Sunday, January 27, 2013

Why I Still Provide for All of My Boys' Nighttime Needs

Almost exactly 2 years ago, when my sweet oldest boy was a mere 2 years old, I wrote this post about some things I learned about babies and sleep.

About a month later, I wrote a follow-up post that talks about why I still fall asleep with my toddler.

So here we are, two years later, and my sweet oldest boy is 4 years old and has a 16-month-old little brother.  It is high time for an update.

Actually, I feel somewhat compelled to write this, simply because sleep keeps coming up in many of my online mom circles, and I find myself disagreeing with so many of the suggestions and approaches some folks take with sleep and their kiddos.

I certainly mean no disrespect to mamas who choose the approaches I don't agree with.  After all, their children are not mine.  But when I hear a mama who says she is exhausted, and tired, and done with having to get up with her child, I hear the desperation in her words.  I understand wanting to have a quick answer to the sleep issue.  But I also think that those quick answers can come with  a pretty big trade-off.

I imagine it is not easy to hear my words of "hang in there, it will get better" when the person is looking for ways to improve sleep Right! Now!, but I'd like to think that some mamas might find support in advice to trust our instincts and the belief that our children will not want us anywhere near their bedrooms when they hit puberty.  Those years are but a blink of an eye away, and they will be here before we know it.

I would like to use this forum, since it is my blog and all, to try and dispel some myths surrounding sleep and babies/children.  And to also document the way my boys sleep at various times in their lives.  I have gone back to my blog numerous times to see how certain things were for BBZ as I raise LBZ.  It's amazing how many things I forget.

The biggest myth I see on online discussions is this: If you provide _____ at night now, plan to do it forever, because your child will never learn to sleep without it.

On one hand, this could be true.  For example, I have nursed, rocked, snuggled or laid down with BBZ each night that I have been with him until he fell asleep since the day he was born.  I continue to do so until this very day.  Some folks might consider that a bad habit, but I certainly do not.

In fact, it is during this time that BBZ continues to be his most open and honest self.  I was out of town one night last week, so when I returned he was extra cuddly.  He told me that he got in trouble earlier that day in school.  He didn't want to tell me why.  I didn't press it and we talked about other things.

The lights were out, besides his spiderman night light shining in the corner.  He giggled, and chatted, and told me all of the things daddy did for him while I was gone.  He talked about his brother and how he does such silly things.  He told me he missed me and that while daddy tried snuggling with him the night before, it wasn't quite like our snuggles.

Then I told him that I love him no matter what.  He decided that it would be ok to tell me what he got in trouble for.  I was able to reassure him that it was ok, that his teacher wants him to be safe, and ask how he would handle the situation if it should happen again.

I believe that he would never have felt comfortable telling me this otherwise.  Not only was he able to tell me, but he was also quiet and focused enough at this time to talk about why he was worried about telling me.  It was a precious moment, that I hope I don't forget.

Now on to Mr. LBZ.  I can write about his sleep pattern now because it seems we are making our way into a more positive place.  He has been waking up at night fairly regularly since before he turned 1.

That's 4 months people.

If anything was going to shake my theory about sleep and babies, this run my littlest gave me would have done it. 

It has been hard.  Really, really hard.  But despite what advice I would have been given had I asked for it (and I know not to), I rode it out.

I provided for him at night.  If he cried, I would watch and listen to him on the monitor.  I would watch and be able to decide if he would settle back down or if I had to get up with him.  I watched and waited and more often than not, I went into his room, picked him up, and rocked him back to sleep.

Sometimes he was up once, sometimes 3-4 times.  Sometimes N would be able to settle him down, sometimes I had to.  Sometimes N would end up sleeping with him on the couch, and sometimes he'd end up in bed with us.

Not one time did I let him cry so that he would learn to self sooth.

Not that I am judging parents who do.

Let me say that again...

Not that I am judging parents who do!

I'm really not.  But for me, I truly believe that if my children are awake and upset and seem to need me at night, I need to respond to that need.  Even if I don't understand why it is happening.

Granted, I did let him cry.  Not hysterically, not more that what made me comfortable, and not to try to teach him anything.  I can always tell if he is going to settle back to sleep on his own and when he wouldn't.  If I thought he would, I would let him.  If I thought he wouldn't, N or I would go in and pick him up.

