Category Archives: attachment parenting

Ministry of Reality Monday, the morning after

So, apparently, there was no reality yesterday. I was just living in a dreamworld. And all was butterflies and roses.

Actually . . . there was a butterfly in my house yesterday. Ruthie somehow caught it the day before. Yes. Ruthie. Caught a butterfly. And no one knows how. She just showed up inside with a butterfly in Hannah’s butterfly habitat. Who could know how the three year old was able to capture the elusive butterfly? So, we kept the butterfly all that day, with Ruthie occasionally shaking the stuffing out of the net habitat thingie. That evening we put in a sugar water solution for it, as per the instructions of the well-informed eight-year-old Boy. Then yesterday afternoon, I was informed by my dear husband that at some point during the day our very delicate flower of a third-born pinched four of the butterfly’s legs off. “And the remaining ones are both on the same side of his body,” adds the Man, as if a lopsided butterfly is somehow worse than one who has to drag himself around. The butterfly mysteriously disappeared in the night. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

So, that had absolutely nothing to do with my intended goal of this post. Sometimes my brain just wanders off course, veers off my intended path. Probably not unlike a lopsided butterfly . . .

Anywhooo . . . I went with the “morning after” title because I lived my reality du jour–or is it du semaine, given the goal of this little blog project?–last night. Back when I first entered the wonderful land of Mommyhood, I was under the delusion er impression that the absolute worst mommy mistake one could ever make was to invite one’s offspring to sleep in the marital bed. Don’t do it. Not even once. They’ll never leave. It will ruin your marriage. I don’t even know all the reasons I was given, but it was a huge No-No.

Obviously I went against the grain. The Boy would not, could not sleep next to another person. So, with him it was no problem to maintain that carved-in-stone rule. His first sister, however, would not, could not NOT sleep next to another person. And you know what? Neither can her father. So, out of desperation and inspired by some new-found crunchy imaginary friends, I put Hannah in bed with me. And there she slept. Ever so well. So, we attached her annex and away we went. Both of us sleeping better than we had since several months before she was born. That’s where Ruth started, in the annex, the crib attached to our bed, but in time we discovered she, like her brother, preferred to sleep alone. Lo and behold! our babies appeared to have their own little personalities and preferences. Go figure.

Fast forward a couple of years. Everyone has settled into sleeping in his or her own bed. They each go to sleep at night rather quickly and easily. Except the used-to-be-a-perfect-sleeper Boy. Who has fits of insomnia at times. Not unlike his father. Go figure. The mini-me Boy can experience the same sorts of sleep disturbances as his predecessor. Even though he’s just a kid. Apparently he didn’t get the memo that insomnia can’t impact you until you’ve hit a certain age. I guess that age is somewhere around the point at which it will no longer impact your parents. Not until the age of “you’re on your own, kid.” But I digress . . .

Mostly everyone sleeps great, right through the night, right in their own beds, despite all the dire warnings of eight years ago. But sometimes, one or the other will have their sleep disturbed by stresses of developmental spurt, or changes in routine or life’s circumstances, or for no real apparent reason. Sound familiar? I’m pretty sure these are the sorts of things that inspired pharmaceuticals to invent Ambien. Except, again, these sleep disturbances are only permitted once one has passed the age of “you’re on your own kid.”

And now, 660 words in, I get to my point. Between last night and the night before, every kid in the house (and in the night it felt like surely there must be thirty of ’em in this place) had a sleep disturbance. Vacation, while fun, has certainly exacted a toll on the children’s little psyches. Isaac and Ruth both are suffering some severe sleep deprivation. Isaac’s results in insomnia. Ruthie’s results in random acts of violence against her siblings, but that’s a-whole-nother post.

