Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Word Of Advice

We all know that Mommy needs her sleep. I've discovered that my wee ones need their sleep, too. Not everyone believes me (MOM), but they need far more sleep than you would expect. Can they function on less sleep? Absolutely! Can I walk into a room and immediately tell by their behavior if they're well-rested or not?

I was at a friend's house for a meeting the other night. At 9pm, her five year old daughter walked into the room -- not in her pjs -- to get a kiss from her mom. My friend laughed and played it off "oh we just can't get them into bed!" Really? At least for me, I've found putting them into bed, shutting the door and then walking away seems to work.

Maybe it's because I've been a big believer in sleep since the wee ones were little, it's easier for me. I have friends who bemoan (how seriously, I can't tell since they do nothing about it) that their kids can't fall asleep unless they're in the parents' bed and it's 10:30 or later. I always have to school my face to keep it neutral. Mister Man may occasionally be "awake" at 10:30, but that's only when he gets up to go potty in the middle of the night, and most of the time I don't think he's actually fully awake.

I did once have trouble with Little Miss, though. I'll readily admit that. I could tell she was tired -- she has these lovely little creases that appear under her eyes the second she's ready for bed -- but she was getting up before 5am and had given up her afternoon nap. At 18 months.

Needless to say, this mommy doesn't function on that little sleep, and it was showing. Someone -- and I forget who this blessed person was -- gave me the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I read it and was an immediate convert.

Little Miss luckily returned to her two naps a day and long nights of sleep shortly thereafter. To this day -- and she turns four on August 1 -- she'll sleep twelve to thirteen hours a night and take up to a three hour nap. Granted, she never stops moving when she's awake, but she's a great sleeper.

Even Mister Man will take naps periodically, and he's also a thirteen hour a night sleeper -- or more sometimes. But my mom... oh my mom refuses to believe it. She told Little Miss that she doesn't need to nap anymore. And so Little Miss doesn't nap whenever Grandma is around.

My mom also doesn't believe that they should be to bed by 6:30. Instead -- after no nap -- they're up until after 8. And she's surprised when they wake up before 6am. She insists that means they must not be tired and refuses to believe a word I say. (And yes, this does factor into my desire to stop working. The lack of respect my parents have for my parenting and the amount of time my working means they spend with the wee ones is an issue.)

I picked up the Little Miss on Tuesday at 10am after we'd gotten back from Vegas. My parents had so generously volunteered to watch the wee ones for the four days we were gone. Little Miss almost fell asleep in the car. At 10am. Ditto with Mister Man when I picked him up from summer school at noon. Yikes.

What I've learned is that kids need more sleep than you expect them to. If they wake up early, so often it's because they're overtired (not always -- but in my case, it absolutely is). When they're well-rested and they stir, they are able to fall back asleep. However, when they're overtired, the slightest stir means they're up for good because they're too tired to sleep. Don't tell me you haven't been in the same situation!

My friends look at me askance when I say I have to leave somewhere early or that we can't make a party because it's past the wee ones' bedtime. They can't believe it, but it works for us. Ironically, a woman from Mister Man's elementary school called a few weeks ago, and I mentioned that I had time because the wee ones were in bed. She laughed and asked if they were Weissbluth babies. I was surprised that she said that, as Dr. Marc Weissbluth is the author of the aforementioned book. Apparently his devotees are easy to spot.

If only my mom could listen. Then again, my parents are also the ones who refuse to believe that Little Miss has a dairy allergy. It's only under duress that they keep dairy away from her.

Ironically, the first baby shower I ever went to asked all of us to come with a notecard filled with our best parenting advice. I remember that I wrote "No" is no a four letter word as my advice. It definitely isn't a bad one, and I stick to that one, as well. If only I'd known then what I know now....

So what is your favorite bit of unsolicited parenting advice?

PS the answers to the pop quiz are up now!


Unknown June 18, 2009 at 9:14 AM  

I am glad your method works for you. Great advice. I will look at the book before our next baby.

At the same time though, I am glad your parents can help you all the time. They love their grandchildren. That is the most important thing! : ) Good grandparents are hard to beat.

