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Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Every parent has an opinion on this. And it’s happened to all of us at least a dozen times. It’s 2:00 a.m. Your four-year-old daughter comes scampering into your bedroom unannounced. You can’t see or hear her, as she’s standing silently in the dark. Afraid it may be a ghost, you hold your breath and peer into the darkness. You finally see her, of course, when she’s within arm’s length, frighteningly staring at you with a blank expression, like that girl in The Ring. At this point, a ghost would’ve scared you less. So what do you do?
There are two camps, and they are quite distinct. You either welcome your terrifying child into the bed, a spot religiously left vacant for her where your sex life used to lay, or you send her packing, refusing to bend to your children and their ongoing, selfish quest to invade your pillow space.
Even if you don’t have kids, you likely know a parent who is one these two extreme types. Let’s break them down.
The first one, let’s call her “Clingy Parent,” sleeps next to her 6-year-old son every night. The boy, let’s call him “Tommy” sleeps between her and her husband. Every. Single. Night. Any half-hearted attempts to break the cycle have been quickly thwarted by Tommy, with little to no resistance by his over-accommodating parents. From what I understand, relations between mom and dad…they’re not so good.
The second type, which I’ll call “Stiff Arm Parent,” has never once let either of her children into the bed in which she and her husband (or boyfriend, girlfriend, dog, hey, I’m not judging here) sleep. I mean, maybe once or twice when they were babies and were teething and miserable, but certainly not once since they became toddlers, and full-fledged kids. They say no, and by God, they mean no.
Personally, I take issue with both of these approaches. Now, I don’t judge either parent, because I’m a big believer that there is more than one way to skin a cat and there is certainly more than one way to raise a happy child. But both methods are extremes, whereas I believe the healthy approach to anything usually lies somewhere in the middle.
When dealing with this issue, there are two clear, distinct goals, and to ignore either would be irresponsible.
- To ensure your child is given age-appropriate guidelines for when it is acceptable to come running to their parent’s bed and when it is not
- To ensure you’re getting enough sleep to deal with their nonsense and have enough space to sufficiently relax after a long day of dealing with their lovable, yet occasionally absurd behavior
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a believer in nurturing our children, giving them a neck to wrap their arms around when their alarm clock casts a menacing shadow on their dresser. However, I’m also a believer in setting boundaries so compassion doesn’t transform into a bad habit that becomes increasingly difficult to break.
Put simply, there’s a reason that “Tommy” in the “Clingy Parent” scenario is an only child. His poor parents are never alone to conceive another! If we allow our children access to our beds every night and never allow them to be nocturnally independent, they’ll take even longer to “let go of our legs,” so to speak, ultimately making it much harder for us to break them from the habit later on.
And the “Stiff Arm Parent” approach is a bit too cold for my liking. I see it as ultimately more beneficial to the child’s well being when compared to “Clingy Parent,” but seriously, how do you muster the will power to follow through on a child development plan at 3:00 in the morning? This, frankly, is where I crumble. If I’ve had a stressful day at work, operating at 35% mental capacity and my son crawls into my bed and starts snoring, guess who’s letting him stay there for the night? You got it. In fact, most of the time I’m not even aware he’s there until the next morning, when it’s far too late to put my foot down.
Ultimately, I’ve opted for positive reinforcement. My older son will go between 10 and 14 days without a nighttime visit, then suddenly starts popping in three or four days in a row. My wife (who, if it needs to be said, is the real brains behind this whole parenting thing) has implemented a rewards system. It just started this week. We put a magnetized “reward calendar” up in his room, and for every night he stays in his bed until morning, he gets to put a magnet of his choosing on the corresponding day. The kicker? He gets a surprise each time he’s successful. Not like a bike or anything, but something as simple as getting to pick out his dessert after dinner that night. It’s a little way to motivate him and to get him excited about doing something he wouldn’t normally be excited to do. Some people call it bribery. But those people would understand if they were parents.
So, while I firmly believe that our children’s needs override our own, I don’t think we’re being fair to ourselves (or potentially our significant other) by ignoring our needs completely either. It’s a delicate balance of instilling confidence and comfort in our kids while also maintaining a healthy “bedroom lifestyle” for ourselves as adults. In truth, splitting the atom was probably less complicated.
So, what tactic do you employ when approached mid-sleep by your child (if any at all)? Send me your feedback and thoughts by adding a comment below!
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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attachment parenting, bedtime, bribery, CIO, co sleeping, cry it out, Ferber, parenting, positive reinforcement, sex life, sleep training, The Ring, toddler bed | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Joe DeProspero, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Newborn Care
Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
In New York City, kids almost always share a room. And not because everyone in New York believes in co-sleeping. It’s just that space is at a premium. In our building in Brooklyn, there was a family down the hall with a boy and a girl. They shared a room until they went to college. I’ll admit I was a bit aghast at teenagers of the opposite sex sharing a room. But that’s how life is for a lot of people. Whether it’s villages in Africa where entire families sleep in one room, or places like NYC. Space, money and necessity dictate that reality.