I know it involved two nights, but it’s all one big blur. Maybe it was three nights. Yes. Three. Mostly as a result of getting back on track after vacation. One night, when it was super, crazy hot, Isaac and Hannah both went to sleep in our bed because I didn’t have the heart to make them try to fall asleep in their hot attic bedroom when my bedroom has an A/C unit. So, when Ry and I were ready to go to bed, Ry picked up and carried upstairs both sleeping children. (He really must stop doing this with the 80-lb 8-year-old, however.) About an hour later one of them returned; we all fell back to sleep.

This is when the last three nights all look very similar. At some point, I wake up and ask Ry to return the sleeping kid back to his/her own bed. Mostly because Ruthie is in the habit of coming in sometime shortly after the sun rises, thinking it’s actually morning and not 5:30, and if she’s not disturbed, she’ll lie next to me and sleep another hour or two (or even three, but that only happens on Sundays, when I need to be in the pulpit at 8:30).

So, with Ruthie’s habit ever in mind, I kick the older two out at some point. With our new King-sized bed, I barely notice they’re there, I can sleep and sleep. But for the last three nights, it seemed that a half-hour after we’d return one to his own bed, another would arrive. And again, put her back, then the third one comes, and so on until, I’m pretty sure, the whole neighborhood has shown up in our bed at some point during the last three nights.

Crazy? Yes. Tiring? A little. But you know what else it is? Sweet. And warm. And cozy. And butterflies (with all appendages accounted for) and roses. Because it’s real. Because sometimes people have trouble sleeping. Sometimes our nightmares wake us up, sometimes the stresses of our lives keep us up. But how wonderful to grow up in a world, and continue living in a world, where when the things that go bump! in the night can be soothed away with compassion and love and warm–though groggy–words of comfort and snuggles abounding. Don’t we all want to live in that world? I do.

And some day, very, very soon, my children will stop crawling into bed with me at night. And, if every older friend I’ve ever had can be trusted, I will miss it. I will miss the late-night snuggles. I will miss the Super Mom ability to soothe all ills. In the meantime, I hold my babies close and pray that they will someday find someone else who will not mind a little sleep disruption for the sake of offering them comfort as their much bigger, much scarier adult-sized boogie men crawl out of the shadows in the night.

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Filed under attachment parenting, being The Mommy, Family Life, Ministry of Reality, sleeping

Two very different girls . . .

I think about this a lot.  This parenting thing.  It’s been my primary vocation for 8 years now.  (I start counting with Isaac’s conception, as that was the point at which I began obsessing about the whole parenting enterprise.)

It seems everybody’s got their ideas, their philosophy.  Rules to follow, guidelines to lead you in leading your children toward adulthood.  I tried to qualify that adulthood:  healthy, well-balanced?  productive?  But every little nook and cranny of parenting-lore has its own goal in mind.  There are some Christian circles where the name of the game is obedience:  raise your kid to be obedient to you so that when they are adults they will be obedient to God.  There are some Non-Christian circles whose goal seems to be adults who are capable of finding their own way, their own path.  And everything in between and a zillion hybrids.

There are some things I’ve learned in these eight years of parenting.  Well, 7 1/2 years with a kid I can actually see and touch.  These rules.  These guidelines.  These “Do XYZ for ABC results” applied to kids?  Bunk.  A whole lotta bunk.  Who are we kidding?  Kids did not come down out of a shoot from a factory.  There is not one model.  There is no model.  They are individual people–hear that.  People.  From birth.–with their own particularities and peculiarities.  Just as different one from another as adults are different, one from another.  Why is it that we expect our kids to fit some sort of mold, follow some sort of rule (if X, then A), when we know enough never to expect the grown ups around us to work that way?  When we encounter adults, we know to expect the unexpected, always prepared to respond to what comes next, knowing that what comes next is not always predictable?  Why do we view adults this way, but not kids?

I can’t talk to my mother the same way I talk to my sister.  They have two different languages.  Two different senses of humor.  Yes, they are similar in many ways, but in others they couldn’t be any more different.  And this is one woman raised by another woman, taught about the world by her from her earliest days.

