20 June 2008

What's the Worst?

We've been going through a number of annoying phases at our house lately, most of them related to (not) sleeping. Boring, boring, boring as a blogging topic but big, big, big on my mind right now, I'm afraid.

Phase 1: Mama, Come Back!
Duration: ±2 months (yes, months)
Whereupon Riley commences screaming, "More hug! More hug, please!" as soon as I shut the door for the night. 

This phase continues to some degree, but has mostly been alleviated by:
(a) simply going in and giving him one more hug, after which he falls asleep, and
(b) realizing that one of the reasons he wants me to come back in is that when I return, I bring the flashlight with me. He's obsessed with the flashlight. Now I just let him say goodnight to the flashlight the first time around.

Phase 2: Lovey, Overboard!
Duration: a few weeks
Whereupon Riley launches Froggie and Blankie out of his crib at five-minute intervals, then proceeds to shout, "Uh-oh, Froggie! Uh-oh, Blankie!" with increasing intensity.

This phase also continues to some degree, but has gotten much better. The dude needs his Froggie and Blankie; I'm not going to deprive him of his comfort objects. The night I tried to be all hardcore and say, "This is the last time I'm getting them for you!" he screamed—in that awful, truly terrified way, not in a fakey or annoyed way—for forty-five minutes before I stopped being a complete asshole and gave the poor, frightened babe his loveys back. At this point, some nights he doesn't do this at all, some nights he does it a few times. The solution has been:

(a) Return Froggie and Blankie in a silent and calm interaction. Do not engage, as engagement could be perceived as encouragement. 

Phase 3: "Riley no wanna sleep!"
Duration: two very long nights so far
Whereupon Riley wakes up in the middle of the night, crying an awful terrified cry. Rather than being soothed by a hug and a reassurance that he is safe and I love him, the pitiful, scared crying continues along with proclamations that "Riley no wanna sleep."

The solution has varied each night.

Night 1: After back-and-forthing for about an hour on my usual schedule of "check in every ten minutes," I wrapped him in his blankie and rocked him in his room until he was very, very drowsy, then put him back in bed and he went right to sleep.
Night 2: After another series of back-and-forths, I tried rocking him, but he was seriously wide awake. And nervous. His eyes were like saucers and he was only calm when I held him. I asked him what he was afraid of, and he didn't have an answer; I'm not sure if he really understands that question. In any case, I was exhausted, he was definitely not going to sleep, so I took him to bed with me.

I really hesitated before I brought him in my bed. I was so worried about him "getting his way," so worried that I was coddling him, so worried that I was setting myself up for weeks—maybe years!—of sleeping with a wee boy.

I have this problem all the time with Riley. Temperamentally, he is totally different than I am and totally different than Maddie. Both Maddie and I respond well to tough love and clear consequences. If Maddie were throwing her lovey out of bed repeatedly, I'd tell her that the next time I wasn't going to come back and get it, I'd follow through, and that behavior would stop. With Riley? Not so much. What I'm slowly realizing is that all of these bedtime tactics are rooted in a need that he has for physical and emotional time with me. He needs more reassurance than Maddie does that I will come when he calls. He needs more snuggling and cuddles. He's not playing me. He's not yanking my chain. He's telling me what he needs. Frankly, he's begging for it. When I return his lovey and respond to his cries, I'm not coddling him at all. 

And so I brought him in bed with me. Truth be told, I love having him in my bed. He was actually not very tired and spent some time laying on his back, looking around, blowing raspberries, and singing softly. He sat up a few times, and changed position. At some point, I went to sleep, and I guess he did, too, because I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to find him in a deep slumber. He didn't stir when I moved him to his crib, slept until 6:30 a.m., and woke happy.

What's the worst that could happen by bringing him to my bed? That he'll want to sleep there every night? Even if that's what happens, it won't be forever. It's not ideal, but it's fine. And if it's what he needs right now, then so be it.

As I've documented before, it's a lot of work for me to figure out what Riley needs and how to respond. It's often so fundamentally different from what I need and from what my first reaction is. It's hard to feel like I have two sets of rules to play by, that I need two separate (and very large) boxes in which to store my parenting tools. I'm constantly trying to jam everything into one box, to streamline, to simplify. I have to acknowledge that this is not always possible.


Watercolor said...

hugs. sounds like you are doing just fine.

Annagrace said...