So now, even after 4 months of providing for him and responding to his needs.  He has slept through the night for one whole week straight!

Hip, hip hooray!!!

So I guess the message I want to send to myself and to others who might be feeling like wakeful nights are never going to end unless they begin this approach or that approach or if they will "always have to _______ or he/she will never learn to sleep on their own", hang in there.  Continuing to meet the need does not always mean that you will have to continue it forever.

And even if you do have to  lay down with your four-year-old until he falls asleep , maybe the benefits of that far out weight the ease of kissing him on the head and walking out of the room.

That certainly has been the case for us :)

I believe these "early YEARS" with my babies will pass quickly.
They will be long gone one day, and I will yearn for the closeness my young boys once needed from me.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"I have an uncomfortable feeling"

BBZ's school offers a program called Second Steps.  I don't know a whole lot about it, but I do know that they focus a lot on talking about and identifying feelings.

During dinner, BBZ told me... know that yucky feeling that you get in your tummy?  Before you throw up, and it doesn't feel good or feel right?  Well, that is an uncomfortable feeling.  And do you know the feeling when you are cuddling with your blankie or favorite toy on the couch and you are nice and warm?  That's a comfortable feeling."

While I was quite impressed with what he had retained from his classroom's session that day, I didn't really think much of it.  BBZ was already quite in tune with his feelings.

BBZ and N were engrossed in a video game last night, so we let him stay up about 45 minutes past his regular bedtime.  It was now the time that he was usually falling asleep when we began to tell him he needed to brush his teeth, get his jam jams on, etc.

He was dawdling and fidgeting and dragging his feet, and I was getting aggravated.  When he finally came into the bathroom, he wanted me to sing the tooth brushing song I always sing when he brushes.  I started to, but my voice clearly was not happy about it and I was putting the toys from the bath away rather than watching him like I always do.

I looked over at him as I continued to sing, and I saw his eyes well up with tears.

He began to cry, really big tears, then he grabbed his tummy and said "I have an uncomfortable feeling!!!"

It was all I could do not to giggle when I first heard him say it.  Then I really looked at his face, and his feelings were genuinely hurt (and apparently really uncomfortable for him).

I'm still not exactly sure what he was so upset about.  Chances are it was because he was so tired.  Maybe it was because he really likes the song I sing and I wasn't giving it the fair attention it deserved.  Whatever it was, he expressed himself without hitting, kicking, or throwing anything around him at me.

Second Steps mission accomplished.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hello, Monday.

Since March of 2011, I have had Mondays off of work.  And I have loved it.  I started working on Mondays again for 1 week before Christmas, but last week was my forst official 40-hour work week in a while.

Surprisingly, being back at work on Mondays hasn't really been that bad.  N has been staying home, BBZ goes to school from 9-12:30pm (to both hold his spot and allow him to swim with his friends on Monday mornings, something he has been missing since the beginning of the school year), and all three of my boys get to spend the afternoons having fun and playing together.

While I am a bit jealous when I see the photos N posts on his instagram account, I can't help but feel a bit giddy about having a husband who is not only willing to take Mondays off with our boys, but doesn't spend the day laying around the house with them watching TV.  They go out and about and likely do all kinds of things that only their daddy lets them do.

And as it should be.  I'm glad they get to spend this time together.  It's good.  For all of us.

So N planned to take all of the Mondays in January off and have the boys begin on February 1st, but our plan had a bit of a hiccup when we were told that LBZ's room didn't have an opening on Mondays.  At first, we thought that I would have to go back to 4 days/week for a while, or look into another daycare option for Mondays, but something told me it would all work out.

And of course, it did.  An opening came on Thursdays and a baby that was coming on Mondays and Fridays wanted Thursdays and Fridays instead, so open came our Mondays.  And luckily our daycare is great so they will hold our place at our word that we will have them there (and the 5 days/week plan paid) for March 1.  We've been there long enough, where I guess they trust us.

Which means that on Mondays the boys may be able to sleep in, along with N, but I get to drive straight to work and back.  And spend my whole work day mapping out my to-do list for the week.  Rather than spending all of Tuesday catching up on Monday while stock piling everything from Tuesday into the rest of the week.  So far, it has been nice.

