Our guest blogger, Gina Perkins, mom of two beautiful and “spirited” daughters, is a Silicon Valley girl turned stay-at-home mom. She now uses her passion for writing to tell the truth about motherhood – the good, the bad, and the downright absurd. You can read more of her daily musings at www.sahmstheword.com.
As I listened to my three year old daughter scream bloody murder for almost two hours last night, I vacillated between thoughts of rescuing her, and the impulse to run away from home. Listening to her plead for our attention was the most intense experience of my parenting life thus far (and this includes the time she had to get her blood drawn at 18 months old).
DJ has never been a good sleeper. I wish I could just take the blame and get on with it – but I can’t….at least not all of the blame. DJ spent the first 18 months of her life sleeping with my husband and me in our bed. More rigid parents might point their fingers toward our noses and say that that’s why we are stuck sleep training DJ now – 32 months later than most parents. But, here’s the thing – even with excruciating moments like last night’s were, I just can’t, won’t, regret the time we spent as a family in our bed. Despite our challenges now, I would never take back the cuddling, the certainty that I felt with regard to DJ’s safety, the sweet moments of sleepy nursing in the comfort of our own bed, nor the joy of waking up to the tiny hands grasping at my nose. For our family, this has been the right path.
And now, our path has lead us to this place of friction and power struggle and tantrums and tears (both from DJ and me). It’s not a pleasant place to be, but it’s our reality. Suddenly, within the past few weeks, bedtime has been about testing boundaries and pushing limits. Nothing has changed. Our routine of going potty, brushing teeth, putting on PJ’s, reading two books, lining up stuffed animals, turning on lullabies, switching on the nightlight and kissing “sweet dreams” hasn’t changed for the past 6 months. But, DJ has changed. Her quest for independence and control has grown – and, as a result, we must adapt. We must move way outside our gentle “attachment parenting” comfort zone and let DJ know, for her own good, that she’s not in charge.
With the help and encouragement of Melissa, from Sleep Sisters, we developed a plan, which included explaining the new rules to DJ, creating a “bedtime routine chart,” and instituting a reward system. Once we say our good-nights, that’s it.
Last night, this meant ignoring her 572 (screaming) demands for more water, more blankets, less blankets, a looser ponytail, a different teddy bear, her vitamins, etc. It meant forcing myself to ignore every natural impulse to run to her and rescue her from her disdain. It meant reminding myself over and over and over again that a well rested child is a happier, healthier child – and that a few nights of utter hell would eventually lead to a more rested child.
When DJ finally stopped crying and tucked herself into her bed, I felt a surge of guilt. There was a pit in my stomach as I pictured her tear-stained face climbing into bed, utterly defeated. I got up and checked on her several times throughout the night – blowing her kisses from afar, as if to offer my apologies for the trauma. It was a rough night, to say the least.
But you know what? DJ woke up in a great mood this morning. We talked a bit about the struggle last night, and again about the expectations and coming rewards. And then, she clapped and jumped with joy as she pointed out what a big girl she was for sleeping all night. In an instant, I was able to forgive myself. This IS what she needs. It’s what we all need.
Stay tuned as we repeat the process tonight.