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September 19, 2007 / allyo

Wit’s. End.

I’ve realized a couple of things about myself this week. First, access to the internet is what gets me through night after night of dealing with an insane three year old. Without another adult to help diffuse the ongoing battles, negotiations, and bribery that getting through each evening entails, a five minute break upstairs in front of the computer catching up on blogs and forums is how I keep the stress from building until it blows up in a spectacular way during the most hellacious time of night – bedtime. More on that later.

Second, I’ve realized that I don’t know how to parent a three year old. I am faced with a situation, and I have no idea which of my options for handling it are right. None. No gut feeling, no “I read this” realizations, nothing. Apparently it’s time to read some new books, but other than that, I don’t know how to get through this. And from the voicemail MD left for me earlier – “I can’t handle one more, ‘no! put the peel back on the banana! no! i can’t eat it, put the peel back on!'” – he feels the same way.

It doesn’t help that we’re adjusting to MD’s new schedule, which he began last week. Or that he spent most of saturday in bed because he didn’t feel well and had to work on sunday, so we haven’t actually had an opportunity to discuss anything in almost 2 weeks. But holy hell, I’m stuck.

The situation that is making me crazier than most is bedtime. We had a blessed run of evenings that consisted of our usual routine, then lights out, then I’d sit for 5 minutes or so and talk about the day with Jamie, then I’d tell him it was time to be quiet, then after 5 or 10 minutes of quiet, I’d leave. It was glorious. I was out of his room by 8:45 on the worst of nights and I tore through a bunch of sewing projects, cleaned the house, and started to feel sane again.

Then last tuesday I thought to myself, “We’ve really turned the corner here. Bedtime is going so smoothly, and I don’t think we’re going to go back this time.”

Yes, I did.

And the Goddess of parenting laughed maniacally as she put a hex on our house it’s all gone to hell in a handbasket YET AGAIN. And I am not handling it well.

Last night after much screaming and wailing at the mention of turning off the light, we had a long talk about what was scaring him. Shadows again, specifically the shadow of his bookcase that’s cast along the wall at the head of his bed. Finally, we arrived at the solution of leaving the light on. This was not arrived at easily – there was plenty of snapping and impatience on my end before we got to the heart of the matter, but I thought that once we came to this common ground things would go better. They did, until he was nice and calm and half asleep (at 9:15) and I said it was time for me to leave, and he lost it again.

This is where I don’t know if I did the right thing. Maybe I should have sat with him that first night, with the light on, and then worked back into our routine. I know now I should have addressed this the first time it happened last week instead of letting it get to this point. But I ended up telling him that if he DID NOT STAY IN BED, I’d “lock” his room again (I had taken the childproof gadget of the door knob so he can get up in the middle of the night and come to our room if he’s scared, because I’m not getting up anymore. Just, done with that.)

I felt shitty saying it, and he practically cried himself to sleep, and I sat on my own bed, monitor in hand, with absolutely no idea if I was doing the right thing. I still don’t, and I’m already dreading tonight.

My friend Austina commented here once about the agonizing we do as parents, and whether our own parents fretted over every single thing like this generation seems to. I think in some ways yes, and in others, no. In this case, I’m worried that he’s not just tantruming, but that he feels abandoned by me. I know what that feels like, and I don’t ever want to cause my child that pain. But I must attend to my own needs as well, and in order to get through the morning without MD’s help (he gets up right before I leave now) I have to get everything done the night before – lunch packed, kitchen clean, dinner for the next night decided upon and in some cases prepped, clothes ironed and laid out. That’s too much to be starting at 9:30. I can’t just go day to day from work at home to work at work, then work at home again. I NEED SOME TIME TO MYSELF.

Wit’s end, meet Ally. Ally, wit’s end. It was so simple when he was a baby – she says, through rose-colored glasses, forgetting the even more severe sleep deprivation – but really, balancing my needs with his was easier. I could eat dinner and watch tv in bed while he slept beside me, if that’s what he needed. I can’t do that any more, not and stay sane. I just can’t. And I don’t know if he’s ready for the boundaries that I need, and quite frankly, I’m bitter about being on my own night after night. I’m not mad at MD, I’m just mad. That’s life, but right now, I’m having a hard time with life.

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5 Comments

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  1. Austina / Sep 19 2007 8:42 pm

    Hmmm, Well I hear ya on this one. As I was reading, I remember my first, L, had issues with sleep. He was our first and we did what we thought, natural. It worked for us and him, until the second child came along. Immediately, I cried for help as I needed some sanity! I found the help I needed and the second child was very easy to get used to sleep. He loves his sleep and we are blessed. Now is this due in part to the regime we followed or is this just his nature? Who knows and quite frankly, I don’t care. It works and that was what we needed.

    However, L, our first was not so thrilled with this new regime. He didn’t like the entire solution to sleep. He was want his light on, then he would get out of bed and walk around, stay up at the top of the stairs, at times falling asleep on the landing. It drove me crazy insane!

