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.

 

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.

 

 

Resistance Is Fertile

There’s a thing I do in relationships which has been making relationships of all kinds incredibly difficult for most of my life. I take everything very, very personally. I can’t hear emotional criticism without falling deep into a black hole of self loathing, where the only thing that makes sense is leaving the relationship to spare everyone the awful reality of me. As I type this, from a well-rested, un-triggered and objective perspective this sentiment is totally ridiculous, but in those bleak moments it feels very, very real. On Tuesday, therapy day, I arrived at a new reality where I finally learned that resistance is fertile.

I sat in our therapist’s office with both of my partners and listened to feedback directly linked to my parenting shortcomings and for the first time I was able to talk myself down from the ledge. As I teetered on the lip of that black well of self loathing my inner voice said “hey, don’t do that. You’ve made some mistakes, some big ones, but you’re working really hard, and growing and all of the wonderful change you are making will be bigger and more memorable than any pain you’ve caused because you’re waking up now, and that is awesome.”

It wasn’t easy. I don’t want to mislead anyone here. As I realized my inner narrative was shifting, sounding so cheerily unlike me, my gut was to scoff at this, to dismiss it as cheesy and foolish but somehow I pushed through. I don’t know how I did it. I resisted the urge to go to that bleak place, and a bounty of open listening and present attention was waiting. Instead of having a shitty post-therapy day I enjoyed a yummy lunch with my partners at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and then got some good work done.

Here’s what I’ve been doing, and I think my success is thanks to these combined efforts:

Taking my vitamins regularly

Making careful, less carb-intense food choices and ‘treating’ myself with fruit and good chocolate instead of whatever crap I can grab from the candy shelf. (In our new house, the candy shelf will be eliminated.)

Exercising every day with at least twenty minutes of yoga

Going to bed earlier to make sure I can get eight hours of sleep and still wake up at 5:30 for my quiet, meditative yoga time

Tackling home organizing projects

Approaching work and money with care and organization

Taking self-imposed time outs when I need to, adjusting plans to reflect my level of anxiety (I love you, and I’ll see you soon, when I am more able to be present in your company!)

My internal/emotional process is finally slowing down, especially when I am triggered. There is time and space to be objective, and more empathetic. I can take better care of myself, and those around me. I’m resisting the old normal, and even in the moments when I slip, when I can’t catch myself before falling into negative behavior, I can bounce back more quickly and make apologies and amends with humility and grace.

I am good. I am a child of the Universe. I can change and grow and be deserving of the abundance of love in my life, and so can you.

 

There’s A Whole In The Bucket

I have to confess something to all of you. I am a fraud. I’ve been writing about my life here for years now, and a few of you have taken time to let me know that you have been inspired, that you find my writing hopeful and positive. Guess what? It’s a sham. When I write hopeful things here, 99% of the time it’s not because I’m feeling it, it’s because I need to feel it and I’m hoping that writing from a positive perspective will make it so. Usually it works. Today it won’t.

I suppose I can’t consider it a total waste if I make it to 40 and realize I’ve been doing it all wrong. You might think I’ve got a lot of stuff figured out. You may think I’m a great mom, and an awesome partner. That’s a lie too. I’m not. The sum of my life experiences has made me hard and angry. I respond to stress and conflict by going on the offensive, or shutting down and walking away to avoid going on the offensive. I perceive everyone as out to hurt me, and then I try to hurt them worse so they will back off. I’ve been mean and cold, and harsh and unsympathetic with everyone in my life who I love. Everyone, except Noah.

My son is the first piece of me that I can look at and feel nothing but love, even in the most challenging moments. Noah is my catalyst, who has taught me that the only way I can ever hope to soften and change is to learn to look at all of the other pieces of myself with that same unconditional love. Nothing in my entire life has been harder to do than this, and I am trying like hell to change. To soften. To sit in my vulnerability and share it without anger and blame. You could ask me to become fluent in Mandarin overnight and I swear it would be easier than the changes I am trying to make.

The changing part wasn’t actually the hardest, not after I realized how much of my rage and self-protection (some people call this defensive or offensive behavior) were tied to a traumatic event from my childhood. This illuminated nearly every single behavior that I hated, it contextualized and explained it. It allowed me to see myself stuck as that seven-year-old, stuck in that place of terror, and love the hell out of my little girl self. Once I could do that, it was like a switch was flicked and I was able to empathize better with everyone around me. By loving myself better, I could love others better too.

But here’s the hard part. None of the people around you can see what’s happening inside, and when you’ve been the kind of difficult-to-live with, angry asshole that I have been, they continue to see you as such. You keep trying, and they keep treating you as though the same kinds of negative behaviors are happening, even when they are not. They get stuck, because they are afraid of those behaviors, and their fear makes them blind to anything good that might be happening. I am trying so hard to be better, but it’s not landing, and sometimes it’s a spectacular fail.