I know--why can't we only ever have kids who are exactly like us? I'm not even being sarcastic--it would be so much easier. Pea is a lot different from me in her needs--in specific type of boundaries and consequences, in her energy level, in the way that she expresses her needs, etc. It's so hard for me to constantly remember that the boundaries and expectations I have CANNOT be about making her into a little me--they have to be about helping her become the secure, happy, mature version of herself. Which means I am learning this right along with her and I have to constantly re-evaluate my methods to be sure that I keep long-term results in mind, not just what I selfishly need or want changed now.
You're doing great--this whole thing is ALL about learning as we go and no parenting method, style, or system in the world fits every kid or every situation. We just have to figure it out day by day, regardless of what the "experts" say...(my favorite "experts" have either one child or none or none for 25-plus years...bastards).

Jan said...

It sounds to me like you're doing a great job of balancing your lesson-teaching moments and your needs-fulfilling moments.

I have one that's really needy this way, too, though she's older and understands better now. It is easier now that she can reason a little bit. And there are some advantages. I can take her virtually anywhere, because as long as she gets to be with me, she requires little else.

I have a suggestion about the flashlight thing, though. I bought our daughter one of the wind-up ones. Before bed, I wound it, then left it with her. She was allowed to "read" in her bed until it went off. No batteries to wear out because the flashlight was left on. It worked great for us -- she will still occasionally ask me to wind it at night.

Sleep stuff can be so tricky. You have my sympathies!

Brainy girl said...

I don't envy having to figure out two different parenting styles simultaneously - it's hard enough when they're siblings separated by a couple years... Anyway, just an assvice comment that bringing Riley to bed with you does NOT mean you will never get rid of him. I firmly believe that when you give a kid what he NEEDS, that you save him and yourself from much bigger problems later because his needs weren't met at the time. My son slept with us till about 6 mo, then he was put to bed in the crib but was brought to our bed on his first waking, with no fuss. This went on for quite a while, but it was great because we never had to get woken up more than once a night - once he was in our bed, he slept great. Gradually, this need just faded and he learned to sleep through the night in his crib. He's 2 and a half now and hasn't been in our bed to sleep for probably a year - though he does come in for long snuggles every morning, which is perfect!! Every kid is different, but I get annoyed when people suggest that bringing your child to bed with you means he'll be there till he's 8.

FiliBlogger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FiliBlogger said...

It's a tough age and there are no real experts on your child besides you. Do whatever keeps you sane!

Toddlers aren't well-known for developing life patterns anyway. My almost 2 year old seems to be more interested in things she can't have but when I finally give in to her, she just drops it on the floor and finds something else I can say no to. It's always something new with her.

Lara said...

Most parents realize eventually that the methods that worked so will with child #1 do not work at all with child #2. You are stuck learning that all the time. It's tough, but you're doing a great job. You understand that Riley is NOT like Maddie. That's the big point. The rest is just what we all have to do with our second kid... trial & error, improvisation, and lucky guesses.

Lara said...

Oh, and as for sleep...

My daughter used to wake up with nightmares frequently. A couple of times a week. She'd either call from her room or, when she got older, walk to our doorway and tearfully sob "I had a bad dream." I just scooted over, she snuggled into bed between my husband and me (so she wouldn't fall out), and we all went back to sleep.

Sometimes what is important isn't getting them to sleep in their own bed. Sometimes it's just getting sleep. You need your sleep too. Giving in isn't bad, unless they are doing what they do to manipulate you. You can always change your methods if they begin being manipulative.

Prophecy Girl said...

Like you, I struggle constantly with the SAME sleep issues with my son who is 16 months old. Recently, I came to the conclusion that he just wants more snuggle time with mama. He now sleeps most of the night in our bed, and I'm finally fine with it (after working soooo hard to keep him out the first 16 months!!!). I was really afraid that I was setting myself up for something bad but I think at the end of the day, he just wants to be close to his mama - and I'm pretty sure it won't be forever, so I might as well enjoy having him with me now.

It's nice to know another parent is going through the same thing.

Twice Blessed said...

Snick - Do your twins share a room? Mine do. We're going through a similar situation. They are both fighting sleep these days..maybe the longer daylight? They've both ended up in our bed for the past week.. I don't get a lot of sleep as it is.
Do you just hug them in the middle of the night (usually) and rock them back to sleep? What about when they were only 13-14 months?
I'm finding it hard to get them back to sleep in thier cribs after they wake up crying....sigh.

Ginevra said...

Snick, dude, you are so fucking awesome. I love you.

Jan, wind-up flashlight idea is great. I may have to get one of those for my little guy.

BrooklynGirl said...

We are living parallel lives...my son is spending a lot of time in my bed these days. It's not terrible, but I don't sleep well with him thrashing around next to me. I'm thinking of getting an aero bed for him and putting it next to my bed as a compromise. We'll see.

