarks of my childhood was the bedtime floorshow; there was all the singing and dancing any child could ask for. My corner of dreamland was blessed with books, theatre and song for the better part of the early ’80s. For 20 minutes, the one-woman show held us captivated by the interactive comedy until she sang and danced out the door. She didn’t wait for us to be asleep, and we never were, but her part was over, and the rest was up to us to settle down and sleep within about 30ish minutes. I wouldn’t say we were hard, but I would assert we required some diplomacy to get to sleep.

This is the part where what you put into the universe comes back to you three-fold. My kids are amazing, dynamic, loving forces of able-bodied energy. Our bedtimes can be a mixture of Paralympics meet Festivus on Broadway. There is nothing I love more than a pre-bedtime game of hug tag. Lately, this has been hard because the cold weather has lingered too long, and my body is still recovering from last year’s surgery. One of my strategies has been to place myself in one spot and hug or tag from there. When the activities get out of hand, that leads to the airing of grievances.

Growing up in a house of women, diplomacy has always been my forte. Part of that means keeping them back on task for things like showering, brushing hair, and teeth. I would love to say that our routine is the same every day, but it’s not. It is as diverse as the four who make up our family. So bedtime is a sliding scale based on the day’s commitments and what needs to be accomplished. We both have our own routines with the girls. When he puts them to bed, my husband either reads a story or has “quiet contemplation,” which consists of multiple questions and answers, quests for necessary stuffies, glasses of water, and trips to the bathroom. I know once I hear him snore that they are not far behind. When it’s my turn to helm bedtime, I attempt to push my thoughts of the day, looming projects, and aches and pains aside (this doesn’t always work), but the time right before bed is special to my kids and me.

On the really great nights, once the showers are done, jammies are on, and the teeth and hair are brushed, these are the times we have the best conversations. I always find out what happened during their day that they forgot to tell me about earlier. This is also when I get my bonus hugs. I am not above letting them get out of bed for a bonus hug. Call me a sap; I don’t care. Now not every night is straight out of a greeting card. Some nights especially when they start airing grievances, I give time outs the way Oprah gives cars! But once they’re comfortably nestled in bed, all that stress is left at the door and I sit equidistant from them.

There might be a book or freestyled mom story if it’s on the early side of bedtime. The earlier they get comfy, the wider the variety of entertainment there is to choose from. The song is a constant and has been there since my oldest was an infant. I sing it at least three times and will sometimes hum it until I know they are asleep. They never go to bed without an I love you, knowing they are safe, will stay until they are asleep, and will be near with a hug if they awaken.

I’m Kieran Bridget O’Brien Kern. Power is literally my middle name. When my husband and I became engaged, we agreed that parenthood was a two-person job. I am the primary caregiver to our children, but we all work as a team. From infancy onward, we have adapted and grown together. Every day there is a new challenge. Every new challenge is an opportunity to learn more about them and myself.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.