It's not that I don't want to spend time with my boys.  I love hanging out with them.  But to be honest, I can tell how much more relaxed I am when I am with them.  It's as though my stress from work was spilling over and I didn't even realize it.  Maybe the time I do spend with them will be extra sweet if my mind is 100% on them, rather than split between them and worrying about what I didn't get done at work that day.

Who knows.  Working full time with two boys worked before, and I'm sure it will work again. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

He's Listening. To Every Single Word I Say.

Last night, as I was laying down with BBZ as he fell asleep, he asked me a question.

He wanted to know what would happen if we saw a bear.  I explained that it depends where we are when we see one.  If we see one in our backyard, for example, we would need to contact someone to come help him.  If a bear was in our neighborhood he would be in danger.  He could be hit by a car, or shot by someone he scared, and we need to make sure someone is called like the Zoo, or animal protection, or anyone who could help the bear find his way home.

Now on the other hand, if we were camping in Colorado and we see a bear, we are technically in his territory, so we need to respect his home and be prepared and learn what to do if we see the bear.

He seemed to half listen and changed the subject to ninjas or teenage turtles or something else that he loves to talk about, so we moved on. 

And I fell asleep.  Yes, I still fall asleep with my son sometimes.  I don't fall asleep as often anymore, but I stay with him in his bed until he falls asleep every night.  And I don't mind one bit.  It isn't often that he struggles to sleep. so it's only about 20 minutes out of my day.  Honestly, the struggle to get him to brush his teeth, pee and crawl into bed is a bigger one than getting him to fall asleep.  That's the easy part, actually.

So anyway, this morning as I got out of the shower, I heard him repeat, almost word for word, the plan of what he would do if he saw a bear in our backyard...

"...we'd have to protect him, daddy.  So we'd have to call the Zoo, or the police, or someone so he doesn't get hit by a car."

It was the sweetest thing.  I have no idea why he wondered about a bear.  Maybe they read a book about bears or something.  But he was very concerned about this, and clearly my answer resonated with him.

It just goes to show how much influence we have on our kids.  We have to pay attention to the information we say not only to them, but to each other in front of them.  He is watching and absorbing every single word I say and even how I say it.  The best part about what he said can't be typed.  He used this kind of inflection to the words as though he was reading a list.  He turned his sweet little head to the side and was very serious about what he had to say.

He melts my heart, that little one.

He also started his new Little Ninjas class this week.

He's the one in the Spiderman t-shirt that looks absolutely terrified.
And he was terrified.  He didn't really want to do a lot of what the rest of the class was doing.  He sat there, seemingly frozen, during most of the class.
Have you ever seen a trait in your child that was like a mirror in front of your face?  Do you ever see traits in them that echo traits about yourself?  Perhaps ones that you aren't that proud of?
I am proud of BBZ every day, so that's not really what I mean.  What I mean is that I know I am often afraid to try new things.  I want to be automatically awesome at something and if I'm not, I shy away from it.  Possibly because I don't want to appear inept, but also perhaps because I am uncomfortable in new situations.  Whatever the reason, that trait has clearly been passed down wither through my genes or through my example, to my first born.
The whole class was trying the moves.  Everyone seemed to want to participate...except BBZ.  By the end of the class he had warmed up some, and now that we all know what to expect, we can practice and he can be a bit more prepared next week.  Luckily, the class runs all the way until May, so he will have a lot of time to become more comfortable.  And hopefully he will watch himself become better and have a different perspective when he tries the next new thing.
Now I am going to try and find something new to try so I can practice what I preach!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Some things LBZ is doing that I don't want to forget.

He nods to answer everything.  This has been an unbelievably great tool for communicating with him.  He doesn't have as many words as his brother had at this age, and it has proven to be more difficult for his daddy and I to figure out what he needs.  Until about a week ago, he would nod yes and be happy with whatever we asked him and handed to him.  He is more picky now and will nod yes, but yell at us when we had whatever it is to him.  I think we sort of distracted him before and now he is getting more honest with what he actually wants.

When it is time for bed or for nap, I will pick him up with his blanket in hand and ask if he is ready to go night-night.  He immediately looks around the room and starts waving goodbye to everyone.  It is the cutest thing!  The boy loves to go to sleep, but struggles staying asleep.  Besides a few random night recently, he has not slept all night in four months.  No, I'm not kidding.

