Monthly Archives: March 2015

Older Child Resisting Bedtime But Finds Parent In Bedroom to be More Stimulating Than Calming

I’ve had a lot of people ask what to do if an older child is having a hard time with bedtime because the parent being in the room seems to keep them awake instead of helping them sleep.

When my oldest was around three I started needing to leave the room because my being there was more stimulating than calming.

What I would do is I would do the bedtime routine outside of his room, then we would go into his room and lay in his bed and read some books. I’d step him through the steps to relax his body and his mind.

“It is bedtime. It is time to sleep. When I am sleepy I lay down and let my thoughts get… sloowwwwww. Goodnight feet. Relax your feet and let them sinkkkk into your warm and comfy bed. Goodnight legs.. relax your legs and let them sink into your warm and comfy bed. Goodnight knees… Relax your knees and let them sink into your warm and comfy bed…. I like to breathe sloowwww and deeeeep, it feels calm. ::breathes slowwww and deep:: Then we relaaaaax our bums and let them sink into your warm and comfy bed. And we relaaaax our belly and our chest. Breathing slow… Our hands are sleepy too. And our arms are relaxed. Let your shoulders melt into your pillow. Now your body is calm and sleepy and your head is heavy and sinking into your pillow, too. ::stroke child’s face:: You are so beautiful and I love you so much. You have big beautiful sleepy eyes. ::stroke child’s face near the side of one eye, bumping gently into their eyelashes. Mmm.. Let’s snuggle down and be sleepy together.” at which point I snuggle down and close my eyes and continue to gently stroke my child’s face.

After a week or so of that I would let my oldest know that he didn’t seem to be falling asleep just yet, and that I had to feed the dog and I would be back in a couple of minutes and that if he stays in bed I can snuggle him some more. I’d go feed the dog really quickly and then come back upstairs and snuggle until he fell asleep.

I gradually increased the number of chores that I would do each night, each one brief with a check-in and a quick snuggle after. Eventually he started falling asleep within fifteen minutes with one check-in instead of taking 1-2 hours to finally wind down.

He never cried, he was never upset, and I always came back. I still check in on him to make sure he’s sleeping, to tuck him in and to tell him I love him. He’s older now and doesn’t really need it anymore, but it’s a sweet tradition that I enjoy and will continue unless he tells me it’s time to stop.

When Loving You Does Not Come Easy

One day Alex texted me while I was trying to calm Keenie, who was teething. I couldn’t respond with a text back so I sent him a picture instead. I am exhausted. Frazzled. That day was not easy.

Sometimes I have to remind myself. I love you. I never forget the words, but sometimes the feeling seems strangely distant for something that I know to be so intense.

It does not always come unbidden the way the first rush of love did. It does not surge ahead loudly the way annoyance, frustration and anger can when I am stretched thin. It is something easy to see and feel and hear and know when life is calm and happy.

It doesn’t disappear in chaos, though. It doesn’t blink off when things are rough. It does not go silent. It does not get shut off in that in-between.

It just requires pause.

Like how I may freeze my body in the noise and try to slow my breathing to catch the quietest sounds. Like a heart-lifting song at a volume and frequency that I feel I can only hear between the beats of my heart and the sound of my breathing. Like a tiny twinkling of light in the dark that I lose sight of when I blink, and that I must find again.

That rush of love is always there.

I sometimes need to slow down. Bury my face in my child’s hair. Whisper “I love you so soo sooo much.” Slow my breathing, my movements, my thoughts.

It is right there, waiting for me. It never goes away.

I just forget to look sometimes.

I’m Not Afraid to Say No. (I Just Try Not To)

noThere’s a lot of talk about “No”. About why not to use it, about why to use it, about being “afraid” of it..

It’s really not that big of a deal.

It’s just that as a word it’s a closed door. Heavy, cumbersome solid wood hanging on a rusted hinge and squeaking uncomfortably against its frame for which it is ill-fit.

In the middle, printed clearly, are two letters. “NO”.

No! Not for baby. Cut it out. Don’t do that! Stop that! Don’t! Stop! Not a toy! You’ll break that! Don’t climb! No Jumping! Not for you! Put it down!

It’s a door that, when slammed shut, is often mistaken for teaching. For being firm. For setting limits.

Sure. It teaches. It teaches “no”.

Which is fine. Many people feel that “no” is a good word and that in the early years it’s impossible to over-use.

It is not the approach that I have chosen.

In that thin strip of empty space at the bottom of the door, curious shadows dance and a bright enticing light shines. There’s a world of wonders, and the promise of those things will send children to that doorknob time and time again until they are strong enough to be able to pull it open and sneak past.

And then they will. Old enough to get in trouble that they lack the knowledge to understand.

What comes on the other side of that door? When you step past that first reaction with your child and you explore that thing hand-in-hand, side by side?

Many things.

“Look. See?”

“Can I show you how?”

“Right there. Look. It is sharp. It is hot. Ouch!”

“This is what being careful looks like.”

“Hold on to it like this, see? Yes, just like that.”

“If you fall, fall away from the edge.”

“Mind the edges.”

“That is a narrow space to stand. It is high up. Is there anything to hold onto?”

“Look? See? That pulls away easily, then you will fall.”

“Maybe if…”

“That is fragile. See how carefully I pick it up? And then it goes down slow..”

“I don’t think Alexander likes it when you do that.”

“Does she look like she is having fun?”

“Oh dear, I dropped a glass and it broke. I have to clean it up carefully because all the pieces are sharp like splinters.”

“Oh no, this room is a mess! We cannot find anything. Let me show you where each little thing lives so we can put them all away.”

“How do you think we can…?”

“Can I help you?”

“I’m watching. You’re doing it safely. I’ll let you know if you need to be more careful.”

It’s not a tear-free approach. Sometimes things get broken. But I’m pretty sure that my life isn’t tear-free either, and sometimes things get broken.

And I learn from those times.

So do they.

My job isn’t to say no every five minutes. It’s to keep them safe from the unacceptable consequences while teaching them how to do all the things that they want to do. Safely.