Kids Make Sleep Impossible

Back in July, I had almost an entire week of proper sleep. This was right after I visited a naturopath because I thought for sure my hormones must have been out of whack – I was irritable, emotional, exhausted and kind of all over the place. She decided I wasn’t sleeping enough and that I needed nine uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. Nine hours. That meant a 9:30 bed time, which is frankly impossible. She gave me herbs to help me fall asleep faster, and I slept with a mask to keep the sunshine from waking me up before I wanted to be awake. After that week, I felt like a new human. The problem turned out to be a lack of sleep, (my hormones are just fine) but since that glorious week of rest, I haven’t been able to nab another nine hour stretch. As I type this, I feel a bit weepy. I wish I hadn’t experienced what good rest feels like because despite those few days, the reality is this: young kids make sleep impossible.

why kids make sleep impossible

Why Young Kids Make Sleep Impossible:

  1. They insist on sleeping with you. Okay, maybe yours don’t. Maybe you chose not to co-sleep with your child from day one because getting out of bed for feedings in the middle of the night seemed a small price to pay for the freedom you would enjoy later on. Maybe you don’t have to convince your almost-four-year-old that his own bed in his lovely room is perfectly safe and awesome. Good for you. My nipples were like hamburger meat and I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown in my early days of motherhood. But you were probably smarter, and you’re probably a much nicer person than me in the mornings.
  2. You can’t sleep when they don’t sleep with you. My little guy isn’t the only one who got used to sleeping with another human every night. Whenever he sleeps with his other mama, or has an overnight with the grandparents, I inevitably hit a spot in my bedtime routine where I suddenly feel like a limb is missing and my heart and soul aches for his sweaty little head on the pillow beside me. The truth is, I sleep the very best when it’s just him and I in bed. He’s the only biological child I will ever have, and he’s growing up so fast. Go ahead and laugh. You can probably see how I got myself into this mess.
  3. Daddy starts to resent everyone. When your husband wants you all to himself, do you think it’s fun to have to race against the clock to get ‘er done before the little boy (who managed to finally fall asleep in his own bed) comes pounding on the door because he wants to sleep with you? It’s not, believe me. There’s nothing fun about knowing that having an orgasm will be next to impossible because you can’t stop wondering when one pounding will start and the other will end. Then, with two adults and a four-year-old squished together in a queen sized bed, nobody’s sleeping well. There are toes where toes should never go. Inexplicable scratches in the morning. Flailing and maiming of all varieties. I swear, my man has started snoring like a beast just to get back at me for insisting on co-sleeping in the first place.
  4. They spit in the face of progress. Just when you think you’re getting ahead with a new routine, your kid brings back some disgusting virus from day care and ends up with a fever for an entire week. A WHOLE WEEK! The doctor sends you home with a Roseola diagnosis, no big deal really. Except you aren’t sure how to keep a close eye on them and regulate their sometimes terrifying temperature spikes without setting an alarm every hour, and so back into your bed they go. You start to wonder if the weird little tic they’ve adapted where they compulsively lick their fingers is a small part of a much larger, much more diabolical plan.
  5. They try to touch your boobs. Like, constantly. Even when you tell them you don’t want them to touch your body because you’re trying to teach them about consent. God forbid they end up growing up to be some asshole frat boy with a sense of entitlement and a healthy grasp on misogyny, but you can’t explain that to a three-and-a-half year old, can you? No way. I say “It’s my body and I don’t want you to touch my breasts right now.” He says “But Mommy, you fed me with them when I was a baby so they belong to me too.” Then he flashes that winning smile and his huge brown eyes dance. Or he has several ‘accidents’ where he’s quick to apologize, but a boob is inevitably touched. My grandma had a boyfriend like that once. I know consent is important, (believe me, I know) but sometimes it’s too hot to sleep with a t-shirt on, and honestly I’m just so freaking tired. If I pretend I’m asleep, is it still wrong?