Roxane June 18, 2009 at 9:56 AM  

The woman I babysit for may have many faults but she did read the "Healthy Sleeping Habits, Happy Child" book and it's working great. The baby is 19 months and sleeps 2 naps a day and through the night!

Tami June 18, 2009 at 10:08 AM  

I have always been a firm believer in naps. Kids need to refresh their little brains. It helps them grow and be happy, which in turn makes Mom happy!! My boys always had a routine, they knew nap time and bedtime. Now they are older and put themselves to bed. In their rooms at 9pm and lights out at 10pm. It's summer now and they still keep this routine.

Hyacynth June 18, 2009 at 11:03 AM  

I cannot imagine how frustrating it is that your parents don't follow your wishes. I would be very irritated, too.

I hate it when people tell me to let babies cry it out. It's not my parenting style, and I don't like it at all.

Cookie June 18, 2009 at 11:34 AM  

You are lucky that your kids sleep so well! I haven't had too much trouble with bed time until recenlty. Now my 7-year old will stay awake in his room utnil 9 or sometimes even past 10! Then he has trouble when I wake him up for school. But he's got some issues that we're working on that may have to do with this.
as for my favorite unsolicted parenting advice, I used to hate when my kids were little and I'd take them out somewhere and they would start crying. Complete strangers would come up to me and tell me that they were tired or hungry etc. Drove me nuts!

Ryan Ashley Scott June 18, 2009 at 11:53 AM  

My parents always tell me Monsoon would sleep later (as in past 7) if he didn't go to bed so early (as in 8) but we've tried and tested and repeated as he grows, and we found what works best for him - if he's off by even a half an hour, he gets up early and is cranky all day. When he stays with my folks, he's cranky and tired for two days afterward. I feel ya.

My favorite bit of advice was always, "he just has to cry it out." Everyone is different, as is every baby, but for me, I just couldn't do it. I tried, and I still feel guilty about it - and I don't mind the extra cuddles he needs at bedtime. :)

septembermom June 18, 2009 at 12:14 PM  

It's nice that you have your parents to help with the kids. I know how grandparents have trouble enforcing bedtime rules. I think I'll probably like being "good cop" when I'm a grandma :) I have a way too flexible sleep schedule here.

Foursons June 18, 2009 at 3:10 PM  

I totally agree with how important sleep is and just get irritated when other moms I know complain because their kids won't stay out of the parent's bed. I mean really...who's the parent?

Claudya Martinez June 18, 2009 at 3:22 PM  

I was given the book by a virtual stranger when I was still pregnant and she said, "I wish someone would have given me this book while I was pregnant." I have found it to be very helpful.

Sometimes it's difficult to follow the advice because parents and spouses think you are crazy trying to make your child sleep so much, but my baby is much happier when she sleeps more.

She's 9 months old right now and I still don't think she's getting enough sleep because she's been waking up at 5 am. Last night I put her to bed a half hour earlier (6:00) and she woke up at 6:30 am this morning. Much better.

I have little patience for people who complain about their child not sleeping, but do nothing about it. Fine if you are doing something consistently, but trying something different every night is just not going to work. It was a very difficult process for us (read me), but I'm glad I stuck it out because now I really see the benefits of my baby sleeping.

My husband did not enjoy going through the sleep training, but now he tells me I've sone a very good job and when he sees kids out late at night he shakes his head and wonders why the parents would let their child stay up so late.

Of course, I keep most of this knowledge to myself because I've found that most people don't want to hear it. What they want is for someone to listen to their woes and tell them that what they are doing is fine. Whatever, it's not my place to tell them if they don't want to know.

Anyway, good advice. Sorry I went on about it for so long. It's just that I haven't met anyone in my immediate circle that has used the advice in the book.

anymommy June 18, 2009 at 3:32 PM  

I am equally adamant about my kids' sleep and bedtime. They are in bed, lights out, routine over at 7p.m. I love it and I do think it helps their behavior. Although, every parent/child is different, so I try not to rant on about my feelings on sleep. I get those weird looks too, especially in the summer when so many people have BBQs that start at 6:00 or 6:30 and I'm like, sorry, that's bedtime?! Lol.

