Sunday, December 29, 2013

Co-sleeping: What If They Sleep With You FOREVER?!

I've written a few things about sleep over the years, but as I'm looking through the archives, I seem to have written mostly about what we do instead of bedtimes and not much on co-sleeping. 

We have always coslept with the kids.  From the day E was born, her bassinet became a clothes basket and she slept on my chest.  When she was two and I was pregnant with L, we wanted to prepare her for the baby's birth by getting her out of our bed before L was born.  So we started doing a routine before bed, and I would lay down with her in her bed and nurse her to sleep.  Sometimes this took an hour!  Then I'd sneak away and she'd wake up not long after.  It became a source of frustration for all of us, and we decided that she was clearly telling us that she was not ready to be in her own bed.  So she came back to our bed, and when L was born we slept with both of them. 

After a while, we put both beds in our room.  We had a king and a twin pushed up against each other, so we all had enough room.  Then Z was born.  Right after Z was born, we moved and got new beds.  We have had a double and a bunk bed pushed together for the last few years. 

Technically, the top bunk has been E's and the bottom bunk has been L's.  In reality, we've had all combinations of sleeping arrangements depending on the night.  D has often taken the couch, both because he finds it more comfortable than our bed, because he likes falling asleep to the noise of the tv, and because the kids want to sleep with me.  Four people in a double bed is not comfortable though, so I often move one or two of them to the bottom bunk after they fall asleep.   Or one of them falls asleep with D on the couch.  Or I move to the couch with D after they are asleep.  Or D and I sleep on the bottom bunk until Z wakes up wanting to nurse.  In other words, we get creative!

Then for the last few months, E has started wanting to sleep in her own bed.  I can't say exactly when this happened, but somewhere around 7.5 years old.  Yes, that's right, she bedshared that long. Shocking in western cultures, but completely normal in many, if not most, parts of the world, for most of history.  All of a sudden, she was just ready to have her own space.  She would still fall asleep with me sometimes, but instead of moving her to the bottom bunk, I was able to start just nudging her awake and telling her to climb up into her own bed. 

We are waiting on the possibility of being able to move into a new house.  This will give us more bedrooms and allow E and L to have their own rooms.  E has been really excited about this and wanting to prepare herself for sleeping in her own room.  So she started sleeping in their room (which is used as a play room) on their couch.  She told us she was ready to have her own bed in there.  After a few successful nights, we agreed to move it and we did that today. 

She's so excited!  I tucked her in tonight with her night light and some books.  L laid with her for a while, but then came back to bed with me.  It remains to be seen if this is truly a permanent move for E, but I'm pretty sure it is.  She's getting older and needs her own space. 

So if you're cosleeping and getting flack from people about it, just tell them that you're 100% sure the kid won't be sleeping with you by the time they go off to college.  If you're feeling cheeky.  Otherwise, tell them to mind their own damn business.  Parenting doesn't stop at 8pm.  Kids still need us at night and sometimes all they need is to be able to reach their hand out and know that we are there.  That doesn't last forever.  They grow and change and THEY recognize their own needs for space without being pushed into it. 

Oh and the big question that seems to concern amusing numbers of people..... "Where do you have sex if the kids are in your bed?"  Seriously?  If you can't imagine other places in the house to have sex, you really need to spice up your sex life.  If it's a surface you can sit on or lay on, you can have sex on it.  It's not complicated, people. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Birthday Z!

Z turned 3 today!  She is such a fun kid!  She is always saying or doing something that cracks us up, and she loves getting that reaction.  When she's not passionately being funny, she's passionately expressing urgency over whatever it is she is trying to say. Which she says very well!  She has a huge vocabulary, and it's so fun to see what 2/3 year olds think about, expressed so articulately.

She spends most of her days tagging along with her sisters playing whatever they are playing.  They both play really well with her, including her in their games and helping her.  Some of her favorite things to do are painting, drawing and playing with clay and playdough.  She recently started drawing people with actual arms, legs, eyes, and mouths, instead of scribbles.  She's trying to write some letters like "Z" for her name.  She always asks us how to spell things, and then pretends to write down what we tell her.

She loves taking baths and helping me with dishes and laundry.  She's totally figured out Netflix and is getting the hang of a few video games and computer games.  She loves swinging at the park and playing in the dirt.  My mom commented the other day that rock collecting must be genetic, because we all do it, and Z has started too!

Some favorite movies/shows are Tangled, Peep, and Strawberry Shortcake.  Some favorite books are Llama Llama Mad at Mama, I Am Hercules and Let's Get a Pup.      

Happy Birthday Baby Z!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's Not Always Perfect

I wrestled my 8 year old into her clothes today, and carried her kicking and crying into a public building.  
That's right.  It's not always perfect.  Our ideals don't always match reality.  
So was it a colossal parenting failure or just one of those unavoidable things?  Well, that's what I'm working on figuring out. 
I always try to work with the kids, finding solutions when there are conflicts, taking their needs/wants into consideration. When we need go somewhere, if one kid wants to stay home, we try to find a way to make that happen- can we do it another day, one parent stay home, etc? If not, I try to make it as easy as possible to leave- quick trip, maybe stop for icecream or something else fun on the way home, bring activities to do, etc. and we find a way to make it work for everyone.

