January 15, 2011

Accommodations

We've been dealing with sleep issues with Elizabeth. With Elizabeth WHO IS FIVE YEARS OLD. Actually, that looks young when I type it (aw, FIVE!)---but it seems like I wouldn't still be working on sleep-training issues with someone who knows how to do air quotes.

This time it's that she started waking up in the middle of the night wanting to come to our room. That was fine periodically, but soon it was every night, and soon after that she started waking earlier and earlier until she was waking up before our bedtime. I thought she was old enough to have this situation explained to her, so I told her now she would need to go back to sleeping in her own bed.

After that, she continued to wake up night after night crying, and I'd go down there and explain it to her again, and then she'd cry for an hour, or an hour and a half, or TWO hours. I would lie in bed, wide awake and simmering with angry resentment, going down periodically to reassure/re-explain through clenched teeth. She'd finally go back to sleep, but meanwhile my frustration and awake-in-the-middle-of-the-nightness would have turned itself into a full-color review of Every Situation In Which I've Ever Felt Angry Resentment.

So I decided to break up this fight. Trying to force Elizabeth to do things my way in the middle of the night has never, ever worked: not when she was brand new, not when she was an older baby, not when she was a toddler, and not now. She has recurring sleep issues, and maybe there is a way to deal with them that would solve them, but my guess is that we've tried everything at this point (I'm reluctant to try to decree absolutely that no suggestions for books/methods could possibly be useful, but I do think that we've heard all of them by now). Trying to do things My Way is leading to misery and anger, and it's not solving anything. So last night, she cried and I brought her up to our room.

********

William gets Night Sadness: feeling in the evening or around bedtime that everything is too awful and sad and hopeless to be dealt with at all. He goes long periods without getting it, and then some daytime thing will show up as nighttime stress. Right now it's his Monday schedule: he gets pulled out of the classroom FOUR TIMES on Mondays for various things. William is not a Sharer, talking-wise, so the first we really understood the depth of the problem was when two Monday mornings in a row he was "sick."

I preferred he not drop out of any of the four things, so my first way of dealing with it was to try to treat the Night Sadness. I taught him the various things that help me deal with my own; I used my dad's Nightmare Cure, which I might have changed over the years but still think of as his (turn lights on, pee, chew a Tums, drink of water, brush teeth); I let him stay up a bit and sit with us. Nothing was working.

So my second attempt was to ask him if perhaps one thing was stressing him more than the others. Last year he was stressed to tears by a writing group he was in, and it got bad enough that we said to the teacher that we didn't really care at all if he wrote below his ability PERMANENTLY, it was too much stress to be worth it. But this time he said he didn't really want to drop any of the things, he just wished they weren't all on the same day. So I asked if I should contact the teacher and find out if things could be spread out a little, and he explained the various reasons why the schedule can't be budged.

So my third attempt was to ask if he could think of anything we could do to improve Mondays in OTHER ways. He couldn't think of any, but I started thinking of some. Like, maybe he could get hot lunch on Mondays and not have it count toward his "once a week" limit. And if the hot lunch that day was one he didn't like, I could make his lunch for him instead. And he could bring a chocolate-chip granola bar as his snack. And he could get a pass that day on practicing his clarinet.

Last night when he had Night Sadness, I put him through the Nightmare Cure, and as he was doing it I reminded him that in the morning he wouldn't have to pack a lunch. And he could have deviled eggs for breakfast. And he wouldn't have to practice his clarinet.

********

These things cause older-brother Rob to hit the ceiling, of course. Why can't HE have an extra hot lunch on Mondays?? When HE took clarinet, why didn't HE get to have a skip day?? I try to be understanding about this (I too was a firstborn, and I too had a fine-tuned sense of Justice Betrayed), but I also think it's a good opportunity to discuss how we make different accommodations for different people. Elizabeth gets a pass in the middle of the night right now because she can't figure out the sleep thing and neither can we. William gets spoiled on Monday mornings because he's having trouble handling his Mondays and yet doesn't want to get out of it either. When Rob was younger he had social and speech issues that meant he's the only one of our children to have attended two years of expensive pre-kindergarten plus three summers of expensive "preschool camp." Henry's getting extra time with Paul right now, because for whatever reason he's going through a Daddy-craving stage and nearly has a breakdown during the week, so on weekends Paul doesn't expect to get anything done without Henry attached to him.

