It’s unfortunate that what precipitated this post was a sobbing accusatory moment that happened between the firefighter and I on Friday. He thought I was in the office with his brother (I was) and proceeded to whack his other brother over the head with a train control and then shove his sobbing sibling over as he stormed past (with a kick thrown in for good measure). He thought I wasn’t watching but I’d headed back out into the play room when I heard the frustrated scoffing that proceeded their scuffle.
“Why are you so mean?” I cried. In my defense I’d been awake at 2. Then 3. Then 4 (with the firefighter). Then 4:30 (with the firefighter). Then 5:30 (with the firefighter). Then 6:30 (with baby duck). We were both sleep deprived and the kick was the match that lit the pyre of exhaustion into massive ceiling licking flames.
But then I realized there was no defense. He’s the kid, I’m the parent.
I cried and I stated how very frustrated I was that he wasn’t sleeping, even though he’s exhausted, and that he’s mean to his brother (and rude to me). That he’s mean to him when he thinks I’m not looking. That he laughed at me when I cried. In all fairness these moments are rare and his laughter was more than likely shock (ever giggle during a funeral?) than anything.
We spent forty five minutes apart. Me with his brother wrapped tightly to my back sleeping. Him upstairs alternately thumping the floor and peering through the banisters at dragon lady to see if it was safe to return.
I ranted to my husband (instead of my son). A friend chose the perfect moment to call and offer commiseration and support. Baby-wearing saved us in that moment because I didn’t want to wake up his brother so I was forced to wander quietly through the house and think. It’s also really hard to seethe with anger when there’s a baby breathing softly on your neck.
The quandary: the firefighter is waking up between 4 and 5 in the morning. Over the course of the last 10 days he’s woken up more than twice at 3:30 and been unable to fall back asleep. He is not getting enough sleep and is exhausted. We’re not getting enough sleep and we’re exhausted. The only person who is getting enough sleep right now is the monkey and 1/5 is a sad-ass ‘good sleeping’ ratio to have in your house.
We have adjusted his bed time in both directions and it hasn’t helped.
We’ve let him sleep in another room by himself and that didn’t make a difference.
We’ve increased (and then decreased) his activity levels thinking he was too busy / not busy enough. Still no change.
We have taught him to tell time which he can now do with 100% accuracy. That’s only increased our frustration since we know he can tell exactly when he’s leaving his room.
We’ve laid with him in his bed and our bed. He prefers to lay alone.
We’ve taken away electronic devices before bed and in the morning (so there’s no incentive to get up early). He’s quite happy to play by himself with other toys for two hours.
We have addressed the challenges he was facing at school and things are improving. He’s making new friends and I keep volunteering once a week.
We haven’t made any changes to our diet or routine.
We have put a gate at the top of the stairs to stop him from sneaking downstairs without one of us knowing. He just wakes us (or his brother) up instead.
We have exhausted our list of usual ‘good sleep hygiene’ habits and now we’re desperate.
And bloody tired.
To balance out my crap parenting moment I devised a new strategy. I let my husband know he’d be picking up an iPod nano on the way home. Then I started scouring the Interwebs for recorded meditations that were suited to children, especially boys. I reached out and asked others to suggest any guided meditations they’ve used with kids.
Then I sat down with the firefighter and apologized for my crap behaviour. I explained that he was mean to his brother because he’s tired and that I was mean to him because I was tired and that in either case it’s not okay for either of us to act like that but that I’m the grown-up and I need to show him that it’s not okay to treat people poorly, even when you’re tired. I explained what our new plan was and how it’s going to help. That it might take a while but that he’s really good at sleeping (he really is) and that eventually his body will be able to fall asleep at 3 in the morning as easily as it does at bedtime.
It’s unfortunate that what precipitated this post was a sobbing accusatory moment that happened between the firefighter and I on Friday but I’m hoping he remembers the calm after the storm rather than the burst of lightening that started it all.