Sleep. Wonderful sleep. (And a Friday flashback to the sleepless nights.)

I’m saying it. Do I dare? I probably shouldn’t. But I will anyway:

Monkey’s sleeping through the night.

Aside from a few teething-related middle of the night wake-ups, he’s been sleeping through the night for a couple of weeks now. (Of course, now that I’ve proclaimed it here, it is probably jinxed and we will never sleep again, because that is the way the world and babies work.)

In honour of all the parents still in the trenches of the exhausted, delirious, stumbling crib-to-bed-and-back-again routine, here is a flashback to the days when sleep did not come so easily. Take heart, friends.

Monkey missed the memo (originally posted October 6, 2014)


MEMORANDUM

ATTN: Babies

RE: Sleep

It is come to our attention that some of you may be mistaken about sleep. Specifically, how much of it you are supposed to do, and when. Please be advised: babies are to sleep more as they get older, not less.

Thank you.


When Monkey was around three months old, he slept through the night for ten glorious nights in a row. I was refreshed. I was happy. I was that mum, the one who showers and blow-dries her hair and has endless patience and makes homemade salad dressing. “How’s Monkey sleeping?” other mums would ask, and I would say “Oh, actually pretty well now, thank you,” never daring to mention that “pretty well” was code for 8-10 hours straight(!!!) for fear that a) the other mums would hate me and b) the universe would punish me.

And then it ended.

Despite my efforts to appease the cruel universe and keep my good fortune under wraps, Monkey started waking up at night again. He has his ups and downs, usually waking to nurse twice per night. But recently it’s been out of control.

Last night, he woke up approximately 18 times. I say approximate, because by 4:00 a.m. I was delirious. He nursed, he cried, I rocked him, I cried, he nursed, he rolled in his crib like a fish out of water, bumping his head on the rails and crying even harder. Rinse and repeat. I think I fell out of the rocking chair.

So now what? One of the toughest things about motherhood, for me at least, is that I never really know why anything is happening. Babies are a multiple choice test with no answer key:

Why won’t Monkey sleep?
a) he’s teething
b) he’s caught his brother’s cold
c) the seam of his sleeper is making him itchy
d) his room is too cold
e) his blankets are too warm
f) he’s growing and he needs to eat
g) he’s become accustomed to nursing in the night and waking is a bad habit
h) his mother did something awful in a past life and is being punished
i) all of the above
j) some unknown combination of some of the above
k) because babies be babies

To comfort myself, I summon all of the truisms and age-old advice my sleep-deprived brain can remember: This too shall pass. Babyhood is such a short time in the grand scheme of things. I’ll miss the midnight cuddles when they’re gone. He won’t be waking up in the night when he’s 20 (though this won’t be my problem anyway).

And so continues my long-standing and deeply gratifying love affair with coffee.

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What-my-kid-said Wednesday: the baddest story and the saddest supper

I made pancakes for breakfast the other day. Bean was excited, but on his way to the table he bumped his elbow.

“Oh, Mommy! This is gonna be the saddest supper in all the land.”

Bean loves stories. For the past month or so, he’s been begging me to tell him stories several times a day: every time he sits on the toilet (charming), and when he goes to bed. I’ve become a pro at thinking up riveting plots on the spot. But my favourite part of this new story-telling phase is that he’s starting to tell his own stories. Usually they are very sweet. Yes… usually.

Picture the following, told at high volume, with great enthusiasm. Also, Bean is a close talker, so he was right up in my face.

Mama I’m gonna tell you a story. This is gonna be the baddest story in all the land. It’s a… pushing down story! Okay. Okay okay.

Once upon a time there was… A GUY!! And another guy. Aaaaand… he PUSHED him down into the deep… dark… HOLE! And then he…. threw all the sand and dirt and trucks in and rode away on a horse and NEVER came back forever. And then he went to a windmill and [insert intense toddler sound effects and hand gestures] …. and… ate him all up!

Me: Um, okay. Wait. Who ate what?

Bean: The horse!

Me: I… I’m not sure…

Bean: It’s a bad story. It’s a pushing down hitting story.

Should I be worried?

Facial injuries: the unofficial badge of the bad mother?

For my son, it’s a moment of pain soon forgotten. For me, it’s a visible outward sign of my failings as a mother. Too dramatic? Probably.

My kids don’t hurt themselves all that often, but when they do, it’s usually in the face, which is just super great. There was the time that 10 month-old Bean fell forward and caught the corner of the coffee table right between the eyes. He has a thin white scar. A few months later as he was learning to walk, he tripped over the edge of a mat at baby boot camp* and landed on his cheek, on my stainless steel water bottle. The bruise added some colour to the vacation photos from our  friends’ wedding in Mexico the next week. Monkey has suffered a couple of truck-to-face injuries, courtesy of Bean. And, if I put off trimming their fingernails one day too long, both boys will invariably seize the opportunity to give themselves a gash on the cheek or nose during the night.

As I am pretty much a walking guilt factory, until those bruises or cuts heal they’re ongoing reminders of how I somehow let my boys down – even if the injury wasn’t preventable, isn’t serious, or didn’t happen on my watch.

Yesterday I was on my way out the door when my cell rang. It was daycare. Bean had tipped over in his chair and hit his mouth against the table. He was bleeding a lot, and very upset, and I should come get him.

