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
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
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I complained in my blog last week about how hard it is to change Emmett. And I may end up trying to potty train him early–like at 18 months. Yesterday I ended up with feces on my wrist. Not fun. Then, I came across this: an article in the New York Times about the EC movement. Elimination Communication. Oh, if only I had known this existed…
Actually I was aware of this movement, but honestly didn’t know it had taken off so much. I should have guessed my old stomping grounds of Park Slope was leading the way. Next time I visit I will wear disposable covers on my shoes. Lest I step in kid sh-t.
For those of you who aren’t aware, EC means toilet training your baby from the moment of birth. Read that again. Yes, the minute they come out of the womb, in a sh-t storm of activity, you are supposed to start “observing” their bowel and urinary cues. Yeah, don’t focus on breastfeeding or your recovery, or bonding with your baby. What you need to focus on is when they are about to take a dump. Then rush them to the toilet, hold them over it, and boom, you are on your way to a diaper-free world.
I’m sure I’m going to get everyone hating on me because I’m sure moms and dads who subscribe to EC love their babies just as much as the rest of us. I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek here. But I do have to wonder–if you’re spending literally every moment looking for these cues, doesn’t it get a bit distracting? Maybe I’m just jealous since my kid is a disaster to change. But I honestly can’t get my head around infants being able to grasp toilet training. For many, it’s hard to even learn how to latch on. Or to sleep a good stretch. More importantly, when you are a new mom, you are so overwhelmed and exhausted, I can’t imagine putting this “task/pressure” on your plate.
The part where I am torn is, I do recognize how awful diapers are for the environment. So I dig that those parents aren’t contributing to the landfill. But I don’t want to start seeing signs in the city next to “Curb your dog” that says, “Curb your kid.”
(Sidenote: cloth diapers aren’t necessarily the answer either unless you launder yourself. I researched it a bit in New York when I was pregnant. If you get a cloth diaper service where they pick up your dirty diapers and give you a fresh set, they apparently still have to launder them like 7 times in bleach. Then the trucks emit carbon gases and burn fuel doing all the deliveries. So it doesn’t seem like a full-on solution. Now I think they make inserts for cloth diapers that are probably a good idea…)
The author of the article, Anemona Hartocollis,
says that many parents felt like they were rediscovering an ancient practice. Yup. Uh Huh. Heard that before.
This goes to the root of my annoyance on stuff like this. As in the homebirth movement and the co-sleeping club. If you want to homebirth your baby, go for it, but don’t say it’s because “that’s what they did in centuries past.” Because they did a lot of things back then that I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be down with. Like putting crocodile excrement in your vagina to prevent pregnancy. It’s true–at least according to some historians researching ancient Egypt. I’m pretty damn happy I live in the modern world. And I’m pretty sure my vagina appreciates it, too.
In all the mommy wars, I don’t get why the go-to argument is often about ways to mimic ancient times. Like the co-sleepers who say we should do it because that’s what they did “back then.” No, actually, that shouldn’t be the reason. In past centuries families had no choice. They were often crowded into one room, and so exhausted from working the fields or the sweatshops that they’d all collapse together. I’m sure they would have loved a crib for their baby. If you want to co-sleep, do it because you love to cuddle with your baby. But then don’t complain when they’re 5 and still sharing your bed. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t make it because of “what they did in the 17th century” Infant mortality rates were horrendous–from curable things like diarrhea–which again, thank god, we have the modern medicine and sanitary conditions of the present day.
But I digress–I’ve said all this before in my blogs on these topics.
The author goes on to say that parents mostly do EC because they like being “in touch with their babies’ most intimate functions.” REALLY? I don’t know about you, but when Emmett poops, as much as I love him, I don’t smell roses. Poop and pee aren’t the things I love most about my kids. Or even second or third most. Yeah, I get it on some level…like when Fia started to get this far away look and grunt, I knew she was pooping. And as only a mom can understand, I found it cute. She was at least 6 months by then. Nowadays, some of our funniest conversations are when she is sitting on the toilet. So some of this resonates, but to make it an actual “movement” sounds like something for people who have too much time on their hands.
The article quotes one mom who says, “I have absolutely been at parties and witnessed people putting their baby over the sink.” She goes on to say that one person took “…her baby and her bowl to a party, held her naked baby over the bowl…” I guess they were close friends. But still…doesn’t this seem a bit, well, affected?? Indulgent perhaps? Upper class hipster, um, crap?
My favorite part of this isn’t the article but the comments. I guess the people of the EC movement apparently have weekly support groups. One person left a comment saying she had 20 babies at her house while I guess the parents discussed at length the art of pooping. She said no one had an accident…but honestly, I can’t think of anything worse than taking my precious time, and the time of my baby, to go to a support group that revolves around sh-t. A playground sounds way more fun, right?
But the best was from a “Mom of 2″ in New York who says that people who don’t do the EC method are, you ready for this? L-A-Z-Y parents!!! Here’s her quote: “You know when your baby needs to go: after a meal, when wakes up from sleep etc. Just follow the pattern. Not doing it and continuing using diapers under pretense of various theories is a cover for a lazy parent. It’s a shame when your child can walk and talk and wears a diaper.”
People, people, how did we get here? I am seriously flummoxed. Guess it’s time for me to check out. I’ve never been so excited to change a diaper….
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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Monday, November 7th, 2011
Author’s Note: Join me every Monday as I share Fia’s ongoing milestone (mis)adventures–from potty training to talking to everything in between. Mayhem and mischief guaranteed on Milestone Monday!
Okay, so I’m a self-declared sleep Nazi. At least I have been since Fia was 4 1/2 months and we did Ferber. Worked like a charm. Got a few hate comments from my blog on it, but I stand resolute. I believe sleep is the best thing for her and myself and I have never backed down. I haven’t had to. She has consistently slept through the night. Until now.
I can attribute it to a few things: a huge move from Brooklyn to LA; having her routine completely uprooted; having my in-laws here the last 10 days showering her with constant attention (which I have no problem with). But in the midst of all the chaos surrounding us, we have lost the sleep. It could also be that this is a milestone regression. I hear that some tots hit a certain age and you have to re-Ferber. She is 23 months now, and I’d say the sleep started to go downhill a month ago.
I have held off on re-training because I wanted us to settle in. And here’s my dirty little secret: when she wakes up at 2 or 3 a.m., the only way to get her down now is to lie with her. In other words, co-sleeping. Gasp! And whereas before, in those early months, I was terrified of rolling onto her and never slept, now I actually cuddle into her warm little body and doze off nicely until 5:45 (which blows, but she goes down at 7 pm, so I can’t expect much better).
When my mother-in-law was here, I could hand her off and go back to bed until 7 or so, feeling rested. Now I don’t have that luxury. And with the new baby on the way, I know I can’t begin co-sleeping. It just isn’t our thing. Sleep is far too important to Phil and me.
I guess my question is: do I start tonight? Or wait another week until we have a little more routine? I fear that the longer I wait, the worse the habit will become–like it is with her pacifier now, which I swear I’m going to get rid of before her two-year old bday next month (that’s another one I’ll be looking for advice on). Maybe I just dive in tonight??
So for today’s milestone, I feel like I’ve gone backwards a bit and am looking to you all for advice and insight. I have a crib tent that I will put on so that when we do re-Ferber, I won’t worry she’s going to climb out.
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climbing out, co sleeping, crib, Ferber, Ferberizing, milestone monday, milestone regression, moving, moving to LA, sleep, sleep deprivation, sleep training, sleep training methods | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Must Read