I had to share a few of the great photos that you, dear readers, have been sharing on my Facebook page this week in response to my photographic challenge. The challenge, in short, was to take a picture of one of the not-so-perfect moments in your life–feeling bored in traffic, scrubbing dirty diapers late at night, celebrating the end of a big day in the midst of a messy living room. The only real constraint: you can’t clean it up all perfect and squeaky clean. No tidying beforehand or fixing hair or making things look any different than they just are.
Without further ado:
I have been overjoyed from the tips of my dirty toes to the top of my frizzy head by all of your photos. Thank you. Thank you.
p.s. I’ll keep collecting and posting these, so keep sharing away over on the old Facebook.
Do the sleep challenges ever end? We’re having a rough day over here.
After our delightful time away in Colorado, aka my soul place, J has adopted all sorts of different sleeping patterns. When we were away, J said he wanted to sleep in the “flat bed” and since the room where he stayed had one, we gave it a try, instead of using his travel crib. It worked great and we really enjoyed being able to snuggle with him while he went to sleep. So much so that we would sometimes fall asleep too or just lay there watching his little eyes droop and cheeks bloom into that sweet, rosy napping boy color.
Now that we’re back at home, in the land of the room with no flat bed and only a crib, things have been pretty topsy turvy. In short, over the past 2 weeks, he got pretty used to having someone lay down with him while he was falling asleep. So now he’s been screaming maybe 70% of the time when we leave him awake for night-time or nap. I’m able to write at this very moment because our nap battle, which began at 1 and ended a few minutes ago at 2:15, has ended with victory for me. I have a sleeper. But here’s how it went down:
We read 3 books, sang 2 songs, then “boo boos,” our very secret code for “boobs,” the typical routine.
J cries when I put him in his crib, wants me to snuggle with him and leave the door open.
I don’t want to, so I don’t.
He yells. Then climbs out of his crib and plays with toys.
Then opens his door every few minutes, sticks his hand out, holding a random object — a rubber band, then a dragon wing — and saying “Here, Momma.”
I go in, tell him that if he doesn’t want to sleep he needs to have quiet time.
He announces he has to poop.
He announces that he wants to watch Thomas the Tank Engine.
I say that if he takes a nap, he can.
I deposit him in his crib and he screams.
I walk out.
He climbs out of his crib.
I walk in, make no eye contact and put him silently back into bed.
Repeat these last 2 steps 15 times.
He climbs out, plays quietly on his floor for 20 minutes, then begins the “Here’s a random toy I’m gonna thrust through a crack in the door, Momma” routine again and says “I wanna watch Thomas.”
I say he needs to have more quiet time if he’s gonna watch Thomas.
And then somehow, I wound up in there holding him on the rocking chair and he nursed himself to sleep.
I know that this is, as one Fantastic Mr. Fox would say, a complete cluster-cuss.
I know I was not consistent. I know I tried a jillion different strategies (and I didn’t even mention when I went in, grabbed his crib mattress, blankets, stuffed animals and pillows and put them on his floor–in all my wisdom, I was trying to simulate the “flat bed.”). And after all that, I ended up “caving” by nursing him to sleep.
Here’s the deal: J is almost 3. The same strategies that used to work just don’t any more. And a lot of the good resources I’ve found for sleep drop off after the first couple of years. Like this one my friend B, mom of a 3-month-old, emailed me, with the endorsement, “I just found it and I am like yes finally the answers in plain English!” If you have a 0-12 month old, go forth and enjoy.
I also read and re-read choice sections of the Weissbluth sleep book when we go through a period like this. I’ll be the first to admit that I credit the Weissbluth sleep book as one of the things that saved our lives in J’s 5th month. I’ll also be the first to admit that his book will probably push your buttons if you take your place on the “anti-cry-it-out” side of the firestorm that is the baby sleep debate. Regardless of his opinions in the cry-it-out department, I think Weissbluth has some very useful things to say about naps, and sleep cycles and typical sleep patterns for infants in particular. Again, though, I’m kinda coming up empty now that I have a willful boy who can climb out of cribs, open doors and hit, kick and scratch.
For the last month or so, I’ve been enjoying one of those wonderful periods when I actually feel like I know what I’m doing mom-wise. I’ve also been getting pretty consistent sleep and have 12 hours per week that I’m not taking care of J, so that helps too. We’ve hit a stride and have some systems that really work. I don’t feel nervous these days when we’re at the playground and J tries to snatch something away from a baby. I know how I’ll handle it. And it works.