And then it won't be long before some of these things shift around. Maybe Henry will go out of this Daddy Stage, but then he'll need something else; maybe Elizabeth will start sleeping all night in her own bed again, but then she'll need something else. The hard part, to me, is that it's so SHIFTING, and that it's so different from child to child: it's not something that lets me say to Rob, "Well, when YOU were five, YOU got to sleep in our room."

39 comments:

d e v a n said...

I remember feeling that things were unfair when I was a kid, but after awhile I realized that my parents were trying to give us what we needed, and we were all different and needed different things.
I wish they had explained it to my silblings and I though, because they will STILL bring up things that they thought were unfair from when we were kids and don't seem to grasp this concept of "we're all different/have different needs."

ANYWAY. Sorry about the sleeping. I've never really figured out the sleep thing with any of the kids. They always seem to grow out of a stage before I figure out how to "fix" it.

Shannon said...

Oh man, I have been struggling with that with my 4.5 year old (the night waking). It's gotten a little better recently but for the better part of a year he'd been waking up and coming into our bed at night but since he moves a LOT when he sleeps I am completely unable to sleep with him in my bed. We tried so many approaches and the only thing that remotely worked was we got him to put one of his big toy dinosaurs at the edge of his bed on the floor to "watch out for scary things" under the bed. This helped a little. Until he started saying he was scared of the dinosaur. It really sucks that a lot of the time it seems there's nothing to do but wait for them to outgrow it. I hope you are able to find something to help calm Elizabeth!

Ginny said...

I'm glad you're so attentive and understanding to the needs of your kids. I was a firstborn too, and had the Justice Grievance installed early, but in my current job as a preschool teaching assistant, it's becoming crystal-clear to me that kids have different needs and that if I try to "treat them all alike" it won't be good for ANY of them. I imagine it's even harder to do this as a parent of five.

Does Rob get any special oldest-kid privileges? I'm sure he does... and I guess it's inevitable that whatever accomodations he's gotten are going to feel like less than what the other kids get. He'll appreciate it when he grows up, though.

Lisa said...

Oh, I am right there with you. My five year old is in my bed every night, with knee pain, leg pain, head pain, finger pain, feeling so sad pain. He is kind of stressed out by school although I haven't quite figured out exactly what. I give cuddles for a while, walk him back to bed, and cuddle for a while there until he goes back to sleep. I would let him sleep in our bed, but my 18 month old has yet to sleep through the night, and its kind of crowded right now.

The 18 month old is the one that is really getting to me---the five year old is once a night, maybe twice, but the 18 month old is ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Currently she is teething two bottom molars (OMG we still have to do this AGAIN for the top molars) and it seems like a terrible time to try and cure sleep issues, plus she is still nursing and I want to wean her because I am beyond tired of nursing, but this is terrible timing. So....I am awake all night. And it makes oh so angry at 3 am (and 1 am and 1:30 and 2 and 2:45 and pretty much every hour on the hour.)

I've read every sleep book out there. None of them have worked on this child. I have not blogged about it because I can't seem to write a funny post about it--it just comes out "angry at a baby".

So...yeah. Hopefully the problem will fix itself, since nothing I have done so far is working.

And this comment is all about me, isn't it. I think you are doing the right thing with Elizabeth, and with Rob. Sometimes we need more than the usual, and sometimes its not our turn to get the more than the usual, and those are handy life lessons to learn.

Omaha Mama said...

I think doing what works at the time is all we can ever do as parents. Fair doesn't mean the 'same' for everyone, it means meeting everyone's needs at the time. We just have two kids and they are constantly comparing their treatment, privileges, consequences, etc. It is hard to explain to our daughter that when she was her brother's age (4) we did have much different expectations for her than now. It sounds to me like your accomodations are just right...meeting each kid with where they are in their development.

Oh, and night sadness? Sheesh, yes. I used to get it really bad as a kid. It sometimes happens now, but I find reading some good chicklit until I'm too sleepy helpful. I like your nightmare cure, I wish someone would've walked me through that as a kid.

Marie Green said...