How to Reclaim Your Right to Sleep

Obviously the answer is ‘get the kid to sleep in his own bed’. Or maybe it’s ‘Daddy and son can switch rooms half way through the night.” Whichever the case, it’s easier said than done people. We’re long past the point where we can leave him in his room to cry it out. I’m not about to lock him in there, or barricade the door to keep him in because it’s really not his fault that he’s learned to depend on someone in bed with him to sleep with.  Last night he said to me (through tears) “I want to be like daddy. Every night he gets to sleep with either you or Ulla Mumva*.” I tried to explain that when he was a grown up, he could find someone to love and sleep beside too. Then he trumped me with “But I thought you loved me?” Soul-crushing, really.

*His name for my partner Sarah, which grew out of his original name for her ‘Other Mama’.

We are in tense negotiations over here. Deals are being brokered every day:

You can come for a morning snuggle.

I will sit in this chair beside you until you fall asleep.

I’m taking you back to your own bed, and I’ll tuck you in again (x 1,000)

If you sleep in your own room for five nights we can get that stupid, over-priced plastic piece of junk you saw on YouTube and decided you must have.

Look, here’s a sticker! (you only made it until 2:30 am before daddy was so tired from re-tucking you that he lost all reason, and mommy ended up sleeping in your tiny bed because daddy was snoring so loud and you wouldn’t stop touching my boobs.) If you get four more, you can pick a new toy at the toy store.

Your sisters always slept in their own beds. (To which he responds “Yes, but they always shared a room so they had somebody to keep them company.” Can I remind you here that he’s THREE AND A HALF?)

He’s starting full time school in a month, and part of me wonders if this is really the time to introduce more change. I mean, we just phased out night time diapers for godssakes. How much is too much?

Co-sleeping parents how did you do it? How did you finally make the transition? How did you have uninterrupted sex with your partner? How did you convince your little one that sleeping alone is a great skill to master and that it didn’t mean they had to sleep alone every single night?

I need some advice, some encouragement, and some rational thinking. After all, I’ve only slept truly well for about a week in the last three-and-a-half years.

 

Four Ways to Maximize the Last Days of Summer

How can it be August already? I mean, actually, how? I feel like I was just packing up teacher gifts and bracing myself for summer vacation to begin, and now we’ve only got 30-ish days left before the kids are back in school and (gulp) my little one begins kindergarten. July was filled with incredible family time and epic birthday celebrations (I turned 40, more on that later!) and we’ve promised ourselves that we’d slow way down this month and focus on relaxing, being as lazy as we can get away with and spending time with our kids. Here are some ways to maximize the last days of summer:

four ways to maximize the last days of summer

1. Make a Wish List

The last weekend in July was the first we had free in over a month, so we spent some time as a family chatting about the things we’d like to do before the warm weather is done. This was a great way to connect and get a sense of our family’s needs.

Here’s some of the stuff we came up with, in case you need inspiration:

More gardening time when the heat lets up (we’ve had a drought here this year.)

A family trip to an amusement park

Sleeping outside in the tent

Visiting with cousins

Lazy meals cooked outside

Family swim time

A weekend in the big city

Visiting our in-laws

Reading books

Laying on a blanket in the park while the kids play

2. Make Some Plans

With a fairly open schedule, we’re lucky to be free and flexible when it comes to some of these plans. Our first step was to try to secure some dates for family visits. For the rest of the wish list, we’re staying open. The extreme heat doesn’t lend itself well to long days wandering around amusement parks or busy trips to the city, so we’re watching the weather forecast and trying to take advantage of more favorable weather.

3. Focus on the Feels

Sometimes the best way to make the most of your time is to tune in to the way you want to feel. A word that kept coming up in our family meeting was ‘spontaneous’. Another was ‘relaxed’. Here are some others to consider:

easy

budget-friendly

connected

unplugged

creative

fun

adventurous

4. Plan to be Flexible

Above all else, don’t get stressed out about trying to get everything on your list done. It’s easy to get caught up once you set those goals, but remember these are the LAZY days of summer. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t knock out everything on your list. Carry some of these activities and ideas into the early fall months and use your weekend time. Cooler temperatures might actually make some of these activities more fun.

What’s left on your summer wish list? What are you most looking forward to for August?

