Tag Archives: sleep

S is for Strict

S is for Strict

S is for Strict

This is a tricky area for parents and we’re no exception.

Oh we had it all planned out before Motormouth arrived – we’d have rules, they would be reasonable and we’d all be reasonable and follow them.

We might have the odd hiccup, but we’d work it though and everything would be fine.

In our heads that is.

To tell the truth, it was all fine until Motormouth got to about 4.

Then it all got a little bit tricky, as they say.

Motormouth decided he’d been a little lax when it came to pushing the boundaries. It used to be he’d go for it a couple of times a day and normally we’d only get to 2 in our 3 count before he came back or stopped what he was doing.

Now we get to 3 and he seems to be losing privileges left, right and centre. And then we’d be stuck with what to do next. Do we have time out? Do we send him to his room (where, incidentally most of his toys are)? Do we resort to something stronger?

Or do we back down? Ease up on our requirements? Change the rules?

Some things will be non-negotiable of course – safety, courtesy, sharing and so on, but the smaller things? Helping to tidy up? Going straight to bed? Not playing with his food?

I know it’s normal for a child to push the boundaries – that’s how they learn to function independently in society, but I really wish it could be without the nightly pitched battles.

That moment when we wonder if we have the energy to fight this battle or if we should let it go. Wondering if we should choose another issue to stand our ground on. When we’re a little less tired. Or a little less frustrated with repeated non-compliance.

Then there’s the insidious enemy that sidles in to chuck a spanner into the works (yes, I am on a quest to put as many mixed metaphors into this post as I can).

What’s that enemy?

Weariness.

You know. The tiredness that comes from burning the candles at both ends?

That’s one child at night – Mini is still chattering away to herself at 10 o’clock most nights and one child in the morning – Motormouth rarely gets up after 6 am.

So, the question is, how strict should we be? And what strategies and tactics should we be using?

I think I need to do some research.

But maybe I’ll have a quick nap first.

O is for On the Go

 

O is for On the Go

O is for On the Go

All of the bloody time!

As I sit here, it’s getting on for 7.30 in the evening and I’m actually sitting down to start work about an hour or so earlier than usual. Both the kids are in bed, though I’m not holding my breath about it staying that way, not given Motormouth’s new habit of getting into our bed and changing his mind every couple of hours about which side of the bed he wants to sleep on.

Anyway, back to being on the go. Even when you’re sitting still, your mind is still on the go.

When is the latest I can go to the supermarket to buy the nappies without running out completely?

Have I got enough clean clothes for them tomorrow, bearing in mind it’s been raining so no line drying and I haven’t got the crayon out of the tumble drier yet? (I think I’ll put that particular story in a newsflash.)

Why does the washing up have to scream quite so loudly at me?

Will Mini develop the dreaded chickenpox rash now her brother is getting over it?

And the other 976 thoughts that rattle around in my head (and let’s face it, there’s plenty of room in there thanks to the famous “baby brain”).

What does this mean to us as mothers?

We. Never. Switch. Off.

Even when we’re asleep we’ve got half an ear open in case the children start crying (and a plea to all fathers – please try to develop this talent).

We develop the ability that allows our eyeballs to swivel independently (though this doesn’t kick until Number 2 arrives).

We can undertake most daily tasks whilst simultaneously corralling children. We even develop a dexterity that would make our craft teachers punch the air with glee.

And yes, it is possible to open a stair gate with your foot whilst you’re carrying two oddly-shaped plates of food with a “favourite-favourite-beaker-but-only-for-today” for each child wedged into either armpit.

What does this mean to us as mothers? Well, I can only speak personally, but the adjustment has taken a little time. It’s taken me a while to get used to it and to stop thinking of myself as an adult with small dependent beings tied to me with invisible wires and to start thinking of myself as a mother.

And now I’m here?

I think I need to learn to start thinking of myself as a mother who has occasional outbreaks of being a single-unit-entity, and that it’s OK to like those rare forays into a state of no-dependents.