    As I reflect, I see a pattern. You are imposing some limits on your son about the same time we did with our first. There is resistance, because of a couple things. Firstly, he is at that age that he wants to assert himself and secondly, you didn’t have these restrictions before so why start now. I am not saying anything here, but saying that he is not so keen on your needs now as he is more keen about his own. Also the napping, not napping, change of routine, etc, well it is a lot to deal with and he is acting out. All things I know you know, but just in case you need to read them to say, yeah….

    I am trying to figure out what finally worked with our first. Actually, I think it was the consistency and insistence that he must stay in bed and go to sleep as that was when he grew. We assured him we were there in the house and we too were going to sleep. I had to struggle a bit on the consistency things as my hubbie didn’t see the need for consistency. But eventually, a couple of months or so, he caught on. Will this work for you? I don’t know. I hope so and I hope you are able to just look at it as another learning lesson.

    Please don’t beat yourself up about this. Do what you need to do and know you will never, NEVER, abandon your child. You are setting limits and teaching him that we all need to take care of ourselves. This is an important thing to learn. You are gaining some independence from him as he is obviously gaining independence from you. Just keep telling yourself the groundwork you lay now, will be very appreciated when he is 13. Stick with whatever routine works for you and if that means putting the “lock” on then that is what it means. You need to get your sanity back and your routine is just as important. If you are no good, how does that help your son?

    It is not unreasonable to set a bedtime, create a routine and follow that through. Jamie will learn over time that this is what it is and you mean business because you love him. The rules you make in your house are made to keep him safe. When he follows those rules he is loved and cared for and safe.

    Again, I remember the timing of our first was similar and it just got better. Now he is asleep in 5 minutes or less! Shear exhaustion from a full day, but still he got better. Jamie will too. Keep reminding yourself this over and over and over again.

    Hugs and you are a great mother for even caring about how you are doing!

  2. Jody / Sep 20 2007 12:41 am

    Ah, Ally, I hear you. When bedtime is working, it’s glorious. When it’s regressing, it’s a nightmare. (Sometimes literally, and aren’t they supposed to stop keeping kids awake?) Also, three? IS HELL. Really, that’s just a nightmare of an age.

    It sounds like you’re under incredible stress, and doing the best you can to meet Jamie’s needs and your own at bedtime. I’m sorry that I don’t have any specific recommendations for your particular situation, but I can tell you that we’ve had to make bedtime easier for all of us by trying to start the whole routine earlier. It’s the only way for the kids to get the parental attention they need (well, that Wilder and Gemma need in particular) while they’re falling asleep, without Calder and I feeling like we’re only getting the night to ourselves after 9pm.

    Wilder used to fall asleep on his own last year. Mid-summer, he switched around — now he cannot fall asleep without a grownup next to him. It’s easier for us just to lie there and get him into sleep (which happens between one breath and the next, once he lets go — it’s uncanny) than to struggle with the fears and the ups-and-downs for an hour or two, which is what happens when we try to alter his comfort zone.

    I do question myself, all the time. Would parents who felt more confident in themselves, just be able to set limits, impose rules, and walk out of the room? Is this my problem, or Wilder’s need? And why for the love of God WHY can’t he keep one set of habits (the easy habits, I mean) for more than four or five months at a stretch?

    Anyway, in the current regime, we simply MUST get everyone into their beds by 7:30pm. It’s the only possible way the whole thing works. Any later than that, and both Calder and I are practically spitting with rage because the kid keeps us in his room too long.

    Of course, the 7:30 bedtime only works if all the other, earlier pieces of the evening routine come together. It’s a wearisome piece of work. I think you’ll find that bedtime has featured in a great many blog whines of mine over the years, in fact.

    So: the summary? I’m right there with you. I wish I had a quick fix to suggest. Let me know if you gain any new insight, please.

    I do agree, 100%, that you simply must get your time for yourself at night. You just must. That’s no more negotiable than anything else.

  3. Dawn / Sep 20 2007 1:25 am

    I commiserate with you. And I hate hate hate the “put the peel back on the banana!” stage with a purple passion.

  4. Amy / Jan 12 2008 11:49 am

    Thanks for sharing this. Look what I have to look forward to! (This is my sense of humor I hope you know.) It sounds like you could use some help for sure. And some wrinkle-free shirts. I feel very similarly some days. It is as though the work never ends. And with actual leave the house work, the fun part of the day with my child is spent with someone else. I just can’t stand that sometimes. Particularly when she was only a few weeks old and had colic and then when I got to pick her up from time with her grandmother she just cried for hours. And then, to top it all off, everyone tells us we have an easy baby! It does not look like #2 is coming anytime soon.

    I do think it is easier for some parents than others to let go of their actions and the impact on their kids. I don’t know if it is strictly generational or not. Good luck with sleep stuff, thanks again for responding to me. I hope your recent sleep routine is working for you (I’ll have to read and see.).

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