Yet.  Yet we get these first kids and we open up these books to find out what to do to them, with them, for them, to turn them into the people we want them to be.  Then we have these second kids and we apply all those same rules to them and expect the same result.  “If I do R (this Rule), this child will do Y.”  But the thing is, the child (C) in the equation (R + C = Y) is not a constant.  The child is one, unique individual and, therefore, a variable.  A variable of enormous magnitude.  So, how can we expect to consistently get Y, the results we desire in and for our children, when we add the same R to a completely different C?  Are you following me?  I have at least one numbers-oriented friend who might be.

We have to change the game.  Change the equation.  Start with the variable.  Start with the C.  End with the Y, sure.  It’s OK to have a goal in mind for your kid.  I want my kids to grow up knowing the Lord, loving him with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and loving their neighbors as themselves.  That’s my goal.  That’s my Y.  So I have a kid, C, who I want to get to equal Y.  Actually, I have three kids, I want to get to equal Y.  Three different equations, one for each variable.  Because each C has a completely different value and measurement and character and you-name-it.  So, I’m left with a general  ( __ + C = Y), but with each child, I have to figure out what goes into that blank.  I have to figure out the Rules, the tools, the means, that need to be added to each different child to get–to the best of my limited abilities–to the results I’m hoping for.

What does this child, Hannah, need?  What does this child, Ruth, need?  What does this child, Isaac, need?  Those are the questions I need to be asking.  If I go to any “rule” books, I need to do so with these questions in mind.  Seeking not rules, but ideas, possibilities.  Things I can try that might work for Ruth, but not for Hannah, things that hit Isaac just right, but send Hannah off the deep end.  Too many of these people selling these books fail to tell you that.  I think these books tell us more about the kids the authors had than it tells us about what we can do for our own kids.  And in some cases, my heart breaks for the kids who came after the author’s firstborn but who likely had the nerve to operate completely differently.

So not where I intended to go.  Shock of shocks.  My real point in writing this, as may be evident from the title, was to share an experience I had last night that demonstrated just how different my two girls are.  My three kids are so very different, one from another.  And maybe that’s why I’m so sensitive to all this.  Maybe not everyone’s kids are as varied as mine.  Mine barely seem that they came from the same planet, I don’t see how they all could have come from the same womb.  I simply cannot treat each one of them with the same set of rules.  I would have broken them long before they came off the assembly line.

So, in keeping with the title, an illustration of just how different are my girls. . . .

Everybody was sick yesterday.  Well, not me, but everyone else.  Fevers and coughing and general flu-like stuff going on.  I’m pretty sure no one’s going to die, but there are buckets of misery being passed around.  Hannah and Ruth each had a fever at dinner last night (in the 104 range), so I gave them each a dose of ibuprophen at 6:30 and sent everyone off to bed (read, 2 1/2 hours later, everyone was asleep).

Around 2AM I hear a distinctly croupy cough and a whimpering “Mommy” coming down the hall.  Hannah and Ruth sound pretty much the same, so I can’t tell who it is until I am greeted by the messy halo of blond and footed-jammies silhouette with the yellow blankie tucked under my toddler’s chin.  Ruthie.  “I want Mommy.”  OK, honey.  I climb out of bed to meet her in the hall, but realize, Boy I really need a trip to the bathroom before I get involved in this.  “Ry, can you keep Ruth while I run to the bathroom?”  “Sure,” says my most beloved, always-willing-to-help-a-kid-or-wife-in-the-middle-of-the-night husband.

