Month: October 2013

Waiting It Out

Hoping he does not fall asleep in the car on the way home from the zoo. Working his sleeping body carefully out of the car seat in the hope of transferring him to the bed still asleep. Hurrying through an unhappy but necessary diaper change. Nursing in bed. Murmuring Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You. Hoping the sawing and banging coming from the gut renovation next door does not keep him awake. Grimacing when Ocean Waves transitions to Octopus’s Garden instead of looping back on itself. Laughing out loud when he unlatches, looks up, and begins dancing in bed. Resetting Ocean Waves to repeat continuously. Nursing on the second side. Humming Simple Gifts. Wrapping my arm around his wriggling body. Breathing deeply. Patting his back as he crawls on top of me. Rubbing our noses together in an eskimo kiss. Nursing  on the first side again. Pulling him back as he crawls to the foot of the bed. Denying to myself that this will likely be a naptime fail.  Rocking him in my arms until he requests to be put down. Nursing some more. Stroking his hair. Pulling him back. Nursing. Humming. Breathing. Feeling seeds of frustration rise up. Choosing love instead. Gently picking him up. Getting out of bed. Believing that, even if not now, sleep will come.

H squirrels things.

The magnets and the spoons go under the refrigerator. The measuring cups go under the stove. The rocks go in the shoes. The magnetic wheels and the dirty socks go in the recycling bin. The thin rod from the cone sorting toy goes underneath the closet door. The cylinder block goes in the box of towels to donate to the vet. The red T and the green H go between the stereo and the television. The wooden baby comb goes in the wine storage box. The rocks and the sticks go in my mouth. Everything goes in the car seat.

One magnetic wheel is still missing. What a delight it will be to open a door or drawer someday and discover where H has squirreled it away.

H got some B. blocks for his birthday. They came with a book of quotes from children ages 5 and under. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but this one is a top contender: “But Daddy’s a big boy, and HE doesn’t sleep alone!” Luke, 5

There’s also: “You know what? Not all dreams come true. But that’s okay because you can always make new dreams.” Katie, 4

So wise, those littles.

I was angry. I was angry because it was noon and he was not sleeping. I was angry because it was noon and he was not sleeping and we had had a failed nap attempt two hours earlier. I was angry because I had not showered in a week. I was angry because my husband had lately been coming home from work at or after bedtime. I was angry because in addition to leaving me and H for work during the week my husband had found reasons to leave us on the weekends. I was angry because most of my husband’s reasons for leaving us on the weekends were reasonable. I was angry because I had been getting out of bed with sore nipples in the morning because there had been so much nursing at night. I was angry because my husband and I had argued about photocopies. I was angry because my husband and I had argued about photocopies but we were really arguing about something else. I was angry because I was not sure what that something else we had been arguing about was. I was angry because I did not know how to talk to my husband about the undefined thing we had been arguing about when we argued about photocopies. I was angry because there was no one to take over the nap. I was angry because I felt like it was all up to me. I was angry because I was angry. I was angry because I was angry and I could not just stop being angry.

And then I surrendered. I curled around H, feeling the rise and fall of his rib cage and the warmth of his body against mine. “I am home,” I thought. “This is where I am meant to be.” My breathing slowed. I got very still. I laid there feeling the full weight and discomfort of my anger. I could feel that I had hardened around it. I worked on softening around it instead. I could feel that I wanted to look away from it. I worked on staying present with it instead. I could feel my mind justifying the angry thoughts. I worked on letting go of the need to have ground under my feet. I wanted resolution, for something external to change so that I did not have to feel angry anymore. I worked on accepting the anger as my own and a choice that I had made.

And then just as suddenly as they had come, the angry thoughts were gone.

I am in the thick of this practice. I do not know how far I have come or where I am exactly. It often feels as if I am fumbling around with my eyes closed in the pitch black of night. And yet I keep at it. I keep at it for myself, I keep at it for H, and I embrace one thing I do know. Things arise and fall away, again and again, and all there is to do is make room for it all, even the uncomfortable anger.

The letter at storytime today was H (h).

We heard stories about helping, including Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore.

