Thursday, May 30, 2013

A new lesson

I learned something today from a fellow parent, and I'm having some mixed emotions about it. So instead of moaning about our recent sleep problems, which are still going on, or reading the parenting book I just downloaded, I'm going to write about it.

We were at our weekly park playdate. The weather was really nice - sunny, but with a very cool breeze that I'm so thankful for, this late in pregnancy! I put a hat on Katie and it was still just barely cool enough for a long sleeved cotton shirt, so I didn't have to slather her with sunscreen. Bonus! There were about seven other kids at the playdate, which was a pretty nice turnout.

Throughout the playdate, Katie kept coming up to me with demands. Such as, "Up, mama! Walk!" or "Up, mama! Swings!" Lately I've been putting my foot down about the tone and the words she uses for these demands. Usually I say, "Oh, you want milk. Is there a nicer way you can ask?" or something to that effect. Sometimes she absently adds "Pweese," which doesn't exactly make me feel better about her dictatorial tone. So I've been trying to help her brainstorm different ways to ask for what she wants. For example, "I'm feeling thirsty, Mama! May I have some milk, please?" When she asks in this way, I want to jump for joy. And she'll do it sometimes without prompting, if she's in the right mood. She doesn't use all of those words in the correct order, but that makes it even cuter.

Anyway, Katie kept wanting to swing today, and I complied several times. At one point, Katie grabbed her water and her snack and demanded that I push her on the swings. So many things going on at once! I told her that I'd be happy to push her if she would ask in a different way. I got a reluctant "Pweese" but I could tell this wasn't the time to press for more. Then I told her to put her water and snack down so we could swing. She refused. "No water down! No snack down!" I calmly said, "Ok, well, if you want to eat and drink, that's ok, but we don't swing at the same time. When you're done with water and snack, then we can swing." She was starting to work herself up into a nice tantrum, but I wasn't going to give in. (This is part of my self-imposed assertiveness training, which I'm hoping will spill over and positively influence our bedtime woes.)

Luckily, she got distracted by another kid at this point, so I breathed a sigh of relief. But soon she was back, and she deliberately picked up her water before saying, "Up, mama! Swing!" I looked at her and repeated myself, "Water needs to stay here while we swing." "No water here! No!" I glanced at one of the other moms and murmured, "She sure is testing me a lot lately!" The other mom totally backed me up, saying, "Hey, Katie, it's true we don't drink water while we're on the swings." Another mom chimed in, "Yup, that's right!" Then the first mom said, "Do you want to know why?" She had Katie's full attention, and mine too - because at this point I couldn't even remember why I didn't want Katie to bring her water on the swings. I was too locked into winning my battle for dominance! The other mom said, "It's because if we're drinking water while we swing, we could bonk our water bottle on the swing and that might hurt. We wouldn't want you to get a boo-boo!" And to my complete and utter shock, Katie mulled this over for a few seconds, then put her water bottle down on the table!!!!! I took her hand and as we walked to the swings, I grinned at the other mom and said, "Thanks! That was a really good explanation!"

My mixed emotions are these: Gratitude and awe at the other mom's clear thinking, and guilt and shame that I didn't think of saying that myself. How many other times have there been where a simple little explanation would have avoided a tantrum? Oh, and throw in a pinch of frustration and jealousy because sometimes it seems Katie will listen to other adults (teachers and whatnot) but not me!

So anyway, I clearly have a lot more to learn about communicating with Katie. The hardest part is coming up with explanations that are clear and above all, brief! It reminds me of that time I was supervising the play-doh table at Katie's school. One of the moms had brought her four-year-old along for the day, and she was playing at my station. The mom told her, "Ok honey, after snack time, Mommy's going to go have discussion time." The four-year-old asked, "What's discussion time?" And the mom launched into this long-winded explanation of how sometimes the mommies and the teacher sit together in the art room and talk about different topics, and how it's grown-up time, and how it wouldn't be interesting for kids. The four-year-old was remarkably patient through this sermon, but I could tell not much of it sank in. About half an hour later, Teacher Donna called out, "Discussion Time!" and a different older sibling asked, "What's discussion?" Teacher Donna said, "It means we go into a room and talk. Thank you for asking!" (Now that's how it's done!)

If I had today to do over, I think I would tell Katie that she couldn't bring her water on the swings because she needs both hands to hold on. Then I could make a silly game of counting how many hands she would need in order to hold her water too, or something like that. I am able to do that kind of thing, sometimes - but not all the time, and certainly not today. It's a good reminder not to get too entrenched in "because I said so." Boy, do I struggle with that! I remember as a child, my mom constantly told me stuff like, "Because I'm the parent" and "Because 'Y' is a crooked letter and can't be straight." (wtf?) I guess it's true that our kids bring out things in us that we need to deal with from our past!

