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.

“Every f**king time, Mummy.”

Two years ago, if you’d asked me whether I ever swore in front of my kid, I would have said no. I didn’t swear much at all – at least not out loud. I had nothing against profanity; it just didn’t feel genuine coming out of my mouth, so I mostly abstained.

Then I had a second child. And postpartum depression, which came with some pretty dark times. It turns out that during times of trial, my inner self swears like a long-haul trucker who’s just dropped a cement block on his toe. And sometimes, despite my desperate attempts to maintain control, that inner monologue came out into the world.

Up until Monkey was three or four months old, the only way I could get him to nap for more than 20 minutes at a time was to take him for a walk in the Ergo carrier. This period of time coincided with a particularly terrible two year-old phase for Bean. Leaving the house was necessary for my sanity, but getting Bean out the door was like pulling teeth. Without anesthetic. The battle would begin over getting dressed and continue through coming downstairs, coming to the door, sitting still to put shoes on, getting in the stroller, and every other tiny step that made it possible to leave home. During the typical hour of painful negotiation, Monkey’s wails would grow louder, Bean would grow more defiant, and my already-weak grasp on self-control would slip. On one occasion, I muttered under my breath (okay, probably more over breath than under), “Every fucking time.”

I knew that I should stop swearing in front of Bean; I knew that it would catch up with me someday and he would repeat what I’d said. Everyone would know he was copying me, because my husband never swears. Every time I let an f-bomb slip I would feel guilty and ashamed, and wait for the inevitable repetition from my toddler… and every time I dodged the bullet. He didn’t seem to notice.

Until that day. As we walked down our street with Bean finally in the stroller and Monkey snuggled happily against my chest, Bean sang loudly, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”

Oh fuck.

“What’s that, Bean? Duck, duck, duck?”

“Yeah, duck, duck, fuck.”

“Duck?”

“Duck.”

At that moment I vowed I would never swear in front of the kids again, and I’ve mostly been successful in keeping that vow. After our walk, Bean seemed to have forgotten about his new word. I listened for it for the next few days, and finally breathed a sigh of relief.

Later that week as I put Bean to bed and went through the usual dance of please-one-more-song-no-I’ve-sung-all-the-songs-what-about-rockabye-no-I’ve-sung-that-already-what-about-lullaby-no-it’s-time-to-go-to-sleep, Bean looked up at me, shook his head slightly, and said softly, “Every fucking time, Mummy. Every fucking time.”

Please, tell me I’m not alone – have your kids repeated anything you didn’t want them to hear? What did you do?

That time I took parenting tips from MTV’s Teen Mom, and other confessions

When Bean was a baby, a friend lent us a Bumbo chair. I wasn’t sure how old a baby had to be in order to sit in it safely, but I was reasonably sure Bean was still too wobbly. One day while nursing and channel-surfing I came across an episode of MTV’s Teen Mom and saw that one of the show’s subjects had her six week-old baby sitting in a Bumbo chair, as happy as could be. Question answered! Later that day as my seven week-old Bean wobbled uncomfortably in the Bumbo, my husband walked in and said “Um, are you sure he’s ready to go in that thing?” “Sure,” I replied. “I saw it on… oh wait.” *

bumbo seat

I’m sure some babes are strong enough to use this seat at six or seven weeks, but Bean wasn’t one of them.

As I recalled the incident of Bean and the Bumbo today, I starting thinking about other less-than-exemplary moments in my parenting history.

Bless me readers, for I have sinned… this is my confession.

1. When my husband is on night shift I put Bean to bed about 45 minutes earlier than his usual bedtime, just so I can have more alone time.

2. When it’s just me and the kidlets home for dinner we sometimes just eat peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. Or I put crackers, cheese and veggies on a plate and call it “tapas” so that I can pretend to myself that I’m not just serving snacks for dinner. This isn’t even an original idea; I got it from a friend.

3. I told Bean that Caillou on Netflix was broken. It’s not; I just really, really dislike Caillou.

4. Once when I really wanted to get out of the house and Bean was refusing to come to the door, I bribed him with the promise of a blueberry muffin from the drive-through coffee place close to our house. Win-win: Bean went to the car happily, he got a muffin, and I got a coffee. However, this go-to trick is becoming a tad (a lot) overused. I promise the muffin even when he doesn’t require bribery, just so I can get the coffee.

5. When my husband is home and the kids are playing, sometimes I say I have to go to the bathroom and then just take my phone upstairs to lie on the bed and check my Facebook feed. Or read blogs. Or do nothing.

6. Monkey has two teeth and I keep forgetting to pick up a new infant toothbrush, so I haven’t brushed them yet. (I wipe them with a washcloth, but it’s not the same.)

7. Sometimes when Bean really wants to do something, I tell him yes, but first I make him shout “Mummy, you’re the coolest!”