I rushed to daycare and found all the kids sitting at the table, Bean whimpering in the teacher’s lap. He had blood around his mouth and on his hands. He reached for me and I picked him up, only to realize that he had just wet his pants. He hasn’t done that in ages. I took him downstairs and changed him, as he sobbed that his tooth and his mouth hurt and begged me to make it better.

I am a feeler. And strong emotions make me cry, whether it’s sadness, anger, fear, or happiness. When I see another person’s genuine tears, there is a 97% chance that I will tear up too. And it’s only gotten worse with age. Now that I’m a mother, I can pretty much forget the possibility that I’ll get through a day without crying at least once. At first I blamed the pregnancy hormones. Then I blamed the new mother hormones. Then the pregnancy hormones again. Then I tried blaming my postpartum depression. But whatever the reason, all the blame-throwing in the world can’t change the simple fact that I am a huge, sappy sap.

Yesterday with my own child, I was helpless. On the drive home as he cried in his car seat, I cried too. Because he was in pain, and because I was worried. Because his tooth might be damaged, might turn grey and fall out. Because it was my fault. Because I was the one who put him in daycare, even if it was just one day a week. He didn’t need to be there – I’m on maternity leave. He could have been home with me. He might not have gotten hurt.

Thankfully, he couldn’t see my tears, and I had them under control by the time we got home. But it was still a struggle. (Side note – at least my inner empathy sensors can distinguish the difference between legitimate and not-so-legitimate toddler trauma. Otherwise I would be facing some serious dehydration.) Bean spent the afternoon with cuddles and movies, and was feeling better by evening. Still, his gums are bruised and puffy, and I’ll be on dead-tooth-watch for a few days. (We called the dentist and he said there was nothing to do but wait.)

So here are my questions to the other mothers and feelers out there. Am I as ridiculous as I feel to be so torn up over a tooth injury? How do you keep it in when you feel your kids’ pain? And do you feel the guilt too? Do you beat yourselves up over the bumps and bruises?

* Despite the name, baby boot camp is for the mums, not the babies. But hey, boot camp for babies could be great too! Teach them some discipline right from the start. Am I right? Anyone?

The juice

As kids, my older brother and I had nothing in common. We were connected by a house, a set of parents, and a couple of little brothers – nothing more. But somehow as we’ve grown, we’ve aligned. Now we’re often on the same page, in the things we find funny, the memories that stand out, what we want for and expect from our kids.

Yesterday, my brother and his family came over for brunch at our place. The usual plan-confirming text conversation went something like this:

– The girls’ swimming lessons are over at 10, and we’ll come over right after that.

– Sounds good.

– What can we bring? Don’t say nothing.

– Maybe some juice?

– Like, oj?

– Sure, thanks.

And he brought o.j.

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My brother will go pretty far for a laugh. It’s a safe bet that if he thinks it’s funny, so will I. (O.J.-covered O.J. included.) So why is this? Has our shared childhood experience finally found us through the years of distance? Or is it in our genes? Maybe we’re genetically predisposed to think a poor-quality print of O.J. Simpson taped to an orange juice carton is funny. Whatever it is, I appreciate my family more now as an adult than I ever did when I was young.

Thanks for The Juice, big brother.

What-my-kid-said Wednesday: keeping a record

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“I hope you’re writing this all down somewhere.”

My husband’s aunt said this to me this weekend at the last of the never-ending family Christmas gatherings, after listening to Bean say something particularly hilarious. I nodded, then realized that an unexpected impact of not writing so much over the past couple of months has been that I haven’t remembered to jot down the strange and wonderful things that come out of my son’s mouth.

I’ve never been a good keeper of records. And I have a terrible memory. Hopefully, when I’m old and creaky and sentimental and Bean and Monkey are grown, I’ll be able to look back at these Wednesday posts and remember a little bit of what my kids were like when they were tiny. So this one’s for future-me – not a specific conversation or anecdote, but a collection of common Bean-isms from this moment in time.

“I’m so incited!!” He says “incited” instead of “excited,” and I can’t bring myself to correct him.

“Tell me a pirate story…” Once upon a time I sat on the edge of the tub and told Bean a story about a pirate as he pooped. Now he asks for a pirate story every time he has some business to take care of on the toilet.

“Tomato down!” When something falls on the ground. I don’t know where this comes from.

“Everyone!” to get our attention.

“Hey guys!” to get our attention.

“I’m just a little sad.” Pronounced “yittle saaa-yaaad,” this one comes out every time he hears the word no, or is hungry, or bored.

“Oh man. Oh maaa-yaaan!” Said while crying, through his tears. This is his expression of real emotional anguish. You know, like if I said he couldn’t have a cookie, or something equally earth-shattering.

Tiny sleepers

My best friend is expecting her first baby, a boy, next month. I spent this evening sorting through the mountain of clothes that Monkey has outgrown, pulling out the unstained and less worn items to offer for the new baby.

It got sentimental.

I found the sleeper that both Bean and Monkey came home from the hospital in. How is it possible that they were ever so tiny? How is it possible that they are no longer so tiny?

To aid in my lonely late-night journey down memory lane, I crept into my boys’ rooms as they slept to dig out sleepers that fit them now. From the left, we have the newborn sleeper, then Monkey’s at nine months, then Bean’s at almost three.

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So much change in three short years, and in nine short months.