He sings.  Not with words, but with sounds that are a perfect melody for either the name song we sing to him or the ABCs that we sing while reading a particular book to him.  He doesn't yet have the words, but he has the melody and the notes and it just melts my heart.

He also still rocks back and forth when I say it's time to leave the bathtub while he sings the bye-bye water song we sing each night.  He also loves to brush his teeth but doesn't understand why he can't use his brother's toothbrush as well as his.

Books, books and more books!  He loves for us to read to him.  He will have us read the same book over and over again.  He also loves balloons.  He loves for N to blow them up for him and let the air out or to tie the knot and play with it around the house.  I have a cute video of him chasing a balloon all around his room.

He also loves to stack blocks and stackable toys.  He makes huge towers!  Then he loves to knock them down :)  Here is a video of BBZ at the same age LBZ is now.  LBZ loves this toy, too.  I need to remember to get a video of him stacking it too!

He is getting to the point now where he wants to do or have anything that his brother is doing or has.  I can no longer say that he doesn't notice and get away with giving BBZ something, I have to have something for LBZ too.  In the morning, BBZ likes to have a snack in the car.  If I don't have one for Lu, we're all in trouble.

He is so incredibly happy in the morning!  I took this video one morning after listening to him talk and coo and make all kids of happy noises before I went in to get him.  He still doesn't really stand up and call for me.  He just sits and plays and talks in his crib for a while.  His teachers also say that he doesn't get off of his cot until they come over and get him after his nap.  Could that be a good sign for when he moves to a bed?  That would rock.

He is such a little guy.  He's very clearly in 12 month clothes, but all off BBZ's hand-me-downs for winter are 18 months.  He is gaining though.  And besides skipping dinner the last few nights, he eats like a horse!  I can no longer make a fourth helping and save it for my lunch the next day.  I am now making 4 full servings for all four of us.  Everyone is growing up so fast :(

It really doesn't make me sad though, I love watching both boys learn and grow and develop.  It just goes so fast, I'm afraid I won't remember these details!

It's already hard to remember BBZ at LBZ's age.  I can easily picture LBZ doing what BBZ does now, but the opposite is really hard.  They are both such amazing little people.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"The less you want, the more you've got, so don't you cry for more." ~WSP

Last night, Hip Mountain Mama posted on Facebook that she had a word for 2012 and had another one for 2013.  She asked all of us what our word for the year is.

I first thought of balance.  Like every other mother in the whole world, I struggle with balancing all kinds of, kids, husband, self, cleaning, money, etc.

The problem with choosing that word though, is that it will always, always lead to disappointment.  The truth is (or my truth anyway) is that I will never have a perfect balance.  The perfect balance is an illusion.  Nothing will ever be in perfect balance, because at any given time, one or more of the above mentioned things will grab my attention and the other things will lapse.  You know what though?  That's ok.  I don't need balance.  What I need is to trust myself and my little life and know that when one thing requires more, the others will be ok.

The word I did choose is satisfied.

I am extremely happy with my life.  It isn't perfect by any means, but N and I are in one of the best places we have been in our marriage in a long time.  We never really struggled, but for some reason we are really in tune with each other right now.

The boys are growing and healthy and happy.  LBZ is a little stinker who will likely test my patience even more than his brother does, although I do find that very hard to imagine.

My job is demanding and hard, and going back to full-time will likely be a bit of an adjustment for all of us, but ultimately I am very happy with the work I do, the people I work for and work with, and I am actually somewhat ready to return to work tomorrow after our 10-day vacation.

With all of that being said, I do sometimes feel like I want more.  More clothes.  More money.  More patience with my kids.  More time.  One more baby.  More, more, more.

But the truth is, I want to be satisfied with what I have.  I want to be completely ok with the things in my life, because as I see them, they really are more than I could ever ask for.  I should feel completely satisfied with my life, so that is my word for the year.

I am a very driven person.  I strive for change, for growth and for bigger and better things.  But now, this year, I want to just relax and enjoy how absolutely wonderful things are.

I found this quote while poking around google:
When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more.  Your desire can never be satisfied.  But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself 'Oh yes - I already have everything that I really need' ~Dalai Lama

I need to practice contentment.  At the time of year when people are making resolutions, something I usually refuse to make, I am trying to not change anything, and to appreciate and be content with everything I have...because my heart is incredible full :)

Cheers to 2013!