8. The three year-old boy who lives next door has all the toys, including a bunch of ride-on motorized cars and ATVs. Bean has nothing so glamorous or exciting, and all his little heart desires out of life is to play with this boy and drive his cars (it is always one of the make-sures). The dad will often take his son outside in the early evening to ride on his PowerWheels Escalade, and I know that if Bean sees them there will be no peace in our home until we go outside too. (Side note – we get along really well with our neighbours and the boys do play together; I just can’t come to terms with the sight of two toddlers driving down an actual road in a tiny car.) So, as soon as I hear the telltale sound of the Escalade starting down the driveway next door, I sprint to our blinds and close them. If Bean asks what the sound is, I tell him the neighbours must be wheeling their garbage bins to the curb.

9. And finally, one that isn’t about parenting: I watched the most recent season of Game of Thrones without my husband. And he doesn’t know it yet.

Confession time! Are there things you’ve done (or continue to do) as a parent that you want to get off your chest? This is a safe place, I promise.

* Point for clarification: it’s not that teen parents are bad parents, just that perhaps I should have considered more than just the one source when determining the developmental appropriateness of the Bumbo seat for my own infant.

Monkey missed the memo


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.

Toddler stall tactic #137: the make-sures

The typical toddler’s reluctance to go to bed has been well documented. Bed-time stalling tactics are plentiful: I’m thirsty, I’m hungry, where’s my stuffy, I have an itch, I need the other blanket. My toddler is a creature of routine, and in his routine there are ample opportunities for new and creative stalling tactics each and every night. Here’s a run-down of our current (and overly excessive) routine:

  1. Vitamins and clean-up, in which gummy vitamins are used pretty much as a bribe for cleaning up the toys strewn all over the living room. This starts off the bed-time routine with a bang. Races, games, songs and much cajoling ensue, with Mummy and Daddy often doing much of the actual cleaning up.
  2. Choose the bed-time stories, in which Bean usually goes straight for the handful of stories that I really dislike reading. Authors of I Spy and At the Construction Site, you can bite me.
  3. Bath, which is preceded by for the love of Pete, just come here so I can take off your clothes and diaper and please don’t shout in the hallway because your brother is sleeping. Enough said. Bath time typically involves some kind of battle over how to get the hair wet, keep the tug boat in the tub, yes I know the wash cloth is your fish but I need it to, you know, wash you.
  4. Put on jammies, the step in which please, please let the robot jammies be clean. Also, the bath towel will be used as a fishing line and dangled off the change table and there’s nothing I can do about it.
  5. Brush teeth. Ugh. This is a whole blog post on its own.
  6. Read stories, which happens on Mummy’s and Daddy’s bed. This is my favourite part of the routine and usually goes smoothly… as long as you let the crane engine (Bean’s leg) pick up each book and hand it to his parent of choice.
  7. Get in bed and sing songs. There are Mummy songs and Daddy songs, and Mummy shall not sing Daddy songs. Daddy does not know the words to Mummy songs. All of the words to all of the songs must be sung. Unless Bean is not in the mood, and then he will cut the song off with a “No more song. You go now. Good night.”
  8. Mummy and/or Daddy get the heck out of Bean’s room

The final stalling tactic every night is something we like to call the make-sures. Just as I’m slipping away toward the door, when the songs have been sung, the stuffies are all in place, the itchy arm has been scratched, and the blanket is covering both feet (very important), the make-sures begin.

“Mummy, make sure after I go to bed after I wake up and it’s morning time we go play with Alex and we go to Cooper’s house and we play with Cooper’s really cool trucks and make sure when it’s morning time we play trucks in my play-dough and make sure we do something really cool.”

“Okay sweetie. Now it’s time to — ”

“And make sure when I wake up and it’s morning time we have breakfast and I eat my yogurt and we go pet the cat and I go ride on a train and we see my cousins.”

“Sure we can. Now good night, love.”

“And Mummy, make sure you play with me tomorrow.”

“Okay Bean. I love you, sweet dreams, good night.”

“Sweet dreams Mummy.”

The make-sures are like a toddler’s to-do list. Yes, they are a stalling tactic. My chatty guy knows it’s bed-time and I’m leaving the room, and he’s trying to cram in the last few words of the day. But don’t we all have our own version of the make-sures? It’s just that grown-up make-sures aren’t quite so fun. Mine go something like this:

Make sure I remember to add milk and bananas to the grocery list in the morning. Make sure I respond to that email about Thanksgiving dinner. Monkey’s pants are getting short; make sure I dig through the clothes bins for the next size up. Make sure I remember to pay the daycare fees by the end of the week. We’re out of shampoo; make sure I get to the drug store tomorrow. And so on. Sounds pretty boring, right?

Maybe I should add a few more make-sures more like my toddlers: make sure I run tomorrow. Make sure I laugh. Make sure I talk to a friend. Make sure I hold my boys and my husband tight. Make sure I play.

What are your kids’ bed-time stalls? What are your make-sures?