Kate has had seasons of needing us at night as an older child. Sometimes I'm ok with it- at least for awhile- but I have a bad neck and when she sleeps with me I wake up with a sore neck which often leads to a migraine, so I can only handle it for so long. We've tried most everything too. Sometimes we let her fall asleep in our bed, sometimes her "middle of the night" is when David is still up (she'll come in at, say, midnight), so she'll sleep with me for an hour or two (enough to calm her down), and then D moves her back when he comes to bed... The one thing we haven't tried is putting a bed on the floor of our room for her. But if we do that, I think all THREE of our kids will suddenly have night issues! Right now she's sleeping well, waking about 10-15 minutes before our alarms and getting some extra morning cuddles then.

I have a very wise friend (who also has 5 children) who says "Meet the need and the need goes away." I think that is parenting genius. Forcing them to not need what they need (our first inclination as parents, sometimes, I'm afraid) doesn't make the need go away-- in fact, the need will often intensify. But MEETING the need will eventually make it go away.

Anyway, it IS hard to juggle the accommodations for everyone. Especially with identical twins, I think... I'm often wondering "do YOU need this too, or do you need it because your sister needs it and you need things to be fair?"

Nik-Nak said...

I seriously admire how you handle all of these things...I really wish you would freeze your life so that when my LO is your kids age we could go through all of this together. Good luck, even though you don't need it since you have it all under control.

The Wonder Worrier said...

As a teacher, I use the phrase "Fairness isn't Sameness" with my grade ones, and I even have it written on fancy, bright papers and posted at the front of our classroom. I've taught them that everyone learns in different ways, and if someone needs extra computer time or an extra chance to play with a puzzle, "fairness isn't sameness" and I'm making a choice as the teacher so that I can help everyone learn the best they can.

They seem to really understand that phrase and I don't get asked "WHY DOES ADAAAAMMMM GET TO GO ON THE COMPUUUUTTTEERRR" /whiney voices. If one of them even starts to say something like that, the others will all say, "Fairness isn't sameness!".

It might be a good line for you too! Fairness isn't sameness, you need to do certain things to help each of your children learn and grow and feel comforted and safe.

St said...

We went through the night waking with my 5 yr old and finally just left a pack n play in our room and she could sleep in there and not disturb us so much.
My 7 yr old gets the nighttime sadness. It always comes in the form of "I miss Grandma and Papaw" and tears and wailing right when she goes to bed so that she is keeping the other girls awake. I'm so relieved to hear that other kids experience this. She's the oldest, naturally high-strung and nervous. She's even gone to therapy for her anxieties.
Maybe we'll try your nightmare cure.
My parenting motto is "let that shit go" because a lot of the time I just need to change my expectations or re-evaluate what battles I'm willing to engage in.

momma on the run said...

I had terrible nightmares as a child (the result of a movie about HELL and Satan that I watched while visiting a friend's church. I now have serious issues with churches that try to 'scare' people into believing!). The nightmares recurred on and off for almost two years. My parents did what MarieGreen suggested and set up a bed roll on the floor. It was a great compromise for us. I felt safe, and they were able to sleep comfortably. I have done the same thing when one of our children has gone through a bout of night waking, and it has worked perfectly. I hug and kiss and reassure them, then tuck them in to the sleeping bag. I just sleep so terribly if they are in bed with us.

Joanne said...

My husband always says, usually about when they are baby babies, that it's a spiral and not a straight line and that's the truth, right? When does it stop? When they move out? I can remember when my first kid was little, I used to think you just got them to sleep all night and then they slept all night. Forever. Ha! I was up this morning from 4:00 to 6:00 with my 20 month old! Almost two! I can't stop with the exclamation points! I hope things settle down for everyone soon and I am impressed, as always, at how you handle your kids' and your lives.

ssm said...

You? Are a really good mom.

Sam said...

I think this post illustrates just what a great parent you are. The fact that you are trying to meet each kid's particular need is, well, wonderful. The realization that forcing Elizabeth to do things YOUR way wasn't working is so important. I mean, there are definitely some things that children must do our way (safety stuff, like holding hands in the parking lot) but it's so liberating to LET GO. This is hard for us and we're learning.