OK, back to the parenting book! 'Til next time!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Midnight shopper

Hooray! In the midst of all the turmoil happening around here, I finally have something funny to post! Yesterday Anthony and I were talking about sleep training Katie, and wondering if we should put it off until Friday night. I'd spent the past two nights sleeping (or trying to sleep) on a mattress on Katie's bedroom floor. Anthony suggested that he be the one to try sleeping on Katie's floor. I looked at him and laughed, and said, "Honey, you can't even sleep in a perfectly darkened room, with a memory foam topper on the bed, a white noise machine, a sleep mask, and under the influence of Ambien. What makes you think you'll get a wink of sleep on Katie's floor?"

He grinned sheepishly and said, "Ok, you're right. And there's something else I apparently need in order to fall asleep."

I looked at him quizzically.

"Remember those two boxes that were delivered to the house today? I opened them, and they were both purchases I apparently made off of eBay around 11pm on Monday, but I have no recollection of doing so!"

OMG! He bought a new pair of shoes (which are a bit than he usually wears) and three (THREE!) sets of Matchbox car tracks, the kind with a loop-the-loop. Mind you, we don't actually own any Matchbox cars. I guess that's a purchase for another night!

What's really scary is, sometimes he answers work emails from bed, after taking Ambien. I wonder what kinds of things he's written! LOL!!

I remember that there were some weird side effects for Ambien, like sleep-eating (yes, this is apparently an actual medical term.) But nobody warned us about sleep-shopping! Maybe we should sue? LMAO!!!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

We're still alive!

Sorry we've been so quiet around here, folks! So far the month of May has been a real doozy. I mentioned that Katie started climbing out of her crib at night. Well, the problem got worse and worse until we decided to take the front crib rail off. This, naturally, led to an entirely new problem: how to keep Katie from running down the hall, screaming, at all hours of the night!

Katie didn't want to sleep in her crib, with or without the rail, and this completely destroyed our previously bulletproof bedtime routine. We went from a predictable 20-30 minute routine with books, lullabies and kisses, to 3-hour-long tantrums culminating in Katie passing out half-naked on the floor. Naps went completely out the window, too - she refused to even lie down for a second.

I'd like to say that I figured out how to deal with these problems on my own, but I didn't. I enlisted the help of a "parenting coach." Ugh, I'm cringing - am I really that incompetent at parenting that I need a tutor? Evidently, yes! But whatever, this isn't about pride, it's about making it through the day with my sanity somewhat intact. The parenting coach has helped us immensely.

She made some simple but effective suggestions that have ended the bedtime power struggles. Katie was begging for us to turn the light back on at bedtime. We weren't sure if she was testing us or genuinely terrified, so for a couple of nights we caved in to her demands. The coach told us that if we stayed in the room with her, it was perfectly reasonable to turn the lights out. So, in order to prevent Katie from turning the lights back on herself, I unscrewed all the light bulbs in her overhead light and started using a small table lamp instead. When lights-out time comes, I unplug the lamp and put in one of those outlet covers. Power struggle over!

Same with the door. I've already explained about our woes with the lever-style door handles. We ended up buying an inexpensive round doorknob at Home Depot and installing it with a childproof cover on the inside of Katie's room. That way, we can get in and out as necessary but Katie can't get out in the middle of the night and roam the halls. Of course, Katie managed to rip it off twice the first night, but I reinforced it with duct tape and we've been struggle-free ever since. (Except when I neglect to pull the door completely closed - if the closing mechanism doesn't engage, Katie can just pull the door open without turning the handle.)

We also Katie-proofed the rest of the room by taking everything off the top of her cabinets so she wouldn't be as tempted to climb them. We removed the changing table topper from her dresser, because she was holding onto it and climbing up. We removed the knobs on her dresser drawers so they wouldn't be used as a tiny rock climbing wall. Today I mounted her white-noise machine high up on the wall with masking tape. I removed the knobs on her cabinets so she can't open them and play with toys when she's supposed to be sleeping. I had to take down her adorable growth chart, and remove a whole bunch of her books. Her closet door is still a problem - she can totally defeat the childproof lock on it - so I'm looking into another solution.

Doing all of these things has really helped us to be consistent with enforcing bedtime. I think some of the worst parenting moments are the ones where you feel ambivalent about the rules (Should I let her go to the potty one last time? What if she really does have to go??) The parenting coach told me that we could establish a "Last Potty" time as part of our bedtime routine, and that it might take an accident or two for Katie to understand what "Last Potty" meant. She reassured me that having an accident wouldn't traumatize Katie, that it would be a learning experience instead. But oh, the thought of not letting her potty when she really needed to go...that was too much for me! Thankfully we've had a little potty in Katie's room since she was tiny, so I know that if Katie really does have to go, she can.

And what can I say? It's been a bumpy road, full of tantrums and empty of sleep. But I think we're making progress. Katie is now sleeping in her room for nights and naps, although she's still waking up several times a night. But hey, I have to get used to that anyway, right?

I hope we can get back to shareably-funny blog posts soon! You know, instead of just whiny. ;)