Monday, May 24, 2010

Unhealthy Sleep Habits, Unhealthy Mommies

Once upon a time, I had the perfect little sleepers. They took daily two- to three-hour naps and slept for thirteen hours at night. This made for happy, well adjusted babies and happy, well adjusted mommies. I didn’t appreciate it nearly enough when I had it good and when this wonderful, amazing, perfect schedule was ripped away from us about six months ago, I went into a tailspin.

It all started when we moved the girls into toddler beds. We thought this was a good move because climbing in and out of their cribs seemed more dangerous than free-range children. The girls loved their new freedom and decided two things: 1.) They would no longer take naps and 2.) they would no longer go to bed quietly each night.

Since that transition day, (remember the cupcake party we had? We were so full of hope then, like a those precious and short-lived pre-elected Obama days of hope) every bedtime has been a nightmare. Between 7:00 and 7:30 we walk them to their room and say goodnight. And every night at 7:01 or 7:31 they jump out of their beds and run around their room. At first we were okay with this. We figured they would tire out and eventually collapse in their beds. Thing is, that didn’t happen. As the minutes ticked by, they would get bolder and bolder, eventually sneaking into the living room and expanding their play boundaries and increasing their volume levels, and, despite all logic, revving up their energy levels. They invented fantastic games that only they understand the rules for. They practice jumping, spinning and climbing. They do everything but sleep. Clearly we failed somewhere in this process.

Our genius plan: Sit with them until they fall asleep. This was and continues to be a disaster. This is usually Nicole’s realm, because I think she thinks that after 12 or 13 uninterrupted hours with the girls, I need some sort of break so I don’t experience a psychotic break. Yet this is flawed, as after working all day, she could use a break too. Neither of us are thrilled to sit in the dark room and repeat “sshhhh….it’s night time. Time to go to sleep” over and over and over again.

Their bedtime edged closer to 8:00, which, again, defies exhaustion logic, since they no longer nap. She will sit in their room for an hour sometimes; sometime longer, sometimes less. This worked for a while, but then, just to make things even more challenging Madeline started waking up in the middle of the night and climbing into our bed. Nicole and I were too tired to stop her. She used to go through these sleeping-with-mommies stages every few months. It would last a week and then stop. But this time, it lasted and lasted and lasted. And has morphed from middle of the night bed trips to just starting out in our bed adventures. It has become the worst of both words: Last night Nicole sat with the girls for an hour and when she left, Avery was asleep and Maddie sort of asleep. And two minutes later, we had a little visitor in bed.

So why does this bother me? I went from having a two-hour break in the day and a few hours of evening time to myself to nothing. at. all. This affects every aspect of my life. I am so much more tired and have a hard time getting up at 4 to go the gym. I don’t have that two-hour afternoon window of time to make dinner and end up ordering in way too much. My patience level is lower than I would like it to be. And Nicole and I have no alone time together. None. Zip. Nada. I should point out that Nicole needs to go to bed herself around 9:00/9:30…. And, yes, it would be fantastic if she could push through her exhaustion and stay up to 11 so we could have time together, but she can’t. She has always been like this, and while it can be frustrating, I understand (most of the time). She physically cannot stay up, and there is no point in forcing it because the time will not be quality, alert time. If only the girls could sleep like her.

And, of course, lack of good sleeping habits is not healthy for the girls. While this is a concern, I must admit my desire to get them sleeping normally again is more for my own selfish reasons.

Please, please, please offer any advice and encouragement. I am especially interested in people who have experience with children sharing a room, like mine. I know the room sharing thing adds a special dynamic. We are thinking of going with the leading-the-child-back-to-bed silently method. But this will be tricky, since the girls share a room. And we don’t know if we should start now or wait until after or trip to Florida at the end of this week. And I am scared to think how long that will take? A week? A month? Longer?

Today, my plan was to run them into the ground by taking them to the playground not once but twice. Of course the weather may not cooperate.