To make matters worse, I’m trying to evolve while living with my in-laws. A lot of in-laws. There is often up to eleven people under our roof! Multiple witnesses who have seen every parent and partner failure I have made in the last two years. They are good people. They are wonderful people, and I love them, but I don’t really know them that well. I need privacy. I need a safe space where we can heal, where I can try to flex these new muscles, where I can organically grow, or fall flat on my face as the case may be, and not have so many witnesses. I need safety.

I’m trying to fill the bucket, but the bucket has a hole. Nekky put that quite eloquently this morning, and it struck me as very true indeed. There’s a hole in the bucket. A big one. And I’m so very, very tired of trying to fill it up with good only to watch the good fall through the hole. I feel like I am constantly failing.

Of course I want to heal my relationship with my daughters. What flows freely with my biological child has been an excruciatingly painful contrast to my many shortcomings where my daughters are concerned. I have some serious lost time to make up for, time that consists in equal parts of a total lack of understanding about how children ‘work’ and so much misdirected pain and hardness from my past.

It would be nice to have a healthier relationship with my partners, though I’m at the precipice of deciding that romantic relationships aren’t really intended for people like me. Those relationships need to be a two way street, and I just seem to suck the life out of everyone and give very little back. At the very least, it would be nice to heal some shit so we can at least be awesome friends and parents.

I just don’t know how to keep filling the bucket when there’s a goddamned hole. As always, I turn to the Internet for answers, hopeful that the lyrics to the old folk song will have a happy ending.

From Wikipedia:

There’s a Hole in My Bucket” (or “…in the Bucket“) is a children’s song, along the same lines as “Found a Peanut”. The song is based on a dialogue about a leaky bucket between two characters, called Henry and Liza. The song describes a deadlock situation: Henry has got a leaky bucket, and Liza tells him to repair it. But to fix the leaky bucket, he needs straw. To cut the straw, he needs a knife. To sharpen the knife, he needs to wet the sharpening stone. To wet the stone, he needs water. However, when Henry asks how to get the water, Liza’s answer is “in a bucket”. It is implied that only one bucket is available – the leaky one, which, if it could carry water, would not need repairing in the first place.

As I’m reading this, feeling more and more despair, I glance at the title of this post. I’ve spelled “hole” “whole”, quite by accident, but maybe that’s it? Maybe I just keep pouring myself into the bucket, all of me, every last inch no matter how big the hole gets. Put the whole in the bucket, even if it gushes out onto the ground. It’s going to go somewhere, all of that bucket-filling stuff, and if that particular bucket can never be filled, at least I can say I tried. Really tried. Not like I tried with my failed marriage. Not like I tried with countless careers that I gave up on. Not like I tried so many times before until it hurt too much to keep trying. There is no epidural for life. It hurts sometimes, and maybe it’s in pushing through the pain that we are reborn, truly reborn.

I don’t feel better. I don’t feel happier or more positive at the end of this post. I’m not going to lie, I am aching and tired and I feel like giving up, but at least I have a little direction. If I can’t fill the fucking bucket, at least I can water the grass.

Things I Learned Escaping to the Real World

You should try this: step away from your computer for a good, long time. Like two months. Use your screen of choice as little as humanly possible. Put your phone away when you don’t absolutely need it to communicate. That’s where I’ve been. I walked away from my computer sometime in November, and I’ve been communing in the real world, even working at a real job in the retail sector during the holiday season. It’s been… illuminating.

This year, I wanted to own Christmas. I used my craft store employee discount as an excuse to go entirely overboard for. I was hell-bent on reclaiming the holiday as a joyous occasion for me and for mine, and this meant spending too much money, buying too much stuff, and making lots of presents in addition to all of those purchased. Christmas morning was an explosion of excess, I fell way off the debt repayment plan, and yesterday I walked away from the retail job.

Regrets, I have a few. I’ve learned some remarkable things though. It’s kind of inevitable when you shake up your routine. Perhaps you’ve missed me enough to indulge some ruminating on that, which will also serve as an ad hoc attempt at a meaningful post to ring in the New Year.

Things I Learned by Escaping to the Real World

1. People love to complain a lot. I’ve been a big complainer for most of my life, and I can’t imagine real happiness ever being possible until the complaining stops. Countless numbers of people who came through my cash register had so many things to be miserable about. No matter how cheerful and friendly I was, they just wanted to keep griping about inane, unchangeable realities like the weather or long holiday lineups. It made me feel a bit sick, actually. How can people with such privilege find so much misery, while craft shopping of all things? Go on a No-Complaints diet, like James Altucher suggests, and watch the misery fall away.