A few days ago, however, my husband and I needed to go somewhere. There was no way to change the day, and both of us needed to be there together. I gave E a heads up the day before that we would need to go today, after she said that she wanted to stay home all day because she hasn't been feeling well. I explained that I was sorry, that we had to do this one thing, that there was not a way to change it. I said that we would not go to the library, even though her sisters wanted to, so that the only thing she would need to leave the house for was this one thing.  I offered to do whatever I could to make it easier. She refused to get dressed or brush her hair.  I said she could put her hair in a pony tail and hat instead, but she didn't like that.  If it was something like the grocery store, I would have let her go in pjs and with messy hair if that had made it easier, but it was important to look presentable at this location.

In the end, I ended up wrestling her into her clothes and into the car. After waiting for about half an hour in the car for her to calm down so we could go into the building, I carried her inside kicking and crying. I hate that I physically made her do that, but on further reflection, I'm still not sure what we could have done differently. Maybe threats or bribes instead of physically dressing her, but that still would have gone against everything we do and believe in.

While waiting in the car, I offered to take them all to get an ice cream to make the trip easier on everyone, but she didn't want to do that because she just wanted to be HOME. Of course, then her sisters wanted to get ice cream, so we did go do that afterwards. She decided she wanted a hamburger on the way through the drive through, so we got her one.  
When she calmed down at home, we did lots of snuggling and a bit of trying to figure out why she's been feeling awful for days and how to help. She apologized to dh unprompted for kicking him. 
So was it a colossal parenting failure or just one of those unavoidable things?
 Well, it definitely went against all of my ideals.  But was it unavoidable?  Usually when I mess up I can do a post game play review and see where I could improve next time.  This time?  When I told my mom what happened, she did say that I could have dropped E off at her house.  E could have just snuggled on my mom's couch, and she wouldn't have had to get dressed.  That might have worked, but never crossed my mind.    
I know one thing for sure.  There was no punishing or shaming for the way she acted.  Whether I figure out what we could have done differently next time or not, I'm not blaming her for having needs that didn't conveniently fit into our day's schedule and for possessing only immature ways of expressing them.  I know that for days she was feeling awful, overwhelmed, and needed to be home to recover.  I wish I could have provided that. 
So, I'm being honest here, because I hate blogs that make it all look picture perfect all the time.  It's not.  Life's messy.  We're all imperfect, so there's no sense in wallowing in guilt and anxiety when we did our best, but let's not settle either.  Keep learning more, doing better, being better.  Our kids are worth it.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Would You Let Her Quit? Part 2

Almost 2 years ago, I wrote a post called Would You Let Her Quit?  I thought at the time, and I've thought a few times since then, that undoubtably a few people read that and thought, "Well, yah, that's easy to say you'd let her quit when in the end she didn't quit.  What if she really had quit?"

So I wanted to share some of the quitting and near quitting that has happened in the last 2 years.

L did gymnastics for a little while right around the same time as that post.  After a few months, she decided that she liked it, but didn't want to do it anymore.  The class was really awfully long and structured for such young kids.  So she stopped doing gymnastics.

Earlier this year, L did Taekwondo.  She chose it after trying out two classes and also trying out ballet.  She liked the taekwondo because the classes were only half an hour instead of an hour, and I also think the activity is more fitting to her personality than ballet.  I signed her up for 8 weeks rather than doing a 6 month contract, so it would be easier on us financially if she quit.  She lasted the whole 8 weeks, but she did skip a few classes just because she didn't feel like going, and then made them up later in the week.  When the 8 weeks was over, she didn't want to continue, even though overall she said she'd enjoyed the classes.

Then in November, both girls performed in the Nutcracker ballet with professional dancers from another city doing an outreach program.  The dance company was strict about no parents being in the rehearsals or backstage.  So they did the rehearsals with me in the building, but not in the room, and they had lots of fun.  When it came time to do the show, however, L was nervous.  I packed her a bag with things to do, made sure she knew the adult in the room she could ask to call me if she needed me, and dropped her off at the last possible minute.

They called me after half an hour or so during the first show because she was crying.  So I picked her up and took her home.  Before the next show, I told her it was ok if she didn't want to do the show at all.  At first she said that she didn't, and that was ok.  Then as I got E ready to go, L decided she did want to do it after all.  So I spent the half an hour doing her hair and make up again, knowing she might not really do it, but wanting to support her either way.

They called me again after not too long, saying that she had hid under a table and cried that she wanted to go home.  So I picked her up and took her home again.

Before the last show, I told her that this was the last chance to do this show, but that if she didn't want to it was ok.  There would be other shows when she was older.  When we were getting ready to go, we realized her tights had a hole in them.  I dropped E off and told the dance company volunteers that I had to run to the store to get L tights.  I took her with me and got her back just in time for her part of the performance.  I think that helped a lot, that she didn't have to wait in a strange, noisy place with strange people until it was time for her to go on stage.  And she did it!

