Posts Tagged "sleep"

Why Are You Yelling?

Posted on Apr 15, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 2 comments

Why Are You Yelling?

I want to tell you a little story. I’m with my kids in their bedroom, trying to get them to tidy up and put on pjs before bed. The room is a mess and I’m already a little annoyed when I see the state of the room, but I’m ok. I assign each child a specific job and I start grabbing dirty clothes. My daughter starts picking up. My son starts playing. I ask him to stop playing and pick up. My daughter finishes what she was picking up and now I ask her to get into her pjs and go brush her teeth. She drops her dirty clothes where she is standing, pulls out five things from her pj drawer, drops them on the ground, puts on her chosen pjs and goes downstairs to brush her teeth. I call her back to put her things in her drawer. I remind my son not to play, just pick up. I ask my daughter to put her dirty clothes in the hamper. She starts screaming at her brother. I sort out the scuffle. Remind him to pick up. Remind her to take her dirty clothes. All the while, I am also tidying the room, and dealing with my toddler. I go to help my son and keep him on task.  I’m getting frustrated that he is not listening to me. My daughter has forgotten her dirty clothes. I pick them up and go to put them in the hamper. I discover that earlier in the day my daughter has stashed a bunch of toys at the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper. I call her back from the bathroom where she is supposedly brushing her teeth but is in fact spraying water on the mirror with a squirt bottle. This is not that bizarre of a scene. I’m sure something similar goes on in every family. I find that this procedure goes best if I only give the kids one instruction at a time, and if I am as specific as I can be so that essentially, I’m verbally walking them through every step of the process. This way, they can’t get sidetracked or overwhelmed by the task because it’s broken down into manageable pieces. Now, imagine that one step is “Please pick up the necklace and put it on the shelf,” but you can’t remember the word necklace or the word shelf. On a daily basis, my ability to recall basic vocabulary is seriously impaired by lack of sleep. Every step of that clean up routine involves great mental effort for me to just give out basic instructions. Many of my instructions actually come out like this “please pick up the…the… the…gold thing. Yes, that, there. Put it on the…the…shelf.” Of course, it gets worse the more stressed I get. So, for instance, if I’m already a little annoyed that their room is so messy, and as the whole scene drags on, and I just want to get to the part where we are reading stories together, or where they are in bed so I can have a break, the more I begin to stumble over my words. When this is coupled with the frustration of feeling ignored (because kids don’t want to clean up, or go to bed, and because kids get distracted because they live in their imaginations) but which to me feels disrespectful, and means I have to repeat myself when I’m already struggling as it is to say simple things even once, I start to lose my temper. And eventually I find myself yelling, partly to get their attention, but mostly because I’m so frustrated that I can’t form a sentence. This is not an exaggeration. This just happened again as I was typing this. Aaron was putting away laundry that I had folded earlier today and I tried to tell him that the pillowcase, though in a pile with some towels, needed to be put somewhere else. But I was staring at the pillowcase, knowing it was a pillowcase, and yet totally unable to...

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Six Things I Have Learned About Baby Sleep

Posted on Jan 30, 2013 in Featured, Sleeping | 3 comments

Six Things I Have Learned About Baby Sleep

Eight years ago, I was pregnant with my first child and I knew that I would probably have some sleepless nights in my future. It turns out that I didn’t even know the half of it. No one tells you ahead of time how bad it can be or how to cope, but three kids later, I’ve learned a couple of things: 6. Babies Get Tired Every Two Hours Little babies can only be up for about two hours before they are tired again. Knowing this can make all the difference in how your days unfold. Knowing this can soften sleep struggles. Take note of when they get up and watch them after about two hours. It’s easier to put a sleepy baby to bed than to fight a baby who is either over-tired or not tired at all. 5. Babies Have ~45 Minute Sleep Cycles Thanks to Elizabeth Pantley for teaching me this one. We all sleep in cycles of deep sleep and light sleep, and we all wake up at various times during the night before returning back to sleep. The problems for parents and babies are: Our sleep cycles are different lengths (baby cycles being quite a bit shorter than ours). Babies wake more frequently than we do and often wake when we are in a deeper part of our sleep cycle making it more painful for us to wake up (though breastfeeding and co-sleeping both help to sync mother and baby sleep cycles). Babies don’t always know how to go back to sleep when they wake up during a lighter stage of their sleep cycle. This is why a baby who has a particular sleep association (like say, nursing to sleep as all my children have had) will wake hourly all night long and want to use that same method to go back to sleep. I happen to think that nursing to sleep is normal based on the biological systems that support it. However, it did help to know what was going on when my babies started waking hourly, or why a baby will only take 50 minute naps. 4. Put Down The Sleep Books I’ve said this before, but this one is pretty big for me so I will say it again: the more I read the sleep books, the more likely I was not in a good head space about our sleep situation. I’m not saying that you should never ever pick up a book on baby sleep. Many of them are super helpful. Some of them are not. Also, as I indicated with the two points above, it IS worth knowing a bit about the mechanics and biology of baby sleep and naps. Absolutely. But when you are obsessively reading more than one sleep book at a time, keeping sleep logs, counting wake ups, comparing last week to this week, plotting, strategizing, and reaching for another sleep book, there’s a pretty good chance that you need: support a break to clear your life of commitments to accept that this what is happening for you now, but it won’t last forever I’m glad I read some of the books when I had my first baby. But I’m also glad that I eventually realized that I never needed to read them ever again. (This also goes for googling: how to get my baby to sleep or why is my baby waking up so much). 3. It Sucks When People Tell You That The Baby Years Go Fast, But It’s True You know above where I said that you have to accept that this is what is happening now but it won’t last forever? You might have sworn at me under your breath. I hated, HATED, it when people said variations of “all this will one day be a memory” and I could have punched them in the throat when they even hinted that I would miss it. When I was in the depths of psychotic sleep deprivation, this is about the least helpful thing you could say to me. For someone who is struggling...