When he’s standing up on the chair at our kitchen counter, I tell him that if he doesn’t get down, I’m going to take him down. And he usually listens to me and gets down on his knees. I’m not going out of my way to distract from or try to avoid his experience of being disappointed–I’m just heading straight into it these days: “The fire-truck drove by. Are you sad you can’t see it anymore? Sorry you’re sad, little weasel.” I feel like I’ve kinda stepped into my parenting mojo. It has not always been this way, as evidenced by this post. And I’m sure that this feeling will go the way of the dodo soon enough, but for now, I’m gonna bask in it a little bit.
So the mojo. I feel like it has come, in large part, from taking on the mantle of being the person who interprets the world-at-large for J. We were having this whole meltdown when I would drop him off at daycare a few months ago when I got this image in my mind of myself as this huge umbrella. I’ll explain. J is going to this place that is obviously not our house and I am leaving him for a time and he’s freaked out about it. And its my responsibility to think to myself, “Self, is this a scary place for J to be? Am I worried about him?” If the answer is yes, then I should get him the hell out of there. The answer, in fact, was “No. I’m not worried–this is a really safe, loving place and I trust these people to take care of him.” So I decided to put an umbrella over the situation for him and show him how much I believe that its a safe, good place. I gave him kisses and cuddles and then smiled and waved and left, even though he was still crying. At first, this definitely jangled some of my attachment bells, because I don’t want him to feel abandoned. And honestly, I have no idea if he does or not, but showing him in my body language and behavior that I believe this place I’m taking him is good totally helped. Often, he walks right up the steps himself and looks genuinely happy to be there and gives me a kiss and says goodbye. There were and still are some days when I have to leave him crying. But I love him up, put on a brave face, and then go elsewhere to deal with the emotional fallout from walking away from your crying kid. I think when I used to give him 85 hugs and look searchingly into his eyes with concern, it sort of sent the message to him that he should be worried, because I looked worried too. So that’s been a game changer, recognizing that I’m showing him, through my gestures and expressions and behavior if something is okay or not, scary or funny, exciting or worrisome. It feels good to own up to the fact that whether I acknowledge it or not, he’s always looking to me to see what’s up.
What that whole daycare drop-off experience really helped me to see is that I’m the decider. And there’s something incredibly relaxing about taking on that responsibility. I’ve had many a day with him where I feel totally sloshed around in his stream-of-consciousness reality and suddenly find myself digging in the garden for snails when I know he really should have gone down for a nap 15 minutes ago. Since stepping into my role as decider, I had to face down my own fear of his reaction. He might cry. He might tantrum. Turns out, though, that since I started having really clear, passionless boundaries with him, “No, you can’t have my fish oil capsules,” “We’re not going to the kindergym today,” “It’s time for a nap,” he gets upset sometimes, but way less than I would have imagined. I think he’s actually starting to learn that the world is finite and not the way you want it sometimes and that it’s a bummer but also something he can handle. It’s been a huge relief for me to give up the ghost of trying to save him from that disappointment. And I can choose to do things his way or walk at his pace or wrestle on the bed or wear sunglasses and eat yogurt, but I need to choose myself if that’s what we’re going to do, rather than being constantly tethered to his ever-changing whims.
The other thing I’ve been getting all mojo-ey about lately is a statement that I learned from a Magda Gerber book that I just listed in my Toddler page, “I’m not going to let you do that.” Hallelujah. It’s just the best damned statement in the world as far as I’m concerned. It’s clear. It’s direct. It’s what I mean. I don’t have to get into some weird, murky, moral conversation where I try to explain to him why we don’t grab other people’s nipples. And again, it’s just as much about re-wiring myself and stepping into my parent power. POW. I’m not going to let you do that, because I’m the parent and I can take your hand away from that little girl’s nipple and pick you up and take you somewhere else. Ahh, the simple elegance of stepping into my own parenting oomph and confidence.
I thought I was ahead of the curve when I opted to read less how-to parenting advice and use my maternal instincts more. But for things like newborn sleep, toddler tantrums, my instincts have failed me royally. Turns out that in situations like these, nothing replaces the sage advice of a skilled expert.