I think it would be great if you could spend a little extra time with Rob and maybe have a little chat. Go out for ice cream or something he likes. I really like the above commenter and her "fairness isn't sameness". He might be old enough to grasp that every kid is different and not everything can be the same. Reassuring him that it's your job to listen to each kid and try to help them when they have a problem - and that means him, too. My brother TOTALLY had the Justice Betrayal (and he was the youngest) issue. He would point out every discrepancy to my parents - I got to start dating earlier, driving earlier, all sorts of things. Oh! The injustice!

Fiona Picklebottom said...

I see everyone is focusing on the sleep thing here, for which I have no significant contribution. I have one (my ADHD/OCD child) who cannot get to sleep at night. On particularly rough nights we have to resort to melatonin. She does, however, sleep through once she falls asleep, and then I can't drag her out of bed in the morning.

What I do have a real comment on is your William situation. It took me YEARS, many many of them (my oldest is about to turn 17) to realize just how much power I do have as a parent when dealing with the schools. It is totally worth contacting the administration of the school and informing them of the undue stress the Monday schedule is causing William and asking if the schedule can be spread out. I know that William has given you reasons why it cannot, but perhaps the principal or the teachers can see ways around those reasons. The school may not WANT to figure out how, but if you demand it (nicely, of course), they may have to. I had the same issue (not at home, but with the too much pulling out) with one of mine, and when I informed the teachers and principal of the stress it was causing my child, they did what they could to alleviate the stress.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I remember vividly both the Sunday Stress and the feeling that my little brother was getting Special Treatment. Neither was fun but I always felt like my parents were on our side - the side of their kids.

It sounds like you are on Their Side and it makes me want to hug you. You just seem like such good people and such very good parents.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

I deeply appreciate these "nuts and bolts" of parenting type posts.

And I love "fairness isn't sameness"! I think there are a lot of people, not just children, who could benefit from learning that lesson!

Erica said...

You know what, you sure are a wonderful mother, Swiss Miss. I really wish my mom had been so attentive and willing to compromise to make things easier for all of us instead of always needing things to be Her Way. Your kids are very lucky to have you.

(And I'm not just blowing smoke up your pinehole. I truly feel this way.)

Doing my best said...

We have one of those children's foam "couches" that pulls out into a kind of "bed" (I think you can still get them at ToysRUs) that I have put right next to our bed with an extra blanket on it (although, I think before I thought of using that we used an old egg crate mattress that we folded up and covered with a blanket). My SIX AND HALF year old will go through periods of time where she is "scared" at night or "has bad dreams" and now, after trying EVERYTHING else we could think of (night lights, flash lights, special stuffed animal, etc...) she can just come into our room and sleep on the little "bed" without waking us up! She will come in 4 or 5 nights a week for a week or two, and then she stays in her bed for a week or two and then she comes back...we haven't had trouble with more than one kid coming in at a time, although sometimes I will wake up and my 4 year old is there; somehow they manage to stagger the nights they come in =). Setting up the little bed did not cause a stampede to our room, maybe because I have two older (11 and 8) kids who aren't at all interested in sleeping in our room, and maybe because the two who do use that little bed aren't getting any extra attention when they use it, they are just getting the extra comfort of being in our presence when they need that. And we have have learned, when getting up in the night to get the baby, to be careful to not step on anyone who may be sleeping on the floor =).
Oooo, I am SO going to start using "Fairness isn't Sameness"! I have tried to explain that principle to my kids too, but I think having a handy, short phrase will work great! Maybe it's the authoritative sound of it; I had MAGICAL results when I started using "We get what we get and we don't throw a fit" instead of trying to explain WHY the purple cup and the green cup were really the SAME and we didn't need to melt down over the color of cup we received....
You are doing great! Your kids are so lucky to have a mother who cares so much about their needs/feelings!!!

Betsy said...

Oh Swistle, you are doing such a great job!

I run a school (high school), and we too, labor to try to get folks to understand that "fair" does NOT mean "equal". The students, actually, are more accepting of this than their teachers are!

Mrs. Irritation said...

Wait, you're telling me older kids have sleep issues and not just babies? Why was this not in the parenting manual?? I feel like such a newby.

Linda said...

I think you are doing a totally fabulous job. I tell my kids regularly that it is my job as a parent to make sure everyone in our family has what they NEED. Then I ask, "Is NEED the same as WANT?" and they mutter "No." Then I ask the complainer, "Do you have clean clothes and enough food and do we love you and play with you and show you how to treat others?" (or something similar) and they mutter "Yes." Then I pat myself on the back (literally - they think it's funny) and announce, "I am doing an AWESOME job!" I don't make it all flippant - I do acknowledge the complainer's feelings and point out that SHE doesn't need this, her sister does, and try to come up with other examples of alleged inequality in our family that illustrate this.

