Is your kid not sleeping? Don’t look to bloggers for the magic answer.
When I started snackdinner, I was hopeful about making things a little bit easier for new parents. But I was also nervous that my work would actually make things a little bit harder. Once a moment is fixed in time, it looks like things are that way all the time. A hack for homemade baby food, a game the kids will play all afternoon, or a go-to discipline method would make it seem like I was a mom who had her shit together.
So I resolved to show how I was mostly just losing my shit. But that was a problem too, because stories of flawed parenting are just as manicured as the stories of other people’s triumphs.
It’s not that parent bloggers necessarily want to deceive. It’s that, for us, the writing of the post is generally a moment of personal catharsis. I got through this. I solved that. It’s a view of what worked in the past, not a view of what’s happening right now.
But do readers see these posts in the same way? Or do they read our tidy messes and think “why won’t that work for me?” Do they ever see what comes after those moments of resolution, even though we all know they were likely temporary?
Readers, I owe you a revisit of my past “successes.”
When he was still three months shy of his second birthday, my son transitioned to a toddler bed. This wasn’t really a plan, but we had some free time over daylight saving weekend and figured that would be as good a time as any to introduce a new sleep routine. We knew that we had to at least do something, as he had been climbing out of his crib most nights and screaming until we put him back in. In an fit of sleep-deprived clarity, we thought “Hey, why don’t we just make it so he can get back in?” We gave kiddo his own allen wrench so he could help us lower the mattress and pull off the side rail. We didn’t make a big event out of it. We didn’t have him pick new bedding. We just read a book and put him to bed.
And it worked. Kiddo got up once or twice, but mostly slept in the bed for months without incident.
Until he didn’t. As so many kids do, my son learned that if he banged on the door long enough, he’d wear his parents down. He didn’t need anything. He just wanted to say hi and then go back to bed.
That’s when we got the magic green clock that showed him when it was okay to get out of bed. Kiddo was just then learning to identify numbers, and was so excited and proud to alert me each time 6:00 AM came around. He was generally content to wait in his room until it did.
And it worked. We even managed to push back his wake up time to a much more respectable hour. We had a temporary set back when we moved to a house with lever handles, but even that resolved with our new, now always-unlocked-lock. After a trip abroad last winter, he actually kept oversleeping the green part of the clock and getting mad about it, which is when we learned you can have it stay green for up to two hours. Kiddo was sleeping at night. He was staying in his room at quiet time.
Until he didn’t. We’re hosting a surprise summer houseguest, and the excitement of having a new person around has wreaked havoc on kiddo’s sleep schedule. He stays up late to play. He gets up early to play. He’s exhausted. I’m exhausted. He hasn’t been napping. I haven’t been writing.
Last week, desperate for a sanity-preserving nap, I told kiddo that when he was a baby, I’d carry him around the kitchen island to help him sleep. After helpfully informing me it wasn’t this kitchen island (three year olds know everything!), he said he wanted me to hold him. I let him pick a podcast — he opted for Lovett or Leave It — and started pacing.
And it worked. He was out cold in a few minutes.
So this is our new routine. On those afternoons when it’s clear he needs a nap, I ask kiddo if wants to pace the island. He picks a podcast — he does NOT like that Lovett or Leave It is not a daily show — and we listen together until he conks out. I put him down on the couch, and he naps for a bit while I hide in my room to research and write. Almost always a half hour in, he yelps. Almost always 31 minutes in, he hoists himself onto the bed. “You left me!” He falls back asleep on my arm, sometimes with forehead on my keyboard.
And so that’s where I’m writing this, with kiddo snoring inches away.
I’ve had many “aha!” moments when I’d figured the whole sleep thing out. But they are always temporary. I’m sure I’ll come up with lots more creative solutions and he’ll come up with lots more creative ways to end them. I hope that, in reading through my experiences, you’ll feel a little bit better about your own, that you’ll avoid looking at frozen-in-time advice posts as anything more than a helpful way to get through a couple weeks or months. And they’ll be magical. For now.
Originally published at www.snackdinner.com.