I grew up in the country, outside the small town of State College, Pennsylvania. We had a big farmhouse with 4 bedrooms. There were 4 kids. My two brothers shared a room, as did my sister and I. We had a guest room. When I was 12 though, my sister moved into the spare. I remember how elated I was to have my own space.
We are now living in LA and renting a house with three bedrooms all on the same floor. Fia and Emmett each have their own rooms. Thank god, because it’s been a challenge keeping them from waking each other up in the night. Only in the past couple months has Fia started to sleep through his cries. Which is obviously a point many people will make: kids adapt.
We just recently found a house to buy. It’s beautiful and big at 3100 square feet. However the layout is such that there are two bedrooms on one floor (a master and a second one), then on the bottom floor is a guest bedroom and bath. I really don’t want either kid separated from us at night. I like being on the same floor. Plus, the way I feel about having company, we have to have a guest room at all times. Especially one on a separate level. At least that way we have our own space. We are taking a contractor over today to see if there is a way to create two bedrooms out of one or perhaps turning the laundry room into a small bedroom. But I don’t want to get into a lot of construction. Nor do I really want my laundry room in the garage.
I got to thinking: at this age, as long as Emmett continues to progress on the sleeping front (as in not waking up multiple times), is there a reason for them NOT to share a room? I suspect we’d be in this house about 5 years, so we would be far away from the tween or teen years. Then the plan is to move back to New York, where we’d all probably share a room. With the cat. (Kidding.)
Part of me thinks it seems strange to have a big house and yet have the kids share a room. But then I think, maybe not. Maybe it’s a good thing. I guess I want the option to put them in their own rooms if they end up keeping each other–and us–up at night. What do you guys think?
Now if only I was a co-sleeper, and believed in family bed, this problem would be solved. But something tells me that my strong stance on teaching kids to sleep by themselves– and my feeling that parents need their own bedroom– won’t be swayed.
I await your insight.
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buying a house, CIO, cosleeping, family bed, Ferber, sharing a bedroom, sleep training, teenagers, Weisenbluth | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
Friday, March 15th, 2013
Emmett never stops. He is a tank, a brute of boundless energy. At his 1-year check-up the pediatrician, who has been with him since birth, reiterated again that my dude may need Occupational Therapy to find ways to Slow.Him.Down. He is the most active child she’s seen that’s not on the spectrum or that has any mental or health issues. Even changing his diaper has been a challenge since he was, oh, 5 months old. Thank god for his amazing temperament or I might consider selling him.
“You are going to have to run him twice a day. For at least an hour each time. He is the kind of kid who will need to be worn out. Every-single-day,” she said.
I pictured a horse let out to pasture. Or a dog during off-leash hours in the park. I then pictured Emmet’s face on both beasts. Yup. That’s my boy. I decided I needed to find an activity for us to do together. One that wasn’t awful. Or disastrous (like Fia’s ballet class).This time I was smarter. I decided on Toddler Gymnastics. I should have thought of it sooner, since Fia goes to the same gym. I know the coaches, the facility, the drill.
He was the youngest one but kept up with the best of them. He loved the trampoline the most. He giggled incessantly. Of course he wouldn’t sit still and wait his turn. I had to pull him away and run him (yes, my horse) until it was his time. He hated the balance beam. It took both me and the coach to try and hold him upright. He kept doing the “baby flop”–you know, when they go limp. I’m sure because it would take too much concentration to walk slowly. I had no time to stare at the clock or dream about my lunch like I did in other mommy and me classes. But that’s a good thing. I hate being bored.
I took him early and we left late. I really thought I “ran” him good. Then we came home and he slept for 30 minutes. Should I put up my For Sale sign yet? WTF??
Three nights this week he has shrieked off and on for 3 hours. Phil and I have taken turns going in when we can’t take it anymore. He’s not sick. He’s not teething. He just wants to be held. He is one strong-willed little dude. And he knows it. I think in a test of wills he will win. Actually he already has. But man, he’s so damn cute and snuggly at times. He knows just when to turn on the charm to keep that For Sale sign at bay.
You all know I am a sleep training guru, but even I know when to throw in the towel. Since he won in the cry-it-out category, last night we switched tactics. I went in on the first wail around midnight. In less than 20 seconds I put his paci back in and laid him down. I said in a fairly stern voice, “Emmett, it’s night time.” I closed the door. He didn’t peep until around 3 am. I did it again. He slept until 7:15.
I think he just needs reassurance that we are there. Even when he’s running he pauses and looks back to check that I’m still with him. I’m usually a few paces behind, sweating. I am soon going to need a cane. Boys. Men. It’s hard to keep up with them. They are needy little f–kers. But impossible to resist.
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active toddler, ballet class, CIO, cry it out, Ferber, gymnastics, hyperactive, mommy and me, music class, Occupational Therapy, Pediatrician, sleep training | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Fia Friday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Moving to Los Angeles
Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
I was in my office this afternoon and Fia came in “to play.” Usually that entails trying to type on my computer, or getting out markers, pulling a Post-It note, and attempting to color on it. You can imagine where that leads: to bright purple all over my desk. I told her I was working and needed a few minutes of quiet if she could find something to do.