For the sleep thing, we have had bouts of that with 4-6yos as well. We have a kid aerobed that stays inflated in our closet and the rule is that they can drag their pillow/blanket into our room and sleep on it as long as no one wakes us up. Sometimes - in the case of bad dreams or struggle getting the aerobed out of the closet - my husband (who I have conveniently placed as the First Parent encountered as they come through the door) will have to get up and help. But it's short lived and we all immediately go back to sleep.

It bothered me for a while (OMG, JUST SLEEP IN YOUR OWN BED ALREADY!) but what bothered me more was being woken up, so we focused on fixing THAT problem.

I wonder if there is a William solution that he is not aware of. I would run it by his teacher and just ask. There's no harm in asking and what if she's like "Oh yes! No problem!" and can fix it?

Jess said...

Ah, the scourge of the oldest child. I was always happy with my younger child status for exactly that reason. But on the plus side, Rob gets to do things first. It's all a trade-off. He'll figure it out eventually.

Jen said...

I love reading your posts because I feel enlightened...you do such a good job of explaining your thought process but also because you are so honest I end up thinking "oh it's not just me who gets angry and resentful with middle of the night sleep things, thank goodness!" I don't have anything helpful to add but I do particularly like the comments made about emphasizing something Rob gets to do because he is the oldest (staying up latest?) and the idea of a mat next to your bed for Elizabeth to use as she sees fit.

Today Wendy said...

Wow, you sound like such an awesome mom :)

I had crazy nightmare issues as a child, and desperately wanted to be allowed to crawl into bed next to my mother...which she just couldn't deal with. So if that's what's going on with Elizabeth you're saving her years of misery. On the other hand, my daughter has a tendency to sleep in our room "just because she can" complete with the waking up earlier and earlier every night. So we started bribing her - she only gets "treats" (aka dessert) if she doesn't wake us up at night. I can't imagine how this would work if you had 5 kids instead of one...but bribery is totally working for us. She stays in her own bed 4 out of 5 nights, but always has the option of waking us up if she needs to.

Anonymous said...

You're amazing. Give yourself props as a mum.

Secondly, don't tknow if this would help or you're already doing it, but if having Elizabeth come to your bed compounds stress because suddenly everyone is SQUASHED and no one can SLEEP (except Elizabeth) and RAAAAAAGE! then you could try what my mum did with me when I was small, which was to have a sleeping bag and pillow all ready on the floor next to her side of the bed. If I needed her, I could just go and sleep in there, I was close enough to touch her (often she'd sleep with her hand dangling down to touch me awwwww) but I wasn't IN their bed and thus they didn't get squashed. It also helped me to feel like it was okay when I needed to go, but (I only realise looking back now) wasn't quite as delicious as being in their bed, so while I got the reassurance I needed, the appeal wore off a bit quicker.

Anywho, there's some ass-vice for you. Forgive me if it's unhelpful or you've already tried it to no success or whatevs.

Kelly said...

This post I love for selfish reasons. I am having and have always had problems with Cliff, my oldest, and sleep. its causing a problem in my relationship now and due to all the CRAP we'd gone through I am reluctant to force this issue. Forcing my way on him, like what you wrote, has never ever ever worked, not when he was 6 months old and I tried sleep training by the letter, by the book to the best of both of our abilities, and not when he was 5 and I just begged or bullied. Like your other child, he too has sadness issues. So both of your kids stories spoke to me and I thank you for writing them. I feel very alone in this aspect of parenting and I am over run with guilt. I seriously wish I could have tea with you right freaking now and cry this out.
I do try to make accommodations and then when we hit a good spot, something comes up to eff it up.

Your honest writing is a gift.
Wether its about your butt, or your cats, or your under couch region...I heart you!

(my word verification is poopr. Kelly, can you use that in a sentence? why yes, Yes I can. "Parenting can sometimes be such a poopr". )

Nicole said...

Equal treatment does not mean the same. It's kind of Marxist, really, "to each according to his need". But it's the way it needs to be - all kids need something special, but not necessarily the same special, right?