They Even Have a Sandbox

So today was a pretty exciting day for the Noodle (my nick name for my three-and-a-half year old son) and I. He had been looking forward to this day for months, in a way that surprised me – I didn’t know a kid that age could track time this way. Today was kindergarten orientation. He caught a glimpse of the excitement waiting for him in September, and I caught a glimpse of just how many boxes of tissue it was going to take to get through the first day of school.

They Even Have a Sandbox

The kindergarten classroom was everything I wanted it to be: clean, bright, filled with natural materials, lots of hands-on play opportunities, a solid house corner, water table, and as Noodle breathlessly declared “They even have a sandbox!”. To him, it was a little dude paradise. The teachers seemed lovely, and switched on to the importance of things like one-on-one attention, affection, and outdoor play time. Noodle even had a pair of his buddies from daycare to bond with. The highlight however was the practice bus ride. Oh my heart.

Watching how his big head and little body bounced and lurched on the bus made me realize just how little an almost-four-year-old still is. Sure, he’ll be on that bus with his ten and nearly thirteen-year-old sisters. Sure he’s beyond thrilled about the whole thing. Still, I saw The Sweet Hereafter, well before I had kids, and the idea of a little body on a huge school bus simply makes me want to barf. I kept my cool though. I know it’s dumb to download those illogical anxieties on your kids. The world’s his oyster, and I want him to feel that way just as long as he can.

But here’s thing…No matter how vast the universe of possibility and opportunity I want for him, it aches deep down into my very atoms (another Sweet Hereafter reference?) when I think of him growing up. Obviously I want him to grow and thrive, but there’s always going to be a part of me that wants to keep him as close as I can. Like, on a cellular level. I guess that’s what you get for growing a person in your body. Though hell, I get those pangs for my non-bio daughters too, and I didn’t even get to meet them until they were three and five.

Watching my twelve-year-old’s sharp angles slowly morph into softer curves is the sweetest form of heartbreak. I know she’s going to blow minds and take names, but I also know that the sweet little bubble we have built up around our tadpoles, with spit and love and tenacity won’t hold forever. Eventually it will burst because the world is just like that. It’s a bubble bursting, bubble blowing party.

And as long as they aren’t dating, playing injury-causing team sports, blowing auditions, taking school buses, having adventures without us, basically, we get to keep that bubble in tact. Kind of. Not really. Sigh.

The greater your love, the greater your fear of loss. The greater your loss, the greater your fear of love. I can’t shut it down, no matter which end I tackle. I feel the magnitude of my fear just as deeply as I’m filled with the depth of all this love in my heart.

So, I’ll keep my shit together on that first day of school until he’s safely inside his classroom. (Because I’m driving him there on the first day. The bus will have to wait until day two, damn it) Then, after I get into my mom-mobile I will shed those tears and say goodbye to the sweet stickiness of the toddler years. Goodbye to our carefree Fridays off, playing zoo and enjoying day trips together. It won’t be as bad as the first day of daycare. I know this, because leaving him sobbing in the arms of a stranger was the worst parenting experience I’ve had thus far. He’s excited about Kindergarten (or JK/SK as he calls it) in a way that he never was about daycare. Maybe he had a premonition of all of the colds he would be destined to bring home from such an unsophisticated place. Or, maybe even he knows he’s growing up and hitting the big leagues. Even he knows this is a great big deal in the department of milestones.

Thrive on little man. Play with all of the plastic animals. Sift your pudgy fingers through all the sand. Make all the macaroni art. I’ll spare you my tears, just know that I want you to drink up every moment that JK/SK lays at your feet. And please, for the love of God, be careful.

 

 

For All of The Mothers In My Life

Happy Mother’s Day to ALL of you fabulous women who have loved and nurtured children near and dear to you. In my own short experience of motherhood, I have been humbled and broken down by the magnitude of love that is both required of mothers and returned to them by the children they raise. This year is the first year that I believe I am deserving of that abundance, (it’s been a long and at times dark journey to get here) and the first year that I feel confident in my own ability to lead with love where all of my children are concerned. That confidence, that faith in my own newly discovered softness is the greatest Mother’s Day Gift I could hope for, aside from my three children of course.

I could never begin to reach for my own strength without great teachers to model myself after, so here I must honor the many mothers in my life, and the beautiful lessons they have helped me explore.