I know I haven’t mentioned the physical activity but, to be absolutely honest, that’s what my body goes through. Since my brain and body are barely on speaking terms at the moment, anything physical is passed on in only the most basic of terms like “tired”, “achy” or “sort of hungry but don’t know what to eat” (that’s why I have a default setting for eating the kid’s leftovers). I think my body got a bit fed up with having its basic needs ignored and has sent my brain to Coventry. Or Leeds. Or Aberystwyth. I’m not sure where really but wherever it is, they don’t have any loos there, or at least none that I can find. (No offense is meant to Coventry, Leeds or Aberystwyth, everyone knows my sense of direction is dire.) Anyway, my brain’s retaliated by closing down all avenues of communication. I think my bladder may be taking this ACAS soon if they don’ reopen negotiations.

Now excuse me, I think I heard the thud of toddler feet heading from the bedroom…

Today Should Be Monday

Motormouth Meltdown

Motormouth Meltdown

As in Motormouth Meltdown Monday.

In other words, we’ve had one of those days today.

I can’t blame him really, we have the trifecta of causes for an over-emotional child.

He’s poorly with chickenpox.

He’s sleep deprived after our holiday.

He’s 4 years old.

What this meant in practice was that he cried today.

A lot.

At anything.

Mini trying to steal his food.

At not being allowed to go to playgroup today.

Asbo not wanting to be stroked.

His puzzle getting stuck in its box.

Him not being allowed more chocolate.

It being 2 o’clock.

Mini wanting to play with his toys.

Me wanting him to pick up his toys.

Him not being allowed to watch TV while he was eating his dinner.

Him hurting his toes when he fell over one of the toys he’d failed to pick up.

To say this was tiring for all of us is an understatement. In the end I persuaded him to snuggle in our bed with the tablet to watch Aladdin (for about the 90th time). The idea was him having a sleep would help his soldiers fight the virus that was giving him his rash.

Perhaps I need to explain about his soldiers. To help him get through his vaccinations we told him he had lots of tiny soldiers in his body that help him get better when he was hurt. He’s taken to this idea with a passion we didn’t expect. He tells complete strangers about how his soldiers are helping him. He told the nurse he was disappointed he was getting his vaccination with a nose spray rather than a needle. When they drew a life-size outline of him at playgroup he had to put a germ and a soldier in there as well as a heart.

Anyway, back to Aladdin. I asked Motormouth agreed to try and snuggle and have a sleep.

He agreed. He even managed to have a little nap.

And woke up grumpy.

Mini didn’t help either. She knows loads of words but only uses one.

No.

She practised using it a lot today.

And she has my tone of voice down pat. So much so that even Motormouth was laughing.

She hasn’t quite sussed that sometimes the no is aimed at her rather than her brother.

Like when I’m telling her not to try and pull the table cloth off the table.

Or not to throw things at me when I’m trying to change her nappy.

Or going up to her brother and slapping him.

Or steal her brother’s food.

Maybe I can understand him crying at that.

L is for Looking

 

L is for Looking

L is for Looking

Constantly.

Everywhere.

It feels like you develop eyes in the back of your head, either that, or your peripheral vision gets really, really good.

And you can’t help it. You, or rather I, have this need to be able to see both children. All the time. The only time I’m not worried is when they are asleep or with a babysitter (because the babysitter is doing the looking instead).

I know this is something the Other Half struggles with, the idea that you have to be constantly on the alert.

I’m not an overprotective mother, at least I don’t think I am – if one of them falls over and they’re OK enough to cry and blood’s not spraying out alarmingly, then I’m not going to go running to them unless there is imminent danger. (OK, I admit part of that could be the exhaustion talking. Check out E for Exhaustion in this series for more.)

Getting back to the Other Half, I know he wants the children to be safe. I think he, like most of us until we go through motherhood, think once they’ve been hurt or had the dangers explained to them, then they’ll be fine.

But that’s not totally true.

I have a 4-year-old and a 21-month-old and they are, for their ages, pretty safety consciousness.

Motormouth has good road skills. The green man is his friend and I think he might be every so slightly scared by the angry red man at road crossings.