She wandered over to this statue thing of a woman and began talking to it. I was thrilled to see her play on her own. She doesn’t do it much and it was so cute. At first.
“Hi baby,” she said. “You need a nap.” She pretended to cover it/her with an imaginary blanket.
“You need a pacifier. I will get you one,” and so on. I was just sitting there smiling, thoroughly enjoying the moment. But then, her tone turned and I must say I was a bit shocked. She began screaming and really railing on the non-baby statue:
“Stop standing up in your crib!” she screamed.
“I am going to shut the door!!!”
“You get a time out!”
“I’m going to zip up the crib tent!”
I got up and went to her. “Fia, you don’t need to shout like that. Why are you doing that?” “Because the baby was bad,” she said. Huh? What?
Okay, what she shouted are all things we say–not shout– to get her to go to sleep. It’s a song and dance like many parents experience. But we never ever yell. Neither does Cleo. I’m around all the time and I hear how it goes.
We are firm, but never mean. I’ll say in a totally regular voice, “Fia, lie down. Fia, I said lie down.” She’ll look at me and grin. Sometimes I get down on her at face level, grin with her, touch noses, and we both laugh. It’s kind of our little “thing.” Then I say, “Okay honey, I’m going to have to take your pacifier away if you don’t go to sleep.” I usually gesture as if I’m about to pull it, then she concedes, lies down and I tickle her forehead.
Sometimes she’ll be standing in her crib and won’t lie down and I walk towards the door, like I’m leaving. “No mama! Tickle my forehead!”
“Then lie down,” I say, sternly. She does and I tickle.
We get about 3 sleep encores a night like this before she really goes down. I’m really never even frustrated by it. I figure this is just par for the course.
Also, in terms of time outs, I’m not just saying this because I’m her mom: Really, she’s only had about 3-5 of them in her life. I’m not a lax parent. She’s just a really good kid. She follows rules, likes order and routine, and is just an affectionate, goofy, fun-loving girl. She doesn’t misbehave much. Rarely tantrums. Something like the nighttime routine described above would never warrant a time out. She has to do something really wrong to get one. And she just doesn’t.
So what is up with her imitating us in such an angry way? It broke my heart to hear her shout like that. Is this a normal toddler thing or does she think we really yell? What is her perception of us? Of herself? That she’s a bad girl? Or am I overthinking all this? Please parents, help me on this one. I don’t want to lose sleep over it. It’s weighing on me.
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Monday, October 22nd, 2012
The other night Phil was out of town. I was having one of those cravings for Fia… you know, like the kind when you want to eat your child, yet you know you’ll never have enough of them to get full? It’s that insatiable feeling of mom-love. I decided to have her sleep in bed with me. I envisioned spooning her all night and getting some sort of tangible fullness. Uh-huh.
9:30 pm–in bed reading my book. Fia lifting legs in the air. “What are you doing honey?” “Making shadows Mama. Look!”
“It is two hours past your bedtime. That’s it.”
Book closed. Lights out. Fia puts hands in air. She swings her arms back and forth. I bark, “No more shadows!” I’m officially annoyed at my decision to have her sleep with me. Plus, I had to shut off my Kindle during a riveting reading moment.
11:00 p.m.—a foot is in my mouth.
12:30 a.m.—I am eating Big Bird.
1:00 a.m.—Emmett starts to cry. I hear him through the monitor. I sneak into his room to pacify. Pitter-patter. In come little feet. “Fia, go back to bed,” I whisper.
This is important for two reasons. First—it’s one o’clock in the f-cking morning. But second, Em is so sensitive to noise that if she starts talking, he’ll jerk up and start giggling. Yes, my baby laughs too much. I realize there are worse problems to have…but in the middle of the night, all issues seem insurmountable.
I get Em back in his crib, Fia back in my bed. I threaten that I’m putting her back in her crib. But I know she’ll wail. I can’t take the “you get to sleep with mommy tonight” back. I can feel Ferber shaking his head…
3:00 a.m.—an ankle on my ear. A thigh on my stomach. I am in a bad game of Twister and I’m losing.
4:00 a.m.–Wayne pounces on the bed and yowls. I curse myself. How did I forget about the stupid cat? Fia bolts up in bed. “Mama, Wayne is here!” Yep, didn’t know that. Thanks.
I get up, grab the 18-pound load of fur and sequester him downstairs.
5:30 a.m.—Em wakes up. This time he’s hungry. I sneak in again. Put him on the boob. Pretty soon her little shadow appears, then her little body. I have to whisper again, “Get back in bed. Shhh. Shhh.” Emmett pulls off the boob to look. It’s his big sister! Cue the giggling. I tell her to just lie quietly on the carpet in front of me so Em can’t see her. She does. And puts her legs in the air. Yep, the shadow game is back.
6:00 a.m.—Em is sleeping. So is Fia. I am wide-awake. The sun is rising and I can feel the bags pulling down on my face.
I didn’t get one cuddle. I am not full. But at this point, I don’t care. I just want my bed back.
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