We sang Helping Hands:

When I see someone fall down
I will lift them up.
If they’re lying on the ground
I’ll use my helping hands.

Chorus:

Helping hands helping one another.
I’ll do all I can with my helping hands.
If my Mommy is the cook
And the baby’s crying,
I will read to him a book
And use my helping hands.

[Repeat chorus]

If my Daddy is alone
Working in the garden,
I will help him weed and hoe
With my helping hands.

[Repeat chorus]

Hands should never hurt or fight
Or make someone unhappy.
Do some good and make things right
With your helping hands.
Helping hands helping one another.
Let’s do all we can with our helping hands.

[Repeat]

Oh, let’s do all we can with our helping hands.
Oh, let’s do all we can with our helping hands!

The early literacy tip was about singing:

“Whistle while you work! It’s not just Mary Poppins who can make work fun by singing a song. Getting help doing something can be as simple as making it into a song. It doesn’t have to be anything official…just pick a familiar tune, and put your own words to it! Not only are you making it more fun, but you’re helping your kids hear the beats and phrasing inherent to language…important building blocks to reading!”

An hour and a half into bedtime last tonight H sat up in bed and started clapping. (He had clapped for the first time earlier in the afternoon with T while I was in another room.) My heart swelled as we clapped together. Then I scooped him up, snuggled him close, and told him I loved him. He gave me two open mouth baby kisses.

H makes ordinary moments like these feel extraordinary. He is a gift.

The flip side of the longer, independent bed naps that H has been taking is that sometimes he fights those naps tooth and nail or skips them entirely. Today he was in a nap fighting, nap skipping kind of mood. His tired cues, the yawning and the eye rubbing and the fussing, were clear, and I broke out all of my sleep-related parenting tools. Sleep did not come for him, but frustration did for me. Sometime during the bouncing, patting, nursing, rocking, singing, murmuring, humming, walking, carrying, and frustrated thoughts pinging around in my mind, Importanter Than a Diaper showed up.

Importanter Than a Diaper.

It comes from a piece by Andrea Scher in which she recounts wrangling her younger child into a diaper while her older child calls for her from the bathtub. She struggles. She struggles with getting the wriggling child into the diaper, she struggles to balance the needs of both of her children, she struggles to stay calm. She struggles and then she yells at her older child. As she apologizes for the yelling, snuggling her older child close, he tells her through tears that he is importanter than a diaper. “Yes, yes, you are right,” she tells him. “You are much more importanter than a diaper.”

In my own frustration, Importanter Than a Diaper became a mantra. As I repeated it to myself, it stood in for all the things H was much more importanter than. He was importanter than that article on the internet I had wanted to read while he napped. He was importanter than my desire to have five minutes to myself to do nothing at all. He was importanter than my need to have illusory control over the napping situation. He was the importantest thing in my world at that moment. Importanter Than a Diaper slowed the frustrated thoughts pinging around in my mind until they were quiet.

We got out of bed and played on the floor. It ended up being a nap fighting, nap skipping kind of day and it was okay. There were importanter things to do. Everything else could wait.

Read Andrea Scher’s essay Importanter Than a Diaper.

(Originally posted in slightly different form in my sleep support group, July 2013.)

My 12 month old has currently been napping for an hour and a half, independently on our bed. I nursed him to sleep and rolled away. He is not always taking long, independent naps these days, but it is happening more and more.

This is a baby who had to be held or worn for months for every nap. From months 6 through 11, I could not even put him down on the bed beside me. I have never done anything to encourage him to sleep in bed. I held him or wore him when he needed it, and ever since he started nursing, we have nursed for sleep.

I used to worry that I was creating bad sleep habits or doing us both a disservice by not cultivating more varied tools to help him learn independent sleep. But now I know that nothing I have done has created bad sleep habits. New tools work when he is ready for a new tool, not because I have decided he needs one. His sleep shifts and changes in ways I do not expect, cannot always predict, or can even figure out as it is happening. I help him with sleep and still his sleep develops and matures.

There is peace and beauty in watching him grow up on his own terms. This is the peace and beauty of waiting it out.

(Originally posted in slightly different form in my sleep support group, July 2013.)