Pictured above, the perpetrator of the nighttime nightmare situation. And Nicole and Avery walking in the back yard on Sunday. It looks like Jurassic woods! And behold, our baby robin. The eggs hatched and the we saw the baby birds this weekend. And also witnessed on of the baby bird’s first flight! File that under things we would never see in the city. And, a final note, the girls tend to sleep better in Massachusetts, since they spend most of the day outside playing.


Rebecca said...

My boys are 17 months apart and they share a room. What has worked for us: the one who needs more sleep goes to bed first, and we wait until he is asleep to put his brother down. This works 80% of the time. The other 20%, he wakes his brother up and playtime ensues, whereupon daddy usually has to go in with a stern warning. It helps that they take his warnings seriously because they do NOT take mine seriously. (Yes, we do good cop/bad cop which may not be that great but it seems to work. And they adore daddy and he is plenty of fun the rest of the time.)

For naptime: They do not nap together. That has been a total fail when we tried it. One goes in the bedroom and little brother has a oack and play in the laundry room. (Our laundry room is huge and has windows so it's not as bad as it sounds.) Is there any way you could put one in your room for naptime?

Also it helps to have nerves of steel and IGNORE the bedtime resistance as much as you can. Eventually, consistency wins out, as does exhaustion.

Good luck. There is nothing worse than sleep trouble. I am 35 and still have trouble sleeping and I trace that back to my parents' total lack of sleep discipline for me as a small child.

K J and the kids said...

Yes, well, like Obama's election in to office...things will take some time :) It's not easy and it's now always fun, but they will one day sleep again.
Keep going with the no talk return to bed. Maybe after the 200 thousandth time it will catch on :) It did for Cam. and he and Spencer share. It's ALWAYS harder when one wants to play and the other is a little more reasonable and will fall asleep.

IF, they keep coming out coming out coming out. Then have Nicole park a chair with her back towards the girls at their doorway. She still cannot say a word to them. NO MATTER WHAT ! Think she can do it :)

Summer is here. Well not at my house currently, but it will be beautiful and they will play and wear themselves out. :)

Keep your routine in tact. routine is key :) whether you are in Florida or Mass.
Good luck my friend.

Wise words : this too shall pass

Jeannine said...

Hey there - we're going through nearly the exact same scenario here. My almost three-year-old twins used to nap 2-3 hours and sleep 12 hours (7-7) easily (and we used Weissbluth too). Since switching to toddler beds two months ago, they stopped napping and my daughter wakes every 2-3-4 hours a night and comes looking for us. They share a room, but my son sleeps through the night, even with my daughter getting up (thank God) so just dealing with my strong willed daughter. I have had some success lately with getting them to nap on the couch in front of a movie (I swore I would never do this, but it does work and gives me back a little break and helps them get through to the end of the day). If they don't do the couch nap, I put them in bed no later than 6:45 and they typically fall asleep instantly, although my daughter will still get up 3-4 times during the night before we let her "get up" for the day no earlier than 6 and let her in our bed for a morning snuggle. We do the same bedtime routine we always did (I start 45 mins before bedtime, they watch curious George, drink milk, have their vitamins (a treat for them), then two books, brush teeth, potty,get in bed, prayers, songs, night-night kisses and mommy closes the door). When my daughter gets up, I put her right back in her bed, usually without saying anything to her. Sometimes she has to go potty, but she'll tell me and I'll take her without turing lights on, then return her right to her bed. On days when they snooze in the afternoon, I delay bedtime by 45 minutes or else my daughter starts popping up the minute I put her down. I wish I knew how to stop the late night visits, but I don't. All I do know is if you don't want her in your bed no matter how tired you are you have to keep putting her back in her bed until she gets the message. Friends of mine have suggested two other ideas that I am going to try when we get back from our vacation next week. First, I am going to do a sticker chart for both children - when you stay in bed at bedtime you get a sticker, and when you stay in bed all night until morning you get another. When you get 10 stickers you get a prize. My daughter usually responds well to rewards (and the dissapointment when her brother gets a prize first) so this might work. If it doesn't, then we're going with the last resort - putting a gate up on their room doorway so if she gets up she can't get out and not responding to any crying so she'll hopefully learn to stay in her bed. This is by far the most challenging thing I've dealt with as a mother, far harder than the newborn days because you could rest all day with them when the nights were hard, but now it is go go all day and no sleep at night. I am a walking zombie. Sorry for writing so much, but if anything we do can help you, knowing how awful this whole thing is, then it was worth it. If you want to discuss, please email me. Sweet dreams my friend.