I return from the bathroom to find my Ruthie snuggled in bed with her daddy and chitty-chatting away in a chipper voice:  “Dem was WRobots.  Da wittle one was WRushy.  What dem peas doing?  What was Pa Gape doing?  Dem was singin’ ”  And so on.  And on.  And on.  Ruthie had watched a lot of TV on her sick day, and is retelling much of what she saw.  Chipper and happy and ready to go.   Ry and I are laughing, despite the fact that it’s 2 in the morning and we are both desperately tired.  Ruthie’s just so funny.  I feel her forehead, to check on how her fever is doing and she is burning up.  I run downstairs for the thermometer and ibuprophen.  102.3.  Hot enough.  She’s chipper, so perhaps I shouldn’t worry about bringing the temp down, but I want her to be comfortable enough to sleep well, so I drug her up.  I send Ry off to Ruth’s bed while I hunker down with her in ours.  When she lay down, she has some big, wet coughs and she throws up.  After cleaning up, we both start to drift off to sleep.

Next thing I know–and very little time has passed–I hear yet another croupy cough and whimpering.  Hannah.  She whimpers and whines her way up over Ruth, straddles my legs and just whimpers and whines.  I try to tell her I need her to get off my legs so I can go get her daddy to help her–so Ruth can stay asleep–but she won’t move, won’t speak, can only whimper.  I’m trying desperately to quickly get her up and out of my room before she awakens Ruth, but she’s beside herself.  I also know that she’s going to throw up, because she always does when she’s sick like this with excess mucous–she’s always choked and gagged easily–so I’m also trying to get her to get off my bed before she does.  But she can’t do anything but whimper and whine.  She’s just pitiful.  As predicted, she barfs, mostly getting it off the side of the bed to the floor as instructed–though the bed does not go unscathed–and continues to whimper and whine and tremble.  My poor, poor baby.

I carry her off to Ruth’s bed (in the room next door to ours, so as not to disturb Isaac who shares Hannah’s room) while my beloved cleans up the mess and changes our sheets–have I mentioned how wonderful he is?–and Ruth, long since awakened by the hullaballoo, wanders around between both rooms chattering away, chipper and happy, despite her rosy cheeks and glassy eyes.   Hannah huddles into a shivering ball under Ruth’s blankets.  I get the thermometer and ibuprophen.  102.8.  And miserable.  Drug her up good.

I send Ry off to bed with Hannah, so she has someone to snuggle and keep her warm, and again I hunker down with Ruthie who is really ready to go now, chitty chitty chat chat.  And I marvel at the difference between my two girls.  Both with the same symptoms, the same grade fever.  One happy-go-lucky, bubbly, chipper, ball of energy, one shivering, trembling, whimpering, most pitiful creature.  So different.  Neither good nor bad, just different.  And if they can’t even have the same response to the same virus with the same symptoms, how can I expect them to have the same response to anything else?

Wow.  I’ve rambled.  Blame the fact that I haven’t been blogging much lately.  Blame the utter lack of sleep.  Blame the encroaching virus.  But who am I kidding?  It’s my way.  It’s who I am.  It’s one of the ways God made me special.  It’s my own little way of being different.

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Filed under attachment parenting, Hannah, Ruth, sick kid

Different babies, different needs

Monumental day in our house a couple of weeks ago. For the first time in nearly four years, we don’t have a crib in our bedroom.

When we were expecting Isaac we put up his crib in our bedroom, at the foot of our bed. He was so sweet and so tiny sleeping there. Our bed is faux wrought iron, with simple vertical bars, so my husband and I could lie on our pillows, all snug and cuddly together, and watch our beautiful new bundle snooze away. Isaac began sleeping through the night, due to nothing we did, at the ripe old age of 10 weeks. So, by the time he was 4 months, we knew there was no real reason for him to still be in our room, as he never woke, we never had to tend to him, so we moved him into his own room.

When we were expecting Hannah, 2 1/2 year-old Isaac was still thoroughly in love with his crib, so we bought a new one (his was a hand-me-down, so this was our first crib purchase). We put it up in our bedroom, exactly where Isaac’s had been, planning on following the same pattern. When we found out Hannah was a girl, we set up a pretty girlie crib and eagerly awaited seeing her sleep there. Best laid plans . . .

