I’ll admit last week was not my favorite one. I didn’t think it would ever end. Owen and Della have been getting sick back-to-back for weeks. Just when I think they’re healthy, they come down with something else. Their little bodies have been through the wringer between fevers, coughing, endless snot, and vomit. Della hit the four month sleep regression (so now she wakes up every 2-3 hours at night, which really isn’t all that bad) and Owen has once again gotten himself so sleep deprived he looks like a zombie all the time.
I’ve threatened to write a post about Owen’s sleep habits (or lack thereof) for almost two years now but I honestly don’t know what I’d write. I’ve tried to put it into words so. many. times. When it comes down to it, he’s a very very strong-willed, intelligent, little guy who simply has a hard time shutting down his brain. He quite literally hates sleep and doesn’t like to waste any time doing it. Lately, no matter what time he goes to bed, he wakes up sometime between 4:00-5:00 am. And he’s up at least once or twice in the night, usually with a night terror but lately in a coughing fit because he’s still fighting a cold. You wouldn’t know he’s sleep deprived because he goes 100 mph all day long.
Bedtime is a battle of the wills. He will do anything he can to keep himself awake. You’ve heard about the kids who manipulate their parents to get more time – another book, a drink of water, and so forth – but that’s not Owen. We read our usual bedtime books, I turn out the light and sit by his bed while rubbing or patting his back. Sometimes when he’s so absolutely tired, he will succumb to sleep fairly easily. But if he sets his mind to it, bedtime can take up to 2 hours. He’ll pinch his neck (see the first picture), he’ll thrash about in bed, he’ll sing, babble, whatever it takes to keep himself awake. When he gets goofy and silly like that, I become short-tempered. I know how tired he is. I know how badly he needs sleep. So I leave the room to collect myself and he completely melts down – I’m talking about a full-fledged tantrum. I go back in, try to settle him down and we start all over until he simply can’t go anymore and falls asleep. I can count on one hand the number of times he’s fallen asleep without me in the room. I could go into so much more detail describing this process. I know his tricks, I know his cues, I know what works and what doesn’t. It’s an art and I’m a professional toddler sleep wrangler.
Before you start giving me suggestions, you should know that I have tried everything. I’ve read the books, I’ve Googled, talked to other moms, I have tried stickers, coins, all of the bribes, tough love (with the exception of locking him in his room which I refuse to do), he doesn’t watch TV, co-sleeping, earlier bedtime, later bedtime, essential oils, nothing really works. I’ve even taken him to the doctor who ruled out adenoid problems, autism, and gave him a clean bill of health. I would give anything to take him to a pediatric sleep therapist. ANYTHING. But that’s not an option for us here. The only thing I haven’t tried is a diet change. I’ve read about the impact diet can have on their temperament and it interests me. I have no idea how to even begin changing his diet especially when his second least favorite activity besides sleeping is eating.
Regardless of my failed attempts, he views sleep as a form of torture. I beat myself up over it. Where did I go wrong? What have I done that made him like this? Alex and my mom, being my biggest supporters, remind me that it is nothing I’ve done. And I really do believe it’s just how he is but it’s so easy to blame myself. I don’t want there to be anything wrong with him. I don’t want someone to give me a diagnosis or an explanation. He’s just Owen. But I do wish that someone could help me help him. Do you know how difficult it can be to live with an overtired toddler day after day? Everything becomes a battle. Some days, he’s so cranky that I have to limit his play to just books because his toys frustrate him too easily.
So, I am one exhausted mama. Between the two of them, I’m not really getting any sleep.
Della is a completely different baby. I can put her in her crib to throw in a load of laundry and if she’s fed, wearing a clean diaper, and it’s within 30 minutes of nap time, she’ll be asleep before I come back to get her. Before the sleep regression hit, she was sleeping from 7 pm to 3 am straight and she gets up for the day around 7 am. They always say if one kid is extreme, the next will be completely opposite. I prayed this would be the case for us. I love everything about Owen, so I don’t mean this in an adverse way but I can’t handle two of him, no way. God knows that and He gave us Della. She’s such an angel but I have this funny feeling that when they’re teenagers, I’ll be dragging Owen out of bed to get ready for school, and Della will be even more of a drama queen than I ever was. Oh well, I had that coming to me anyway. Heh, heh…
Parenthood. The scariest hood you’ll ever go through. We got lost in Detroit once when we were on a road trip with some friends and I felt compelled to lay down in the backseat of the car (no joke) for my own safety. This whole parenting gig is a million times scarier than that, in a much different way of course. I love being a mom, even the worst parts of it. There’s definitely an ugly side of motherhood that no one talks about. There have been nights that I’ve cried into my glass of wine after putting the kids to bed, feeling guilty. I know it is always going to be challenging and I also know “this too shall pass.” There are endless sweet moments to make up for the difficult times and I try to always be present in the moment so not to miss them. These two have taught me so much about myself and I am grateful to be their mama. No matter what the struggle of the day is, tomorrow is a new day. When I go to bed each night, I tell myself that tomorrow I will be a better mother. I will be more patient and I pray for God’s guidance to be all that I can for them. Even on my most trying, difficult days when my fuse is short, my patience is thin, and my expectations of my two year old are much much too high, they remind me that I’m still their number one. I am their security blanket, their safe place, a warm cozy hug and a big kiss whenever they need one. I am their everything and they’re mine. Kids are so amazing in that way, they’re so loving and quick to forgive. Owen can spend the entire day fighting me but when he slips his little hand into mine as he falls asleep, I know he loves me even more than he did yesterday. I promise him I’ll be stronger for him tomorrow.
Alex is hardly around during the week, his work hours are still pretty insane (he’s in an upgrade but the end is in sight) so when we get time together on the weekend we cherish it. When Alex is around, Owen sleeps less. It’s just how it is. I’m usually pretty strict about Owen eating healthy meals and sleeping but Owen loves spending time with Alex and so I relax a bit on the weekends. Yesterday, despite overtired Owen and all the meltdowns, we had a really pretty good day. After waking up much too early and taking a 15 minute nap, we decided rather than fight all the battles at home, we’d get out and soak up some sunshine.
We went to a local park, spread out a blanket, and enjoyed the day. I caught glimpses of my Owen, the one who isn’t irritable and tired (in between long blinks and eye rubs). He’s still in there, behind the bags under his eyes, and the red marks on his neck from the pinching. It makes me happy to see him back to his usual self every so often and reminds me to be strong to help him get back to that. I love how happy, energetic, spunky, and hilarious he is when he’s not tired.
And Della absolutely loved laying the blanket, watching the clouds, birds, and trees dance in the wind. She loved watching the dogs playing fetch, and taking in all the sights.
And everyone loved all the good daddy time!
I hope you all enjoyed your weekend and got more sleep than I did!! 🙂