"Sleep...broken" my child tells me.
We've been awake half the night. She wants a glass of milk, has an itchy arm, needs the toilet (again!), wants a little less light, then a little more, now another glass of milk. My child is refusing to sleep and... to be honest... I'm starting to think it's my own fault.
I'm starting to think that she could try and sleep by herself but can't be bothered because I'll be there tending to her. And no, she's not sick at the moment. Neither is she going through any major developmental milestones. She's not a night owl by nature and I haven't taken her on a holiday. She's in her usual environment, doesn't have debilitating separation anxiety and should be able to sleep now. But she is grappling a fear of something. A fear of me leaving her room. Clearly I'm not giving her enough attention during the day. She's coming up with a thousand reasons to make me return to her bed. I'm sneaking around her darkened room wondering how much faith I should have in her ability to deal with this by herself. Wondering how able she'll be to self-soothe. I'm tempted to have a little faith in her.
It's not for a lack of trying to teach her good sleep habits. I once gave co-sleeping a whirl and had a shot at letting her cry. I've dabbled in everything in-between on top of that and have run out of options. I feel constantly jet-lagged, and not because I travel much. I've turned into a daytime sleepwalker.
This got me thinking, and I've come up with a new idea. A last fix up my sleeve... I'm going to get to the root of the problem, and ask a few uncomfortable questions... let's level to find out how I undermine my child's sleep habits:
ONE I secretly question my own policy. Expecting my child to sleep by herself in her own bed is the right thing to do, I suppose. But deep down, I'm a family bed parent. I totally get why my child doesn't want to sleep all alone in her bed. I like the idea of - and I'm quoting a friend here - 'all of us sleeping in one bed like farmers'. But...our bed isn't big enough, and I have no intention of purchasing a bigger one...and, the killer argument, we can't fall asleep with the whole brood in the bed. So this is the end. I tell my child her place at night is her own bed (but I don't really mean it). This doesn't go unnoticed. My child senses room for discussion. Must really own my parenting decisions.
TWO I want instant gratification. I really do. I've got plenty of energy to enforce sleep policies for a few nights, expecting my child to sleep in her own bed. But my child has more stamina. I tire and let her sleep on the sofa. But the next night, with recharged batteries, I demand she sleeps in her own bed again. I'm sending out mixed messages; my child is confused and encouraged to push the boundaries. This is such a bad idea. Must keep on track no matter how exhausted I am.
THREE I can't stop trying to fit a round peg through a square hole. I've been guilty of expecting my child to adjust to my life on the go. I'm talking about my own child, not yours by the way...because you're off the hook if you have a child with an unbreakable body clock inside them. Like my friend Mel, who's got five great sleepers. Yes, FIVE of them. I say Congratulations from the bottom of my heart and without the slightest ounce of envy, not even the teeniest, teeniest, teeniest, tiniest glimpse of an ounce of envy!! Fact is that there are some kids you just take out at their usual naptime for a few days, then put them down at their usual nap time the following day... and they'll sleep. You can return late from work and horse around with them before bedtime, then put them to sleep like a baby straight away. Some children are really easy like that. But mine isn't. Must find an approach that suits my child's personality AND doesn't break me.
So I'll be consistent. Nah. I'll be ROCK SOLID and not planning to falter at 3:50 am. Otherwise, there's always 'the mat' (that's a rug next to my side of the bed). Our children are allowed to camp out there if they wake up in the middle of the night - no questions asked. Yes, most of them have outgrown 'the mat' by now. Still, be warned... Don't be like me!
Skip over to the App Store if you'd like to see what else I have undertaken to teach my children good bedtime routines...