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Confessions of a Reformed Co-sleeper

Posted on Jan 27, 2013 in Featured, Sleeping | 3 comments

Confessions of a Reformed Co-sleeper

{When I was pregnant with Silas, I decided that for this baby I would try not co-sleeping. I had co-slept with my older two children and had suffered through 18-24 months of hourly wakings. I knew I had to try something different, just in case it worked. At first, it worked beautifully but eventually, Silas developed the same sleep routine as his older siblings. When Silas was 16 months old, we moved from a 1900 sq. ft. house into our 300 sq. ft. converted school bus. Sleeping arrangements changed drastically. The most practical solution for all of us, considering that Silas was still waking to nurse between four and eight times each night and there was no room for a crib, was for me and Silas to share the queen-size bed, and for Aaron to share the double bed with one of our other children.} Here I am, a co-sleeper, once again, through practical necessity. I confess that I appreciated the time Silas spent sleeping in a crib. I appreciated the early days when he slept multiple consecutive hours and I was able to sleep soundly across the room but still wake when I heard him rustle around in search of me. I can attest that I appreciated the space in my own bed to fall deeply asleep for 45 minutes at a time between his hourly wake ups that went on for a year. I relished being able to get comfortable in any position I wanted without anyone touching me, even as I dreaded the many times I had to get up and down in a night. Those blissful deep sleeps free of a head in my ribcage, an arm across my throat, a foot in the face, or an entire body on my chest made the crib worth it, even when it didn’t do the job I hoped it would. As a reformed co-sleeper, I confess that I am grateful that our living situation re-imposed co-sleeping on me. I admit that I no longer tiptoe into bed for fear that the stirring of the duvet will wake the baby, as I once did in my first incarnation as a co-sleeper. I confess that now when I climb into bed, I wrap my son in my arms and pull his sleeping body up against my own. I confirm that a bury my face in the curve of his neck and inhale the smell of him. I do indeed pass my hands softly over his silky baby hair and rub them over him, feeling the ridge of his spine, the hollow of his back, the fullness of his belly, the way his little foot fits in the palm of my hand like a secret. I acknowledge that I hold on a little tightly, squeezing him into me, absorbing him, for just a fraction of a second as I breathe in his ear, “I love you.” I confess that as he stirs, and becomes aware of my presence in his sleep, I return him gently to his pillow, smoothing his fuzzy blanket over him, and patting him back into his dreams. I confide that I take his hand, heavy and limp with sleep, into my own hand, closing my fingers around his fist, as I settle into my own pillow and close my eyes. I confess that I am ok temporarily not sharing a bed with my husband. I wouldn’t sleep as well if there were another adult body in the bed. Alone in the bed with a toddler, I have the luxury and space to roll away from Silas between nursing sessions and get comfortable, just as I could when Silas was in a crib. I acknowledge that I have been given a gift: the chance to reclaim all that I lost during the year Silas slept in a crib. I even admit that sometimes I love it when he sits up in the night and says, “nurse. mama.” because it means that I have one more chance to memorize the weight and shape of unconditional love, that I...

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Things I Have Learned From Having More Than One Child