But if she hadn't done it, that would be ok too!

It's great that E seems to have found her niche at such a young age.  She loves performing and dancing. She's now done Best of Broadway for 2 years and auditioned again for the show in March.  She's done a pop concert and the Nutcracker ballet, and she is in her second year of ballet classes with several performances a year.  She loves it and says she wants to dance for a professional dance company when she is older.  If she stops dancing tomorrow and never dances again, that will be ok too, but for now, she seems to have found her thing.

L hasn't found her niche yet, and that's ok.  I'm happy to let her try out a dozen or two dozen things until one sticks. Or maybe she'll be a woman of many talents and never pick one thing. That's ok too.  She's talked about doing gymnastics and taekwondo again, so we'll see.  She's going to do Best of Broadway this year, but it remains to be seen if she loves it as much as E does.  She's doing entomology and cooking projects in 4H.  Maybe one of those will spark a life long interest or maybe not.  Maybe she'll try out some sports.  Whatever she chooses to do, I will support her in trying, practicing, struggling, deciding, sticking with it or quitting. 

UPDATE: Well, it's true that everything changes!  Just a few days after writing this, E decided to stop ballet classes.  She hadn't been as interested in practicing for the recital as she was last year.  The class after the recital came up and she didn't want to go.  We discussed her switching to jazz or hip hop, but ultimately she decided to just take the spring off and maybe go back in the fall.  So we shall see...

Why We Don't Teach Stranger Danger

I took the kids to a new doctor the other day, and one of the questions she asked is if we teach Stranger Danger. She was shocked when I said no, I don't agree with the whole concept. Why?

 1. Kids learn best by example and we model talking to strangers all the time. Every time we talk to the cashier at the grocery store or have a random conversation with someone we're standing behind in line at the bank or welcome a new neighbor to the neighborhood or stop at a gas station and ask for directions. Our kids see us breaking this rule (if you have in fact made it a rule) every single day.

2. At some point, we're going to want them to be confident talking to people. At some point, you'll have to give up the Stranger Danger and start the "talking to strangers using common sense." Why not just give them the tools to do the later in the first place? In some families they'll be simultaneously taught Stranger Danger and then shamed for being "shy" when they don't talk to the people their parents want them to talk to. What a confusing message!

 3. Statistically, kids are FAR less likely to be abducted or abused by a stranger. It's the creepy uncle, the basketball coach who wants to "mentor" them, the youth pastor who gets a bit too chummy who are the real dangers. Friends and family who can get close enough to groom them. So the much better approach is to is to have them be on the lookout for "tricky people." Those are people, either strangers or people who are well known, who act like they are safe, but then try to get kids to do things that make them uncomfortable, feel unsafe or do things that are inappropriate. I've talked to my kids about specific examples of this, like if a neighbor tries to get them to go into their house or anyone tries to get them into their car, if anyone asks them to help them do something like find their lost dog, if anyone tries to touch them inappropriately, or in any way that makes them uncomfortable or does not stop doing something when they say stop.

 4. Little kids figure that once someone introduces themselves they are no longer a stranger because they know their name. Not the criteria you want them relying on for whether or not a person is safe!

5. Kids have a natural instinct about people. They have gut feelings that if we don't ignore, shove down, and punish them for, they can learn to listen to. They don't want to hug that pushy family member? Don't make them. They said "stop tickling me," STOP! Help them learn that their body is theirs and theirs alone, that they don't have to do things just because an adult or authority figure says so, warning signs to watch out for with creepy people, and listen to them if they aren't comfortable being around someone. Far more effective than Stranger Danger. For more info on all of that, the book Protecting The Gift by Gavin DeBecker is excellent.

So, here's the really ironic thing. After being shocked that I don't teach Stranger Danger and asking other standard questions like if I've taught them about "good touches and bad touches," the doctor proceeds to do the following.... She was pressing on one of the kid's stomachs and unbuttoned her pants. At first I thought that was just to get a little lower on her tummy. Then she says, "I just need to check your bottom," WHILE pulling down my daughter's pants! I grabbed the doctor's hand and said, "We had not discussed that being part of the check up. She was not prepared for that!" The doctor immediately put her hands up and said, "Oh!" She explained that she was going to check for a fused labia and said I could just do it in the bath at home. I told my kids that it is ok for the doctor to look at our vaginas and labias because she helps take care of our whole bodies, BUT that since we had not discussed that we would wait until the next visit and ask if they were comfortable with that first. At the end of the visit, I told the doctor that she needs to ask permission to touch them next time. After we left, I told my daughter that it was completely inappropriate for the doctor to pull down her pants without asking first, and that it was her choice if she wanted to see that doctor again or see a different one next time.

That experience just makes my whole point about Stranger Danger for me. Strangers don't normally run up to a kid and pull down their pants. And it's not that I think the doctor intended anything at all inappropriate by what she did. But if I had let that go unchecked, it would have sent the message to my kids that it is ok for a an authority figure (as doctors tend to be, unfortunately) to pull down their pants. That's it's ok for an adult to not respect their body and autonomy. That is not a message that I ever, ever want to send.