Thursday, June 6, 2013

Go The Bleep To Sleep

Today is a very fitting day for this entry. Most nights I fight with my sons about bedtime. The younger one tends to be more independent as a sleeper, but the older one will fight you tooth and nail. A lot of nights, the last thing in the world I want to do is put my kids to bed. Yes, I know I should look forward to that time: snuggles, books, songs, etc. BAH, to me it's work. Yes, I do enjoy the snuggle time and books prior to bed, but once we start the march down the hall to brush our teeth and go potty, the game is afoot. And not in a fun way.

Think about it, I've been up from somewhere between 5 and 6 AM with these boys. In the first hour they are awake, I've changed two soaked night time diapers, changed wet pajamas, changed sheets,  changed probably two poop filled pull-ups, gave them milk, let out the dog, stopped with the dog to solve a fight over a toy, fed the dog, got the kids to pee on the potty, brush their teeth, brush my teeth, go to the bathroom myself and finally get to a cup of coffee. And then it's MAYBE 7 AM. By bedtime at 7:30 PM I'm exhausted. I've already spent 18+ hours a day with these kids and they're usually vying for one more. There are days where I'd rather clean up, watch a show or heck, I'd rather sit and stare at a blank wall in a dark room. But no, most nights, my kids will pull out all the stops.

Just the other day both kids were on their A game. I'd just put the baby down, patted him on the back and gave him a kiss. I calmly and quietly said good night to him and walked out. He was fine. A few minutes into my exercises (I do them during bedtime because I have lots of time in these battles) I hear Theodor say, "Mommy, I miss you". REALLY? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? He's not even 18 months old! I waited a minute, he said it again. I walked in the room assuming I'd have to lay him down again, but when I got there, he quickly shut his eyes and started PRETEND SNORING! I told him goodnight and walked out trying not to laugh. This went on two more times before he actually fell asleep.

That same night, Henrik was a pro, as we were walking towards the stairs he said,  "Oh, no. That toy fell out of it's box. I better put it away." I let him do it and them ushered him up the stairs and tried to re-direct the focus from why the toy had fallen to bedtime. We brushed our teeth together, went into his room and through his bedtime routine (which always includes me semi-bribing him to stay in his bed all night). About twenty minutes later,  I was sitting by the fire and heard three little taps on the sliding door. I turned around and there, staring at me with these big doe eyes and a Ben Stiller Blue Steel looking face, is Henrik. I opened the door.

A: Yes?
H: Um, I need to brush my teef again. Dey just don't feel really clean.
WTF?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I try not to laugh. I try not to be annoyed. I try not to get upset that he's playing me. I walk him back upstairs and tell him again that it's time for bed. We go through the whole "It's not dark" business, we go through the "my animals are scared" crap. We even go through the "I just want you to snuggle me" routine. It's not that I don't want to snuggle, it's that I want fifteen minutes to be brain dead! I want to play one of my six day old games of DrawSomething that is about to be forfeited! I want to watch a Big Bang Theory for twenty-two minutes in peace and quiet! I want to be off duty! So NO I cannot snuggle you.

About twenty-two minutes later I went up stairs and got ready for bed, Henrik greeted me at the top of the stairs. I wasn't really surprised.
H: Mom, need me to do stuff for you or somefing?
A: Sleep.
H: Oh, I'm not tired yet.


So I'm stuck in a place where I know I can't really win. The only way to win is if I change my definition of winning. If I assume a win is having the kid sleep, then I can do that with some effort. If I assume that winning is them putting themselves to bed and sleeping in their bed all night, then it requires a lot more work and I'm not sure I have the patience for that right now.  You see, our sleep issues started when we took Henrik out of his crib. We had just moved to a new house and were finally a family again after we were displaced for two months during the flood. Eric's work schedule started to get crazy and he'd leave before the boys would wake up in the morning and there'd be more than a few nights he'd come home after bedtime. On top of that, Eric was pulling a crew shift which meant he was gone for about 36 hours at a time. Because of this irregular lifestyle, Henrik would come in our room each night, walk to Eric's side of the bed to check and see if he was there, ask where Daddy was, and then climb in bed with me.

For a while we were quite the sticklers on falling asleep in your own bed by yourself, but it was an ugly battle that lasted over a month. There were nights I yelled. There were several tears by all of us, and there were nights I just wanted to come into their room and scoop them up and snuggle them to bed. We were finally successful, but it lasted only a few months until we traveled for a holiday visit to see family.

I don't mind co-sleeping, it'd be better if I had a larger bed, but I actually like being close to my family. I like waking up in the middle of the night for whatever reason and seeing my kids there. Sure I get punched, kicked and peed on, but even that doesn't bother me enough to move them back to their beds. I read an article in my quest for sleep solutions for bad sleepers that changed my mind and made me feel like I was right in my desire to be close to my children. I also discovered that humans are the only mammal that do not sleep in packs or herds. It's not natural for us to sleep away from our young and when I started thinking about it, I prefer to sleep in the same bed as my husband and don't really like sleeping alone when he's away for work. Heck, even the dog sleeps in the middle of the hall between both our rooms so she can be near all of us. I've even caught her on Henrik's bed with him!

So now I'm torn, do I do what is natural? Will I still raise normal kids that can become independent and confident if we occasionally sleep in the same bed? What if I make them do the cry-it-out method? Will that make me a better parent? What if it just doesn't work for me? For now, I'm pretty lax about it because our life is hectic and Eric is away, but I do like to have the boys start out in their own beds. I will snuggle them on occasion, and I've sat in their room or in the hall, just out of their reach but in their sight plenty of times. And on some nights, if I know I'm fighting a loosing battle, I give up my last possible free hour of the day and pick up one boy at a time (sometimes both at the same time) rub their heads, rock them and watch them start to relax. They start to meld into my body, they blink over and over... and over..., their grip is tight but not stressed and they drift slowly and peacefully to sleep. I hold on to them, smell them and rest my head on theirs. It's perfect.

Just because I said I liked holding them doesn't mean I want to do it every night. And no, just because I don't mind co-sleeping doesn't mean I don't want a night alone in my bed, I'm sure Eric would argue that we need more nights alone in our bed. But while I test out different methods and figure out what works for each kid and for us as a family, it would sure be nice if every once in a while the kids just fell asleep and I could pick them up, put them in bed and see them in eleven or so hours. Shoot, I'd take eight hours most days. 

I'd say that 90% of my nights are filled with a bedtime that takes at least an hour, and while it's exhausting, physically and mentally tiring, trying, and mostly painful, I look at my boys and realize that there will be a day when they won't want to sleep with me any more. But until then, I'm going to continue to fight when it's important and give in when it's not. Look at them, they won't be like this for long. 
The boys, a poison dart frog and a salamander in my bed

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