Party of 5 said...

I really love this post. That's all.

Linda said...

I love your ability to articulate your children's issues. Sometimes that is half the battle.

Although, I find this discussion so interesting right now in the midst of this book being published about why Chinese mothers are superior. Essentially it's how much they push thier children to succeed and minor emotional issues are virtually ignored. (That's what I've read from the newspaper articles - don't hate on me)
I find the difference in parenting styles fascinating - not that I agree that Chinese mothering is superior but that somewhere in the middle of our different eastern/western parenting styles lays some sort of wisdom. I'll attach the link. I don't think it will be helpful to your particular situation unfortunately but in case you're interested in reading...
http://www.emailthis.clickability.com/et/emailThis?clickMap=viewThis&etMailToID=1633766685

Superjules said...

When I was in HS my parents let me take a lot of 'mental health' days off from school because it was intense and hard and stressful and participating in sports and music programs were mandatory and I was commuting an hour each way. I NEEDED those days off just to get through it. They also let me have my comfort snack of toast with butter and jam as a snack whenever I wanted, even if it was right before dinner.

Go William, Go! You can do it :)

Naomi said...

I don't have children yet but when I do, I hope to be the kind of mom you are. Your children are lucky to have you.

Michelle said...

Haven't read any of the comments yet, but I just wanted to say I'm so glad you are talking about sleep issues! I keep meaning to ask you to blog about getting your children to sleep... I figure you've been around the block with different children/different issues and maybe have some advice or perspective for those of us in the thick of it (mine is a nine month old baby girl who never sleeps more than an hour or two at a time and spends most of the night in my bed!).

Jenny said...

I also try to make it funny, like Linda above. I tell my daughter, "We give you both what you need, not all the same things. If we did, your brother would be wearing your dresses! And you'd have a toddler bed!" Then they laugh and come up with other silly examples. It doesn't totally solve the Justice problem, but it helps.

Farrell said...

lots of stress, but sounds like you are doing a great job. I am almost 34 and get night sadness...

Misty said...

I see you've heard it a million times already, but really it is what I thought when reading this: My, aren't you a good mom? Wow. Props, girlfriend.

And similarly, my eldest has school stress and bedtime anxiety, too. It never occured to me just now that this is a 'thing' that I could try to help with. I try to reason with him, but it doesn't seem to work. I want him to just take a deep breath and deal with it, but maybe this is too much for him to deal with. Ug. See? You're so much better at this than I am.

ixBeths said...

I love this post. This is such an important thing, doing what's right for each kid, and it's such a fine balance to do this and also be "consistent" in whatever are the important ways.

Wendy said...

I'm so glad you blogged about this, since I am right there right now. My six year old has been having difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep since November. He is terrified that someone is going to break into our house and rob us. Every night it breaks my heart when he ends his prayers with "And please God make us very, very, very, very, very, very SAFE!" He cannot go to sleep unless I stay in the room. Plus, he was coming in three and four times a night. At the moment, we have been shifting hubby to the couch and letting the boy sleep with me, but I'm thinking about squeezing in a blow-up mattress now, so he can just come in and stop waking us.

You have reminded me, again, that this is a stage and there is no point stressing (I admit to the "OMG, just sleep in your own bed!" feeling another commenter voiced).

bluedaisy said...

Sleep issues-ugh! I have had every baby/child our bed at one or another. Because ultimately, I just want to go back to SLEEP. But I really like that sleeping bag idea mentioned above. I hope something works out so you can all rest a little bit easier!

RainyPM said...

I've been having fun catching up on old posts, and thought I'd make a couple of comments on this one - one trick that worked for my 4-year-old's night issues was we bought a little toy in packaging and taped it to the wall next to her door. She had to stay in her bed all night for 3 nights in a row, and then she could have the toy. She got a sticker each night she stayed in bed, so there was an immediate reward too.

I've decided that everything in our lives is a stage, but I think this helped end the night-wake stage earlier than letting it run its normal course.

I love fairness isn't sameness. Until now I've just been reminding the oldest that she got Mommy and Daddy to herself for over 3 years, so nothing will ever be fair to her younger brother and to stop complaining about fair, lol. Fairness isn't Sameness is so much nicer. ;)