Mini knows when she doesn’t feel confident about steps and will always sit at the top of the stairs, waiting for someone to hold her hand while she climbs down.

That is until something else gets their attention.

Then all bets are off.

Normally the “something else” is the little tabby-tortie kitten that comes to see them when we leave in the morning and is usually there to greet us when we come home again.

When she’s around, they only have eyes for her. That’s when they need a gentle reminder not to run out across the road, and by gentle I mean a firm grab of their hood or T shirt, or, to be truthful, whichever article of clothing is nearest.

I’m not trying to be sexist here, when I talk about the Other Half not being as attentive, since I am only talking from my own experience. I know studies have shown that the father’s role is more about encouraging children to push the boundaries to achieve more. To take risks. And they need that, otherwise they’ll never achieve anything near their full potential.

And Motormouth and Mini, are quite good at assessing the risks of things like climbing up or down something.

So now I’m looking to see what mischief they are getting into.

This is definitely where the Other Half and I diverge on our notions of urgency and immediacy. He thinks peace and quiet is bliss.

I just think it’s suspicious.

We have had the odd few incidents that most parents will recognise.

Remember the time when went into the room to find a small boy who has coloured himself in with this mother’s gel pens. At least all the bits he could reach. (On the plus side, we got an indication he’s probably right handed.)

Or the time when he ate the yoghurt in the fridge.

All 12 pots. (That was an interesting at nappy change time.)

Or the small girl who emptied out her father’s bedside drawers. (I didn’t realise he’s got concert tickets in there from 1989).

I remember when I first got pregnant and everyone was giving me the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps, and this is fine in principle when they pretty much stay where you put them (apart from that’s likely to be the only time you get to do the odd tasks you might like to catch up on, like eat. Or wee.)

Once they’re mobile, you feel more like, if you sleep when they sleep, they’ll wake up without you knowing and do things you have told them NOT TO DO (sorry, force of habit. I always end up shouting that at Motormouth or Mini.)

Motormouth in particular seems to have a talent for this. It was only last week I told him specifically NOT to go into the narrow gap between our house and our garden (which is raised) because there was cat poo under the leaves.

Less that 2 minutes later?

Yep.

You guessed it.

The wonderful task of cleaning cat poo off foot apparel. Luck was with me for a change. He was wearing wellies.

And he hadn’t picked up the cat poo asking “what’s this Mummy?”.

We’re not always so lucky. Once we had the case of “some idiot has left their dog’s diarrhoea in an untied nappy bag on the path”. Poor Motormouth had the indignity of being marched back home at arm’s length to be stripped down to his nappy and bare feet before he was allowed in the house. Must have been a bit chilly in February.)

Why do they always, ALWAYS have to pick it up or touch it?

Speaking of mischief, Motormouth is in the garden and I’ve just heard the hose go on.

And I have almost-dry washing on the line.

Correction. I did have almost-dry washing on the line.

I think I’ll go and have a quick look…

J is for Juggling

 

J is for Juggling

J is for Juggling

Wow.

Juggling.

What can I say about this?

Before I had kids I thought I managed to multi-task pretty well. I could flit from one task to another without forgetting anything, make notes about one thing whilst waiting for someone to answer the phone so I could ask them about something else. I could even cook a meal whilst having a conversation with my mother.

Then the kids came along and juggling took on a whole new perspective.

If you’ve not directly experienced life with kids, it’s a little like spinning half a dozen plates at the same time as appearing on a quiz show with an audience of forty tiny sopranos playing twenty questions simultaneously whilst you’re trying to defuse a bomb with a tilt switch fuse.

And all this whilst most of your brain has elected to go on strike because of sleep deprivation.

In other words, it can be a bit of a challenge.

But you manage.

How, I have no idea, but you manage.

You manage to keep to some sort of schedule, no matter how random, and make sure that each hatchling gets their share of the wriggly worms you’ve gotten up so early to catch. Sometimes more than once a day, if you’re on a roll.