Snickollet said...

Twice Blessed--

M&R do share a room, always have. We only have a two-bedroom house, so that's just the way it is. Luckily, Maddie loves her sleep and pretty much never wakes up in the night. If she does, she just talks to herself and goes back to sleep. Also, Riley shennanigans do not wake her up, nor does my traipsing in and out of the room.

I used to follow a very strict pattern when Riley woke in the night: initially give him five min. to work it out on his own. If he was still crying then, go in, give a hug, tuck back in, and leave. Repeat every ten minutes. This worked for ages; he usually settled right down after my first visit. Lately, not so much. I can tell now if he's going to go back to sleep or if he's up, and if he's up, into bed with me he comes.

For us, the sleep woes have come and gone. As for the longer days, do you have room-darkening shades? I put tinfoil over the twins' windows to block out light (cheap, easy, and very effective). It makes a big difference in how long they will sleep in the morning.

Good luck . . .

Anonymous said...

FWIW, my oldest boy was a fan of Elephant Overboard. I bought him a crib tent, and zipped him up in it, and Elephant no longer flew. Not so much a problem with the littler one. YMMV.


Anonymous said...

I always found my kids in my bed in the middle of the night after they grew out of the cribs!

It really is such a short period of time that they want to be there. Mine were over it by age three and I really didn't mind having them come climb into my bed and get a better night's sleep.

If you don't really mind, then snuggle up and enjoy the time together. Sounds like he really needs it, and you both will probably get more sleep.

elderflowerpressee said...

Sorry, haven't time to read all the comments so apologies if this is superfluous, but night terrors are normal at this age and they do pass. (And then sometimes they come back again.) So anything you can do to manage and get through them is not setting a dangerous precedent, it's dealing appropriately with a temporary problem.

Clover said...

Riley sounds just like both my boys. And I struggle also- we give in a lot, out of sheer exhaustion, and I wonder if I've created a monster (my older one), and am creating another (my younger son). But neither one the kind of kid that reacts well to textbook discipline (not really the right word, but you know what I mean). My daughter, on the other hand, except when she's sick, is comparatively easy-peasy.

every tenth said...

Because we're moms of twins, it seems that we try extra hard to be equitable with everything that we do. In your case, maybe part of the difficulties about bringing Riley to bed is your own feelings about how Maddie is "missing out" on some mom time. However, you have also written about how different your kids are, so I don't think there's any reason to feel guilty about treating them differently in this situation because they require different needs.

Trish said...

Oh, the sleep tribulations... yep, we've gone through several different sleep issues with the Bunker Monkey, and have tried different things to varying success. Currently, he wakes up around 2am and comes in our bed. I have the same attitude towards it that you seem to have: this will not last forever, and he is getting what he needs.

Plus, I have to admit that I love having my baby boy (yeh, he's 4 - what's your point? lol) next to me. So we both get what we need, I guess.

Shawn said...

My girls are just shy of 2.5 and bedtime duration is what has been killing me -- ever since the dang time change and it's still so light out at 8 pm.! We have QUITE a routine to do each night with both of them. It takes forever. And the leaving and returning is just necessary. You are stronger than I about bringing one into bed ... I can't sleep like that. However, one of my girls does wake up and is just awake so we rock her for a bit and let her calm down and relax.

Anyway, hugs to you ... sleep deprivation is NOT fun. At all.

Kizz said...

I think you're right. It seems like he might be learning to ramp himself up when he gets the tough love solution but when you give him the...tender love? solution he takes it as a cue to learn the behavior. I had horrible nightmares as a kid (still do when I'm under a lot of stress) so my heart goes out to the little guy when he wakes up all freaked out like that.

Christina Shaver said...

I usually lurk, but this one struck a chord with me. I'm going through the same thing -- only my son is 4. I attribute it to big-time separation anxiety.

I have no advice for you since I'm handling it differently. My son no longer sleeps in his crib, so the playing field changes big time.

If you plan on putting Riley back in a crib in the near future, buy a "crib tent." Worked wonders for both my kids when they would toss things overboard. That stopped it entirely. Doesn't stop separation anxiety, though.

mames said...

ahh, the sleep factor with twins. i know, or am coming to know the challenges. we recently switched to one nap and mace does 2-3 hours no problem. o just needs me, sometimes after 45 minutes, sometimes after 1.5 hours. so i go in and lay down with him, on my chest, sleeping sometimes, dreaming others. i am learning patience from this, learning that he has differences that i can honor. though sometimes i do wish he would just sleep.

btw, so glad to see you posting over at HDYDI....you are such a great mama and have so much to share. thanks.