Well, Hannah had other plans. Or, well, God made Hannah . . . Hannah. Different from her brother in many–if not all–ways, and with different needs. Hannah barely slept in that crib. And, ironically, 2 1/2 year old Isaac decided to climb out of his crib for the first time two weeks after Hannah was born. Within a week of that feat it became abundantly clear that it was time for his big boy bed. By the time Hannah turned a month, we had two empty cribs. Isaac’s, in his room, from which he had graduated, and Hannah’s, in our room, in which she just simply would not, could not sleep. She preferred the snugly confines of her bucket car seat. My dear, dear friend used to call it her Barcalounger. The child lived in that thing. We later learned she had reflux, but at the time, I was happy to let her be comfortable however she needed to be comfortable. Chalking it up to her snugly nature, Hannah slept in her bucket till she was 5 months old.

When Hannah turned 5 months old, she outgrew her bucket for sleeping. I still vividly remember the night she outgrew it. And it was just like that. One night she slept in her bucket, the next night she couldn’t. The night she couldn’t happened to be the night we were staying at a hotel after being evacuated from our home in the wee hours of the morning due to a flood in our neighborhood. In a room with two double beds, Ry was sleeping with Isaac who needed the comfort under the circumstances. Hannah was totally unsettled in her bucket, and there was no where else to put her so I just moved her in next to me. Ahhhh. Hannah found her heavenliest sleeping arrangement. As did I.

So, we discovered by chance that Hannah slept best next to me. Snuggled up, nursing at will. And I got to sleep through the whole thing. The magic of the mommy body. Shortly after that we found a purpose for Isaac’s old crib. We attached it to the side of our bed (found the how-to online) and created The Annex. It gave us more room for our Queen-sized bed as Hannah would sleep in her annex, scootch over to me to snuggle up and nurse. I’d go back to sleep and awaken later to find her off on her annex again. Blissful. For a while there we had the annex and Hannah’s original crib in our (big) bedroom. Her original crib was still a nice safe place to be when we weren’t in the room with her.

When Hannah was 8 months old we moved. The side-car annex went up in our new (small) bedroom and her original crib in her new bedroom next door. At this point I think she had spent maybe two nights in the thing. This went on for the next year. She never slept in it, but it was ever-so-pretty. When Hannah was 17 months old we moved her to a big-girl bed she actually enjoyed sleeping in. She never did sleep in that crib.

Then came Ruth. With Ruth, we had the The Annex from the get-go. We brought her home from the hospital and put her in there for night-time sleeping. And there she stayed. She never really came and snuggled up to me. Her best way to fall asleep was to be swaddled up tight in her yellow waffle-weave blankie and rock her head from side to side. When she awakened in the night, I’d sit up to nurse her, and lay her back in her annex. As she got older, she began to awaken more instead of less. A trip to my in-law’s when she was 9 months old told us she slept better in her own space, away from our bed. Go figure. So, up went the second crib in our (again, small) bedroom. And Ruth slept much, much better there for the next four months.

And then. Oh. My. And then, the child began to awaken every hour. Or less. Mama! MAAHma! MaMAH! MA-MA! Nurse, if you can call it that (really more open mouth and twitch, and then be surprised at the let-down that was significantly delayed by the utter lack of suction) for five minutes and back to bed. Till the next hour. A month or two or three of that (that’s when I started drinking coffee) and we decided something needed to change. Which brings us to the monumental change I started all this with.

We moved Isaac and Hannah up to our walk-up attic and moved Ruthie into Isaac’s old room. Ruthie moved out of our room. And lo and behold! she slept eleven hours straight, heaving a sigh of relief: “Finally, those people left me alone!”

And now. And now, my husband and I have only one sleeping container in our room. Our bed. For us. Just us. And it’s nice. And it’s sad. But mostly it’s nice.

However. Wonder-sleeper-Boy has grown frightened of his new bedroom. And shows up by our bed every night around 3AM. Petrified and begging to stay. Come on in, sweet boy. It’s safe here.

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Filed under attachment parenting, Family Life, Hannah, Isaac, Ruth