You see that each child is dressed in clean clothes and sometimes,as a special bonus, they’re in their own clothes rather than some random sibling’s. (Please note, the definition of clean is amended for parents of small children, becoming “clean-enough-not-to-embarrass-me-in-public”)

You even retrieve the various tiny random articles that are mouth-bound before they disappear behind gummy grins and free the cat’s tail from sticky fingers before the cat realises it’s strayed that little bit too close for safety.

You become the master (or mistress) of completing tasks one-handed. Who knew you could make a sandwich, change the batteries on the TV remote, hang the washing out or pack a suitcase literally single-handed?

You do this without realising.

I would like to say this is unconscious competence, muscle memory and automatic reflexes following well-worn paths, but, for the first few years at least, it’s more barely-conscious competence.

But we survive it.

And, more importantly, the kids survive it.

And we all come out the better for it.

Just think, we can now tick that vital box on the application form. Yes, we can multi-task, we can manage a heavy and diverse workload whilst meeting impossible deadlines.

We can also deal with rude, intolerant, noisy, demanding customers.

We can juggle.

And at least we only have to put the red nose and big shoes on for birthday parties.

E is for Exhausted

 

E is for Exhausted

E is for Exhausted

What can I say about this?

However tired you might have been in the past, you don’t know what exhaustion is until you have a small child.

Everyone knows about the broken nights, or at least think they do since experiencing them is a whole other world. The 2 am feeds. The unexplained crying at 4 am where they won’t settle back to sleep.

You think, hope, even pray it will get better once they get a little older and can amuse themselves if they wake up early.

And they do quite successfully.

With their favourite plaything.

You.

And they can be quite insistent about it.

Anything from prying your eyelids open (I knew I should have cut his nails last night) to pulling the covers off and trying to drag you out of bed by your foot.

Sometimes they might be nice and just play trampoline instead.

On your bed.

With you still in it.

Then there are the times when they decide that the middle of the night is a perfectly acceptable time for breakfast. In fact it’s essential because they’re hungry.

And as any parent of a toddler knows, the concept of waiting for something is not something they can process.

If they are hungry, they are hungry NOW.

The same goes for needing a nappy change or the potty, wanting a drink or expecting you to fix their latest favourite toy that they’ve pulled apart. Again.

Of course this is a one way thing. Keeping you waiting is not only acceptable, it’s mandatory. How many times have we counted to 10, standing there holding their coats ready for them to put on, whilst they spend time carefully selecting the toys they need to hold? And of course, they only need to hold them whilst they are putting their coats on. Different toys are required for shoes, hats etc.

Since all this kicks off at around 5 am, at least in our household, a lie-in is a distantly dreamed-of hope.

And with the impeccable timing all children have, this will have followed a night of interruptions for nappy changes, drinks, throwing up and growing pains. You are even reluctantly impressed with the teamwork siblings display when they take it in shifts. (Can you tell we have an early bird and a night owl in the house?)

And what does this all mean?

That, no matter how early you contrive to go to bed, you still function in a haze of exhaustion. The world around you slightly foggy with the wisps of sleep you didn’t have.

And what do you do about it?

You get up and plough on, even though some days you might not feel qualified to be upright, let alone carrying out tasks involving machinery (you know, like the kettle and the tin opener).

You cease to wonder why the cheese is in the plate cupboard and your socks are in the fridge.

You start to bargain with yourself. How many minutes extra sleep is a shower worth? Can you get away with jogging pants and T shirt cutting down on the ironing for a the privilege of hitting the snooze button?

Sound familiar?

And when does it end?

Four years and counting. I wish I could tell you.

I’m just going to put my head down for a few seconds…..

“Mummy!”

 

Baby’s Guide to… Bedtime

Asleep at last.

Asleep at last.

Welcome to the guide to the controversial subject of bedtime.

Now you might not think this is a particular bone of contention, but there can be few other occasions where you and your parents will disagree quite so often, or so noisily.

So, how do you come out of this process on top? Read on to find out.