My Mom, Rachelle Skinner

Selflessness, Acceptance – My mother is relentless in her natural, free-flowing ability to care for others. It’s completely second nature to her to see to everyone else before herself. Whisking away dirty plates before you can even set down a fork, psychically connecting and then materializing the tea you are longing for, calling you at exactly the moment you most need to hear her voice. So comfortable is she with taking care of everyone, that if you try to turn the tables on her and spoil her even a little, she will put up a fight. She’s been a constant source of comfort and security for me, during some pretty dark times. I can tell her anything, and she tries to support me, even when she can’t begin to understand the choices I make. I feel like she has embraced the person that I am, and I trust that as long as I’m safe, and my children are safe, then she is happy for me. I never, ever feel like she over-steps, or that she is trying to change me. I feel that she adores me, for exactly who I am.

My Wife, Sarah Jamal

Commitment, Patience – Sarah is a deep, placid lake. Even in the face of insane kid frenzy she is cool and unflappable. When a certain fireball of a middle daughter is raging and screeching in her face, she is calm and striving to hear the pain and frustration that lies beneath the poor choice of tone and utterly indecipherable hysteria. Our Ayla isn’t the only fireball female that Sarah has applied this stalwart patience to. Sarah has remained constant and dedicated to me in moments that baffle me to this day, and I’m eternally grateful for her faith in a picture much bigger than any of the rest of us mere mortals could see. Sarah taught me what unconditional love looks like, long before I birthed a bio child, and I continue to try to deserve the gift of her heart.

My Mother-in-Love, Glenna Oleksinski

Forgiveness – Glenna could give you a lot of reasons why I should be put into a head lock, to say the least. In the earlier days of our relationship, (my relationship with her daughter, that is) the roller coaster we were on was off the rails, then on the rails, and then off the rails again. I’m sure to a protective mom, it could seem like I was in the driver’s seat, and I was doing a terrifying job at that. Despite what can only be described as my extreme asshole behavior, Glenna has been willing to wipe the slate clean and keep her heart open to me, and what a marvelous, beautiful heart it is. She’s wise, well-read, super funny, and the kind of mom who would do anything for her kids and her many grand kids. I love her dearly, I love her abuncance for her family, and I’m so grateful for another chance to be part of that love.

My Other Mother-in-Love, Khadija Jamal

Grace – Khadija mum is grace personified, and not just the beautiful, flowy kind. She moves through each moment with so much love and kindness and positive intention that you feel like you’ve been touched just by watching her. It’s a divine grace she embodies, to be sure. Always even, patient, exuding the love she feels for her family, you just want to be a better you when she’s nearby, so you can catch a glimpse of the smile that lights up her entire self. There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude for her love, her incredible hospitality, her outrageously good cooking, and her faith over these last two years that we’ve been living together. I wonder if she’ll ever know how hard I’m trying to emulate her warmth?

My Aunties, Gigi and DeeDee

Joy – Not a week has gone by since the birth of my now two-and-a-half year old son where I have missed the delight of my aunties as they play with my children. One of the great blessings of my life was being raised among a tribe of fierce sisters who helped me understand what it means to be a woman. My aunts have experienced so much sadness, but despite this, continue to find joy in the simple beauty of life. The laughter of my son, the cheeky precociousness of my daughter, the willowy grace of my oldest girl; I see these gifts so sharply through my aunties’ wise and sorrow-touched eyes and I recognize the blessings I have every single day. I’m so grateful to have these incredible women here to witness the milestones moments of my children, when so many members of our tribe must now watch them from afar.

My Fairy Godmother, Gail Fisher-Taylor

Empathy – Gail has touched my life in ways that have shifted the very fiber of my being. She has helped me find the courage to look into the darkest corners of my soul, without fear of what I might find lurking there. She’s held my hand when I couldn’t find a way to love even myself, and she’s helped me see that without this self-love, I could never truly love anyone else. Gail has made it okay to feel my own pain, and hold my own heart. She’s been the mirror to my terrified eight-year-old self and showed me just how much love that little girl needs. What’s more, she’s shown me with her magic mirror that a deep ocean of love lives within me and flows deeply for anyone I wish to share it with.