Anonymous said...

I just don't get it. I've been a longtime reader and I've made excuses for what i see as flawed parenting,but it hasn't gotten any better.

What are you guys trying to prove and to whom?Back in the day when birth mothers stayed in their village they had the help of experienced mothers in the tribe to help and advise them on proper rearing for positive results.All you new moms with distance from family or just poor family relations or out here trying to wing parenting hoping the kids turn out okay.

Well your winging it isn't working by the looks of things.And as harsh as this might sound those girls have run your household since you brought them home.They parent themselves and you are just along for the ride. They always look like raggamuffins with perpetual bed head and you're always complaining about the toll it's taking on you personally like some mortar. There is no grammy award for moms who suffer through motherhood.

You obviously can afford to hire help such as a experienced nanny,sleep consultant,etc. but you fears,which seem to be numerous and unfounded stop you.And the blogosphere of enablers just add to the problem sugary comment after sugary comment.

The writing is on the wall. Those girls will be out of control school age,pre-teen,teenagers,entitled 20 somethings and so on because you have yet to grow some balls and parent them.Two year olds shouldn't be calling the shots 24/7 in a house with two highly intelligent parents.The truth sometimes hurts.

You've run out of excuses.

suz said...

Uh, Anonymous could deal with less snark.

I only have one child so I know I have it easier, but she's exactly the same age as your girls. For us, consistency and routine seem to be the foundation of a good night-time routine. It's the same thing, every night at the same time.

Amazingly, though she is generally not that compliant, we told her she can't get out of bed unless we come get hr and she stays in bed. I have however watched quite a bit of SuperNanny and her bed-time tactics seems to work. The first time the kid gets out of bed, you calmly take them back and say "it's bed time." After that every time they get out of bed you take them back to bed without a word and leave immediately. Some kids will do it for hours the first night, but it seems like they very quickly get it that getting out of bed isn't going to get them any attention.

We have one of those doorknob things on the inside of our daughter's doorknob so she can't get out of her room which is good for timeouts. She's not night time potty trained yet so that's not a concern.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Seriously ? SERIOUSLY !?
Ok, so I want to know anonymous...I have always loved it when people hide behind anonymous...but I'm posting anonymously because I would HATE for you to come to my blog and write such HURTFUL and spiteful things.
Do you have twins ? Have you ever cared for twins ? Did you have support and help from others ?

You are doing EXACTLY what it is we SHOULDN'T do to other mothers. And that is to not only tell them that they are doing everything wrong and that their children are going to inevitably be screwed up for life...but you have yet again showed the example of why mothers feel so exiled and alone and helpless when it comes to issues with kids.
Raising children IS hard. FUCKING hard. It should take a village, but some of us don't have that kind of support with family and we turn to books and to friends and to blogs. We ask for help and we try different solutions until we get it right....UNTIL we find something that works.
Jennifer's kids are going to turn out PERFECTLY because she is working to make things work for her family. She ISN'T just sitting back and letting her girls run the house.

You anonymous might think that YOUR way works. and it might have, for your family. but your way DOESN'T work for everybody. and just because she's not doing it the way you feel she should DOESN'T mean her kids are going to be fucked up.