Posted on Nov 7, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 8 comments

Things I Have Learned From Having More Than One Child

It seems to me that 90% of parenting you have to learn from experience, as you go. You can read books, have friends tell you all the dirty details, consult the experts, but until you find yourself discussing the consistency of poop at dinner with the neighbours you probably didn’t know what you were going to do, or what you’d have to do, to raise an infant to adulthood. In light of that, there are some things about parenting that I did not get as a parent of only one child. It was the experience of parenting multiple kids that taught me these little truths. **Here I must insert my disclaimer to say that I don’t mean this to be condescending to parents of a single child, whether it be by choice, by accident, or because they just haven’t had their future kids yet. I am only speaking to my experience of having learned these things through the act of parenting two or more kids. This isn’t an attack on parents of one, especially given the fact that even if parents of one never learn these things, they have other strengths and positives in their situation that I will never have the chance to experience.** Here’s what I know now, that I didn’t know when I only had Rain: It wasn’t all my parenting. It was mostly the kid. Sure, I’ve had some positive effects on my kids…but all that smugness, thinking that I’d done all these things right (or for that matter, even the guilt about the things I thought were my fault)? So much of it is just the personality of the child or the circumstances at the time. My son was toilet trained in 6 weeks. My daughter took 6 months. I don’t get points for any of it, except maybe being willing to go with the flow. Every kid has the potential to be an asshole. And an angel. Yes, even mine. And yours. You know that mama bear reaction you have when a bigger kid on the playground is being mean, aggressive, or bossy to your kid? When they throw sand in your baby’s face, or snatch a toy, or kick your sweet darling in the back because they went down the slide before your kid got off? You know that feeling when you look at the other child, thinking that he’s totally rude and aggressive, downright nasty, maybe even a brat (and you haven’t even gotten started on all the ways it’s the mother’s fault). Your kiddo seems so little still next to the other kids and you are biologically programmed to want to protect them from all harm. How about this? Your three year old is throwing a tantrum and has accidentally punched your three day old baby in the stomach. Your first reaction is to protect your baby, and you feel yourself going mama bear on your precious first born. But then you see how he’s hurting and confused and still little too. You realize that it could be your kid on the playground being mean, aggressive or bossy to someone younger and you love him anyway. You realize that all the kids out there are sometimes the rough ones, the selfish ones, the rude ones, and sometimes, the sweet ones, the funny ones, the little ones. When your kid is going through a difficult phase, you recognize it as a developmental stage or the full moon or a long day or a bad mood and worry less about what that means in the long term. You finally understand that they aren’t defined by a snapshot of their behaviour on any given day – they are all of that and more. After that, it’s a lot easier to be charitable to other people’s kids, and to your own, when they don’t play nice. A little crying isn’t the end of the world. With my firstborn, every time he cried it was earth shatteringly upsetting to me. I jumped to soothe and fix it every time. Once you have two kids that...

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Looking Back

Posted on Jan 4, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 1 comment

Looking Back

Last year at this time I was in the middle of my third trimester of a surprise pregnancy. I wanted to spend the last week of 2010 reflecting on the previous year and anticipating the next. I wanted to choose a word of the year. But I just couldn’t get past anticipating how the new baby would change our lives. All I could think about/plan for was the upcoming birth and my fears/excitement about becoming a family of five. I felt like I had just boarded a roller coaster and well, a roller coaster isn’t the best place to write in your journal or have a strategic planning session. I let the planning and reflecting go and I sat back to enjoy the ride (or hold on/white-knuckle it as it were). This year I am again in a mental space that allows me to step back and look at the bigger picture. This year I’ve chosen a word and I’ve been able to look back at the last two years to see the themes and lessons that brought us to today. 2010 began with me seeking a clear vision of my path, and consequently, faith and trust that my dreams were achievable. It was supposed to be a year of planning and moving forward, but we got thrown a curve-ball mid-way through the year, in the form of an unplanned pregnancy. Just like that everything changed: I forgot all about my intentions and plans from January and focused on the baby we would be welcoming. Yet, looking back, I see that the year was still embodied by vision, faith and trust. I had to rewrite my vision of our family and our plans and I again found myself looking for clarity of purpose as I reconsidered my dreams. I learned to trust the process and have faith in myself and my family as I fearfully wondered whether we had the energy to welcome/care for another child. I learned to relax and believe that it would all work out. 2011 ended up being a year of being, of presence. Mindfulness is a bit of a catch word in the last decade and I wish I could say that I consciously chose to be present but the reality is that it just happened. This summer, Aaron and I made the decision that our family was complete and Aaron went in for a vasectomy which meant that 2011 was the last year I will ever be pregnant, or give birth, or hold my own newborn baby against my skin. I spent 2011 reveling in the anticipation and feeling gratitude for the childbearing phase in a woman’s life. I spent 2011 watching my baby grow and trying to soak it up, knowing now, the third time around, how very fleeting it is, knowing that I can’t slow it down, knowing that I won’t experience this first hand ever again. After all the fears and uncertainty and surprise of 2010, we were delighted to welcome Silas into our lives. He has been a wonderful ray of light and sweetness in our family. He balanced us out and healed old wounds and the first 5-6 months with him were so beautiful and—I still can’t believe it—easy. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to have him. The last few months have been harder as sleep became a huge challenge and as a result, 2011 echoed 2009 in being a year of family, a year of being still and getting to know each other, a year of not taking on too much. I even went so far as to broadcast on facebook that we were struggling with sleep deprivation to the point where I was focusing only keeping my kids’ fed and clothed and as such my friends would have to forgive my lack of phone calls/visits. 2011 was about living day-to-day. 2011 was about the moment. 2011 was about now. But here we are: it is January. The days have slipped by. We have a new year. We can see Silas’ first birthday there on...

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