MaBunny June 18, 2009 at 8:54 PM  

I never grew up with naps. Sure I did when I was little but as I got into childhood/teen/adult hood the only time I nap is when I'm sick. Or now, sometimes when I know I'll be staying up late, but that is rare.
My husband however, naps and it makes me does my best friend - I'll call her at 2 pm and shes sound asleep!
Nicole doesn't nap either - but shes 10 now. Like me, only when shes sick.
Glad your kids are great sleepers though. I agree with you, your parents should respect your parenting wishes and rules though.

Jill June 19, 2009 at 12:56 AM  

Hi Michelle.

My advice.. Learn from your mistakes with your first child and NEVER repeat them with your second.

I'm having a giveaway come on over!


Melisa Wells June 19, 2009 at 6:08 AM  

Parents who let their kids stay up until all hours (and say that the kids "can't go to sleep unless...") drive me CRAZY. Who's in charge here??? Ugh.

I guess the advice that rings in my ears even to this day is, "Enjoy them; they're only kids once."

Karen June 19, 2009 at 7:27 AM  

With my first three kids, I was you. The Sleep Nazi. The kids thrived. And then Micah came along. He is a certified non-sleeper, and nothing I do can correct it. He will lie in bed for HOURS if we put him to bed earlier than he's ready to go to sleep, and is ALWAYS up at the buttcrack of dawn no matter the time he finally drifts off.

Michelle June 19, 2009 at 2:54 PM  

Life with Kaishon - Yep, it totally works for me, and the emphasis is ME! And yes, my parents love their grandchildren, but ... they don't recognize where the boundary is. Including lying to my face, but that's another issue.

Roxane - That makes life easier for you -- and for her. It's amazing, isn't it?

t.t. millers - Tht's actually what I tell Mister Man now: how sleep helps his brain absorb what he's learning and make him smarter. So often sleep is made into a punishment, and I don't want them to see it like that!

Hyacynth - Ahh, yes. I'll leave it at that. Everyone has their own parenting styles, and as long as it's consistent, that's the key (which Weissbluth espouses). I let the wee ones cry it out at six months, and I could do it. I know a lot of people find other ways, too.

Cookie - Ouch, poor kid. Somehow I've never had the issue with well-meaning strangers approaching me. I don't know if it's because I live in Chicago so you don't talk to strangers or if because I have the look on my face that tells people to stay away from me.

RAS - Yep, that tired and cranky sounds familiar! And that of course makes mommy tired and cranky, too ;)

septembermom - It is a huge blessing that my parents help out... but sometimes their help causes more issues than not :)

Foursons - Amen, although I tend to only judge in my head. Saying it outloud might be harmful to my health, I think!

Unknown Mami - Wow, I'm inspiring some passion here! I know several people who go with this strategy, but most aren't living nearby, so I get the weird looks when I beg leave of people. And I am shocked by the lateness of people who are out late with kids -- the one year olds being strollered around Vegas at 2am spring to mind....

anymommy - Yep, we have dinner and have people over for dinner at 5 so we can get everyone in bed on time. People give me the weird looks -- what, you don't take your kids to the 9:30pm fireworks?? -- but it works for us, so we're sticking with it.

MaBunny - Well yeah, the naps will go away soon enough :) Mister Man already mostly doesn't nap -- although he still has a rest period -- and Little Miss will probably stop by kindergarten. And I can hear my husband snoring from upstairs right now....

Jill - Yep, that's one of the (few) reasons I thought about having a litter. I figured by the last kid, I'd have it totally down ;)

Melisa - Why am I not surprised by your response? You need to move about forty-five minutes north!

Karen - Oh, I feel for you. That's hard on your sleep and sanity, too. Some kids are like that though and just need less sleep. And then there was the kid I'd see at therapy when we were in EI who slept for a few hours every 2-3 days. Yes, there was a full time assistant involved after awhile. Just think, someday Micah will get up and take care of himself and let you sleep in!

Anonymous June 26, 2009 at 8:06 PM  

You are so right. I just started to put mt foot down, and am having BED time in my ouse! I know it is because of my habbits not my child's that she sleeps the way she does. I, as the adult must put forth the effort!

Michelle June 28, 2009 at 9:12 PM  

Elftea - Ouch, I don't envy you. It's hard when you've gone down one path for a long time and then try to change. Good luck!

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