What you call sugary comments are in fact SUPPORTIVE comments. It's what you SHOULD be doing.
Mothers need to be supportive and caring to each other.

You also said a lot about how Jennifer is doing it all wrong....and yet I didn't hear you offer ONE solution. How you were able to get it to work ?
Or did you just HIRE someone to come in and do the work for you ? For a lot of mothers that's not an then what anonymous ? If we can't hire somebody and we read and we ask, then what ?

It's one thing to judge someone based on a blog post and an entirely different thing to walk in their shoes.
Judge not and move along anonymous. Maybe your experienced nanny or village doesn't use this saying, but we were always taught..."if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all"

Linda said...

Ugh. I know how hard this is. My boys are 18 months apart, and shared a room. The older one went to bed, and right to sleep. Every single night. The youngest has been a "sleep fighter" since birth. I was a single Mom from the time they were 2/3 years old, so I needed to get them to sleep so that I could go to bed. I stopped fighting with Chris and told him that he could play quietly in his room, as long as he wanted.He just had to be QUIET. I also put the childproof doorknob on the inside of the room, so that he couldn't come out.He was so happy that he didn't have to "go to bed" that it worked like a charm. He'd fall asleep in the middle of the room, surrounded by toys.
My daughter has used the sticker chart with both of her kids. She lays with each of them for 10 minutes,after reading a story.When the 10 minutes are up, they are on their own and if they stay in their beds they get a sticker. A week of stickers gets a "treat" of some sort on the weekend.
I'm always amazed that anonymous commenters don't have the balls to leave their names. And to not offer any advise, but rather to just make snide remarks? Creeps, I tell ya.

Anonymous said...

I have no adivce, but wanted to comment on the comment that everyone commented on. What bug crawled up Anon's a**???? Truth hurts but whacked out attacks are just stupid. Wonder if she will respond to these comments? Doubt it. Hiding behind anonymous and all.

Anonymous said...

ANOTHER anonymous comment because lord knows i don't need holier than thou commentor calling child services on me after reading my blog. Seriously, chill. Sleep issues are common and in no one makes someone a bad mom. My two share a room. They had to nap in different rooms since number two was born, but nighttime went smoothly after the newborn stage. We established a routine (bath, pajamas, reading, singing) and once lights were out they couldnt get out of bed without our permission. It took a while to get to that point, though. You'll get there.

E and M, jumpingoutoftrees said...

First, "Anonymous the 1st" can suck it.

Second, I would try the super nanny routine for bedtime.

Third, I would still put them in their rooms for "rest time" after lunch. They can play, jump around, etc...but they can't come out. 1 hour at least.

Fourth, when do they wake up in the morning -- is it the exact same time each day? That has saved us a ton. No matter what time the baby actually goes to sleep; she is up by 6:30 a.m. No matter where she is. This will take a few days, but they will eventually set their natural bedtime.

Fifth, the bedtime, rest time after lunch, and wake up time must stay the same NO MATTER WHAT. The routine and structure comes first until this corrects itself. Once they are firmly "back on schedule" one day a month or so should be fine to go off schedule.


Calliope said...

wow. Look at all of the excitement going on all up in your comments!! heh

Funnily enough I just wrote about my own sleep issues with W. I was doing the same sort of tactic that ya'll were and then I changed it. Because it IS exhausting to sit in a room and wait for a child to go to sleep. So I just put him down and left his room. Now of course this works for us now because he is still in a crib.

And some nights we are still hanging out in the cry it out camp. (like now. sigh)

I wish I had some answers. But what I do have is love. Because lawd knows there just isn't enough.

And I wish anonymous the first had continued to keep her thoughts to herself. They aren't helpful, but hurtful. Madam Arcane Matters doesn't need tough love- she just wanted some input on sleep stuff. So, in the words of the real housewives of New York: zip it.


Hope said...

to anonymous #1- seriously, and you of the Victorian mindset- "Children should be seen, but not heard"?

