Day 3

Are you wondering how it's going?
Once, I told somebody that you could break any habit in three days. This was how it looked to me after bringing up Liam from a baby to a highly successful preschooler. You go with the flow, and if you want change, you stick it out for three days, and voila.
With Aoife, I felt I ought to eat my words. Although to be honest, I don't know if I ever gave much three days with her.
Fiona was too easy. There were no habits to break.
And then Maeve and her naps.
Day One. 41 minutes of screaming, and then 1 hour and 41 minutes of napping, which was exactly 90 minutes longer than her nap of the previous day. She slept 12 hours that night.
Day Two. Nap is sabotaged by the 12:30 pick up at the kids' school. Despite them yelling at her, tugging at her arms and legs, and tickling her bare cheeks, she conks out for 12 minutes in the car on the way home, won't transfer, and screams for exactly 60 minutes (yelling, just to break my heart a little more, "ROCK YOU!" the entire time).  Sleeps for 13.5 hours that night (with one 12 hour stretch from 5:30-5:30).
Day Three: Maeve screams for about two minutes, shouts intermittantly at me for about two more, plays quietly in her bed for three more, and then lies down and sleeps for 64 minutes.

Could it be that I was right about the three days? I'll let you know tomorrow.


Time for a Nap.

There have been many times in my parenting life where I realize that despite my best intentions and desires for my children, I have to change my course. Today was one of those days. It wasn't a split second decision by any means, but rather the end of a long period of contemplation that resulted in a decision made today, at 12:30.

Naps have been my nemesis for exactly half my children. Liam and Fiona napped just fine. I nursed them to sleep for a long while, and then eventually began to just read to them and tuck them in, and they slept for somewhere in the range of two hours. Liam did this until the ripe old age of four and Fiona is just phasing out her nap as we speak.

Aoife was different. I just had to nurse her to sleep. I tried a few weak attempts at putting her down awake for a nap when she was 18 or 20 months old but she didn't take so well to that plan, so I gave up and continued to nurse her to sleep. At just over two, she deemed herself too cool to fall asleep on the boob and quit napping altogether. As she had no routine of hanging out pleasantly in her bed, there was no rest time to speak of, and we just threw nap time away entirely and moved into a new phase of life. This had its advantages (no nap time! We can do whatever we want all afternoon!) but also its disadvantages (like 4:30 PM onward).

There was a long phase of Aoife's life where she was quite difficult, and I was very certain that being overtired had a great deal to do with that. I see now that Fiona, who does not nap on most days but does spend at least an hour quietly in her bed looking at books, truly benefits from her "rest time". While she still goes to bed earlier on days where she doesn't have an afternoon sleep, she doesn't get crabby in the late afternoon if she has that quiet, meditative time to herself. Looking back I see that Aoife never had that chance to just sit quietly with herself, and I wonder if it would have helped her to recenter herself.

So on to Maeve, who is 20 months old now. I have always nursed her to sleep, too, just like Aoife. Lately, however, I can see her fighting sleep as if it's something she actively doesn't want to let happen. While she's nursing, her eyes are rolling back in her head, yet she's struggling to hold them open. After she succumbs to her brain shutting down on her, the slightest interruption-- such as me setting her down in her bed-- causes her to realize she's asleep -- obviously very uncool-- and she struggles to wake herself up. If I hold her for a while she'll sleep in my arms but becomes uncomfortable and squirmy after twenty minutes or so (which is NOT a nap, just so you know). Normally I try a few times to get her into bed and eventually get her put down and can creep out of the room. Nap totals in bed for the past few days have been numbers such as 11 minutes, 6 minutes, and 21 minutes. This does not make a nap. At this rate she is literally ready for bed at about 4:15 in the afternoon. This baby really, really needs a nap. And I know that it is my job as her mother to figure out a way for her to have one.

Tomorrow she is going to start to spend at least one hour in her bed every afternoon. I know it is going to be brutal, and I am going to hate it. I know she is going to hate it. It is going to make me so sad, because I did have this little dream that since she's my baby I would just peacefully nurse her to sleep for her entire napping career. But my baby needs her sleep, and my method of choice isn't getting her the sleep she needs. So it is my job to help her make a change.

I am posting this, writing this, because I know I have to be intentional to make this work. I am going to be home every day at naptime until I go up to my parents on February 15th, which will give us 11 days to work on spending one hour in bed. Hopefully, this will result in Maeve falling asleep and spending more than one hour in bed.

It feels so important to me as a mother to note these moments where I have to step outside of what I want and realize what my child needs. As an infant, she did always need to be coddled. She absolutely needed to be held, and she should not cry. But as a 20 month old child with full command of the English language and who has simply entered the stage where she is horrified at the prospect of missing anything and thinks sleep is for losers, I have to help her find the sleep. We all desperately need it.

Wish me luck.


Little Kids and Big Kids

The girls whined a lot yesterday and today.

Yesterday, the formerly angelic Fiona was practicing all day the fine art of being three years old. If you have ever had the pleasure of parenting a three year old, I need not explain any further. If you have not yet had this pleasure, suffice it to say that three year olds are absolutely determined to get exactly what they want, except that they do not know what they want, and it greatly infuriates them when you can't get them what they aren't sure they want. For Fiona this simply results in a great deal of whining.

At bathtime, I asked her where her smile had gone to. I told her I missed her beautiful, smiling face. She looked at me with her big, blue eyes and cheeks red from time out in the cold air and her fat, red lips and golden curls, looking like an angel, naked and adorable, and she whined some more. I bathed her quietly and put her to bed. Today she woke up and she was amazing all day. This is what it is to be three.

But to take her place, Maeve, who is to her credit recovering from being sick, moaned and cried all day. If she had gotten her way she would have been strapped to the teat all day. She wanted to nurse all day long. I am a liberal, cooperative, Pioneer Valley mother who is fine with my toddler nursing but my patience wanes in these situations. My patience waned, and petered out, and left me. I told her I wanted to sell her to the gypsies. Is that politically correct?

At dinner time there was food flung and more well executed whining. The big kids were giggling under their breath with me and rolling their eyes. I told them, I have to say it, sometimes it's just plain difficult to raise little kids. Sometimes it's just hard, hard work. But look around! Difficult little kids turn into easy, lovely big kids. And I took them in my arms, not even having to bend over to wrap my arms around them and feel their warm heads against my face, and we laughed together. Because that's all you can do when babies turn bad: you have to laugh.

We tucked the girls into bed, the sweet-faced Fiona and disastrously overtired Maeve (who was actually chipper and cute post-bath, as if she knew her end was near) into bed at 6:00 and launched into our own version of a SuperBowl party with the big kids. We made nacho chips with melted cheese and black bean dip and gave the kids juice and we cracked open ice-cold beers and our little family watched football until the late hour of 8:15 PM. It was a civilized dream.