Delaying the Inevitable – It comes around every night, bedtime that is, and often it arrives a little too early for your taste. There are still things to do. Food to scavenge and make messes with. Toys to play with. Adults to be fussed over by. So, you need to have a strategy to delay things. You can be as inventive as you like. You can run (or crawl) for it and take refuge under the nearest piece of heavy furniture (providing you can fit). You can resist all attempts to pick you up. This can be achieved in a variety of ways from going rigid in a position that leaves you wedged somewhere to becoming boneless so they can’t get a grip under your arms to pick you up. There are riskier tactics you can adopt, for example reintroducing your dinner to the world, but be prepared for this to backfire since it might just result in an earlier trip up the stairs (if you have them of course).

Transportation – If you are fairly mobile they may allow you to traverse the rougher terrain (such as the aforementioned stairs) by yourself. Don’t forget to stop to check they are following you like a good support team should i.e. one step behind at all times. You may need to check this a dozen times or more. Once each step is good. When you get to the top, be sure to make a beeline for the wrong room. You will get extra points if you zag when they expect you to zig and you get over the threshold. If they choose to carry you up the stairs themselves then you should adopt an appropriately awkward body shape, again, rigid with arms splayed is effective.

Bath Time – Your parents may or may not decide to give you a bath every night. You may have particularly sensitive skin, in which case they might decide to dunk you in soapy water every other day instead. However frequently you go through this process you can treat it as a fun time, where you can splash to your heart’s content (or until your parents run out of their heart’s content) or as an ordeal, in which case you should adopt the standard tactics of screaming until they get you out. At this point you might want to go boneless again, that is if you fancy some extra entertainment, since there is nothing on the planet that is more slippery than a wet baby. Especially if you are trying to lift them from above. The less said about the indignities of having all your bits patted dry before you are shoehorned, still slightly damp (despite their best, and most personal, efforts) into your nightclothes the better.

Teeth (or Tooth) Time – Ah, the cleaning of the teeth, or tooth if you’re still waiting for the rest to come through. Your parents will have several options open to them – what flavour paste they will use to clean your teeth (mint is probably best, bubblegum may seem like an attractive choice but it will only make the switch to grown up toothpaste weirder. All grown up toothpaste is mint.). Now, the implements. You, or rather your teeth, will be cleaned using a foreign object that will be inserted into your mouth, forcibly if necessary. In the early days this might be a clean finger (apparently that’s recommended by the experts), later a cloth and finally a bristly thing on a stick. This all sounds quite brutal but there are ways you can regain control of the situation. You can refuse to open your mouth (parents are surprisingly wary of forcing your mouth open unless they believe you have something interesting in there. Please note that what we see as interesting they see as dangerous.), you can open your mouth long enough to fasten your teeth (or gums) on the object. Be prepared for loud noises if they are at the finger stage (being gummed by a baby can be surprisingly painful).

Story Time – This might be your favourite time of the whole routine. This is a good opportunity to cuddle up nice and warm and comfortable, for you at least. Don’t worry about them being uncomfortable, it’s part of their job description. Alternatively it could be a good opportunity to take some of the shine off those nice clean teeth. Or time to play at climb the parent (some parents make particularly good climbing frames and swings). You may even get a lullaby after the story. Some parents cannot sing, but it’s good manners to ignore this and give them points for trying. Try not to laugh at them if they are too bad. They might not sing to you again which could reduce the entertainment opportunities for later.

Sleeping Time – This is quite possibly the part of the whole bedtime routine where you have complete control, at least until your body takes over, at which point you will fall asleep regardless of what position you might be in. When your parent puts you down with a gentle kiss on your forehead, a good tactic is to lie still for a moment, just long enough for them to believe they have got the timing right for a change, before you sit up and look at them reproachfully. You can add tears and a scrunched up face for extra effect if you want. Your aim is to make them feel guilty for abandoning you in the solitude of your cot whilst the rest of the family, especially older siblings, are likely to be up and still enjoying all the things you have been deprived off, mainly food, toys and free-roaming rights. Lay that guilt on thick. It might not work this time but as the guilt accumulates they might start to reconsider your bedtime schedule.

So, there you have it. The guide to bedtime. Apply the above suggestions diligently and persistently and you will retain the mastery over the end of the day, just as you do during the day.