What gives you the right to decree that since this mother of twins has emotionally abused by her own mother, she will screw up these beautiful children she has?

And the photos of "ragamuffin children with bedhead"- they are pictures of joyous children at play. Should she raise them in bell jars, so that they don't run, jump, play, interact with their environment- and god forbid, become untidy?

I pity the woman who births in your "village"... if she dare question your dictates, you will probably run her out of town on a rail!

Just wondering- how many children have you raised, and as which parent- mom or dad?

Anonymous said...

Hello --this is Julie
I'm a blog reader not a writer so I always post anon. but also always leave my name.

I second most of the above comments and wanted you to know that so to recap:
*routine is important, their little bodies need it
*a daytime break is important for all involved (everyone one of our girls including the 8 year old takes "quiet time" on the weekends----learning to entertaining yourself for an hour a day with books/music is OK)
*NO TALKING, no eye contact, no interaction at all during the return to bed--use gestures if you need to
*things might get worse before they get better
*start bedtime 30-45 minutes earlier than you usually do, starting earlier means they will fall asleep earlier
*mid-night wake-ups, same thing, no talking
*at bedtime talk about what they should do instead of coming to you (we tell our daughter to do what she usually does as she goes to sleep--"when you wake up, look for your sleepies, find your binky, close your eyes)
*try the rewards for staying in bed
*the gate in the door is a good idea

Maybe switch off nights so you're each getting better sleep?


jenn p. said...

the gates and doorknob devices scare me a bit. i like baby gates on stairs but i'd be afraid they might feel trapped in their rooms. they need to make the choice you want them to and stay in their rooms/beds at night/nap. i'd be concerned about what a gate or doorknob device would do when you are potty training. getting up to go to the bathroom has to be learned as well. i'm not a potty training expert by any means.

when i was nannying twin toddler girls, night times and naps could be a blessing or a curse. one twin had to be held until she fell asleep for nap, which i quickly put to an end. one of the girls had the skill of puking when she got upset at night. this was hard to deal with because you couldn't just let her cry it out, even if her twin sister was peacefully asleep.

no one should have to sit at their door or next to their beds. that really isn't fair to you guys.

i started reading this book,, towards the end of my year with them and it helped me to curb the food issues (throwing, not eating, new foods) as well as nap and bed times. it is written more for children who are school aged, but i found it easy to apply to the two year old twins.

no matter how you tackle this issue, it's important to make a plan together and stick to it. they have to learn to make the right choices with the right motivation. when everyone does their part, the family is happy and the days go easy. if they don't want to go to bed then that means you can't have your time together and get to bed as well.

good luck and keep it up!

ps- one of the twins has massive curly hair, and i know how hard it is to deal with fine curls, they always look like they just woke up...

Linda said...

Just to clarify for Jenn P...I was one of those that used the childproof doorknob on the "inside" of the room. I know that it sounds weird, but I don't recall my boys ever feeling trapped.My fear was that my son would get up in the middle of the night, and do harm to himself because he was a crazy,reckless, climber! That child had no fear, and could find trouble no matter how hard we tried to "childproof" the house. He was sneaky, and he didn't want to get up to seek comfort from adults, rather to find some mischief!!
I felt a little weird about doing it, but it was the only solution at that time.

Anonymous said...

I am another blog reader, not writer therefore I am posting anonymous.

First of all, I want to say that I think that Anonymous is a CRAZY person!

About the sleeping issues: I also would suggest getting in to a rountine. We do bath at 7p.m., book and lights out at 7:45. My kids can get up one time only (for a drink of water, another kiss, go potty, etc). After that, walk them back to bed, no eye contact, don't say anything. It took my 2 year old daughter 2 weeks to learn this and finally it worked! She is now 7 and we still have the same routine. She can call me once or get up once. I wish you luck! Hang in there it will get easier as they get older.

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