You know those parents who gently lift their sleeping child from the car, drape their ragdoll deep-sleeping child over their arms and quietly transfer them, still asleep, into warm and cozy beds? Yeah, I kinda hate them a little. OK. Maybe that’s too strong. I am just extremely jealous. Never, ever has that been my experience in 12 years and 3 children of parenting. And it wasn’t just that my kids would wake up if I lifted them out of the car, they would often not sleep in the first place!
Sleep has always been an issue in my home. A few of my personal facebook posts from my children’s baby days prove this . . .
“With the exception of a couple 5 minute snoozes, my 6-week-old has now been awake for 12 ½ hours and counting. He’s happy as can be, I’m old and it’s past my bedtime!”
“Argh . . . I have created a stubborn, crib-hating, sleep-defying monster.”
Like so many other things for gifted people, sleep patterns tend to be atypical. Many gifted kids and adults just don’t need as much sleep as others may. My youngest stopped taking naps at the ripe old age of 1. Sigh.
And add some other different wiring to the mix, as is the case with my twice-exceptional girl, and sleep can become even more elusive. For literally 9 years of my adult life, I rarely experienced the bliss of uninterrupted sleep. Of course, there were the infant years, and then there was my 2e daughter awake and unable to regulate or self soothe back to sleep, and my youngest waking me up in the middle of the night because he wanted to play or snuggle or talk. All with a smile on his face.
But, this mama needs sleep. We’d tried everything. Melatonin. Warm baths. Essential oils. Weighted blankets. White noise. Music. Sleep stories. Massage. Lotion. Special stuffed animals. Living breathing real animals. Short of prescribed sleep meds, we’ve tried it all. And some things have made sleep a little easier, but there has been 1 approach that has made the biggest difference for us.
While my daughter was in the hospital for an overnight eeg to assess for epilepsy, a sleep doctor met with us. She did many of the basics in terms of problem solving and gave us charts to track for potential sleep patterns. And those were minimally helpful, but then . . . THEN . . . she gave me the best gift ever.
She spent about 5 minutes talking with my daughter about the need for adults to have sleep. They talked about the activities that mom and dad do throughout the day and explored how safe and well those activities get done when mom and dad are tired. She explained the dangers of mom or dad driving sleep deprived and asked my daughter to think about how many times we drive her around during a day. The doctor encouraged my daughter that we’d help her find ways to sleep better, but in the meantime, she needs to let mom and dad sleep. We made a list of all the things she could quietly do in her room if she wakes up in the middle of the night. We made a list of the circumstances that would warrant waking parents.
Prior to that conversation, my daughter was coming into my room at least twice a night, at the age of 7. In the 2 ½ years since that conversation, my daughter has woken me up maybe 10 times, and usually because she was actually sick or scared.
Aside from helping with the overall sleep issues, that doctor gave me a ginormous gift. In the midst of my sleep-deprived hazy thinking, she reminded me that my sleep is just as important as my child’s sleep. She alleviated the mom-guilt which kept telling me that I should be able to “fix” my daughter’s sleep issues, or at the very least bring her comfort day or night. That doctor helped me prioritize my own self-care and helped my daughter understand the importance of mom’s self-care, too.
We’ve recently had the same conversation with my youngest, who repeatedly sought our attention in the middle of the night, simply because he was happily awake. We considered why mom and dad need sleep and we problem solved together. We listed the quiet activities he could do in his room, and we created a “nest” on the floor in our room. He knows he can come down to his nest any night, but that he needs to move into it quietly and only wake my husband or I if necessary.
I can’t say that my kids are sleeping any better. But, my husband and I are. And when we’re more well rested, we’re better parents and more patient during the day.
So, I give you the gift that sleep doctor gave me . . . it’s ok. Give them tools, set the boundaries, and know that it’s ok to sleep through your child’s sleeplessness.
This post is part of the Hoagies' monthly blog hop. Check out other great sleep ideas across the ages!