2. Stuff is stupid. The accumulation of lots of presents did not make my kids have a happier holiday. In fact, half of their presents now lay untouched, and will be altogether forgotten if we don’t engage them in play with these things. The highlight of the entire season was five completely unplugged days at the empty home of my in-laws to the north. We just spent time together playing board games, creating scrapbooks, coloring, crafting. That’s what made them happiest. That’s what made us happiest. I made a few smart moves by gifting gently used toys and wrapping up the girls’ old Ikea Kitchen and play food for our little guy who had never seen these treasures before. Did I have lots of fun shopping like a maniac and wrapping the mountains of stuff? Absolutely. Do I feel sick about it all now, thinking of how we could have spent that money DOING things instead of BUYING things? You bet your ass I do. Next year Santa is bringing one toy, and the rest of the budget will be spent on shared experiences and a sizeable family donation to the Aga Khan Foundation.

3. Volunteering as a family was on par with the unplugged mini-vacay in terms of deeply satisfying experiences. We didn’t get to do as much of this as I would have liked, but the day we had sorting for the local food bank was amazing. The girls were troupers and I was so impressed with their cheerful attitudes and work ethic. My goal is to find more of these opportunities in 2015, and help my eight year old daughter reflect on this time as something greater than time when she “was forced to give up phone time.” Sigh.

4. If I stop writing, I will never be a writer. Maybe it was like an “If you love something, set it free” scenario, but I just had to step away, from all of it. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t been reading about the craft and plotting more interesting plot ideas. I’ve even enrolled in my next creative writing class. It’s happening, but it’s happening too slowly. I need to write every single day. It makes me happy. I feel like more of myself. I deserve to see this through as far as it can go, and I have to stop putting myself in the way. More writing in 2015.

5. I miss my friends. Text messages and Facebook updates cannot replace real life human connection. I need more real life time with my peeps. You know who you are, let’s make some plans, or at least speak on the phone once a month. Crazy, right?

6. It doesn’t make sense to work for anyone else, when we need to work hard for ourselves. I can’t slide into a decent paying full time job. I’m going to be a bit selfish and insist on having as much time with my toddler son as we can afford me to. I also don’t have the work background or skills to obtain a decent paying job in the traditional job force. I’m going to really set my sights on growing our new businesses, and become our social media manager. I was born to be an entrepreneur.

7. I feel better when I look better. I’ve cut way back on sugars (of all kinds, not just the refined ones) and only indulge in gluten rich foods on special occasions. Nobody has asked me when I’m due in a long-ass time and all of my pants are saggy. I’m also hiking, and walking, and counting my steps with my new brilliant Christmas presents. My sister-in-law’s awesome boyfriend hacked some trails through our forest (major brownie points scored there, one of the best presents I’ve ever received!) and my loves got me a Misfit Shine. I’m even standing at the bar in Second Cup as I type this, because sitting will kill you, people! I am unashamed of how cliché it is to declare fitness as a personal goal for the New Year.

8. Love, Love, Love. I have a new mantra: Empathy and Vulnerability. My heart needs to open more than ever because that’s the next big step in my ongoing journey in growing. This feels like a good time for that to kick into higher gear. I’m not good at being vulnerable, and hence could be way better at being empathetic. If I can’t be okay with feeling things, it’s hard to be okay with other people’s feelings. Self compassion is the next big thing kids. Check it out!

9. Discipline and routine check ins are the only way to climb the big mountain we are trying to conquer to set ourselves free from debt and embrace real freedom. We three grownups need a monthly pub date to enjoy some alone time together and check in on the state of our Union. It’s a fun way to talk about not-so-fun subjects, and it feels so great to be on top of things. I have vowed to stop getting so hung up on worrying about money, and instead just keep plugging away with a healthy sense of where we are at financially. Spend very little, create a whole lot.

10. I love making things. I so enjoyed making cards and gifts this season, I am flirting with creating a line of my own to sell alongside Tall Earth products at local artisan shows. This may be insane, but I’m going to experiment a little and see where it goes. Best case for me is a fun and creative way to earn some extra cash, worst case is that I just commit to making awesome presents for everyone as I move through the ludicrous amount of craft supplies we own.

And because I believe in the power of manifesting things by putting them out there, here’s my biggest dream to begin hacking away at in 2015:

Building Our Own Living Space

Right now, we’re thinking tiny house guest bunkie cum studio on the property. We can use it for some privacy and for guests. Eventually, when we have the means, I’d love to see us build our own house, modestly and creatively using space that allows for entertaining and play, plus a kick-ass photography/crafting/writing studio. A real pie-in-the-sky dream would be to have a small village of bunkies with a yoga/aerial studio where I can facilitate retreats and workshops. It’s a good one, isn’t it? If you think we should try to crowd fund this, drop me a line!

Okay, your turn. What did you learn over the holidays?

 

Transparency Alert! Some of the links in these posts direct you to my Amazon Associates account, where I get to make money when you check out the links and purchase my recommendations. I will only recommend products that I love and believe in, because we all love value. Isn’t it nice to support the writing that you love to read?