Sleepless nights, refusing to breastfeed, teething, whining, sickness… It’s all “just a stage.” How often have we told ourselves this? How often have we questioned the length of a stage? What is a stage?
In the the first few months of parenting, a stage feels like a lifetime. I remember wondering if teething lasted 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months. No one had the answer and every kid is different. I don’t know how many times over the last couple years I have wondered when this stage or that will end. I’ve questioned if my kids were forever changed or if they would soon be back to the angels I once knew. Thankfully, so far, mood swings, inappropriate behavior, testing boundaries, sleep disturbances- they’ve all been stages. They’ve all passed. Tears were shed from both me and my littles, but by the end of the stage we were both stronger, better and more full of hope for the time to come.
Most recently, my four year old went through some major sleep disturbances. Bedtime was filled with tears, frustrations and anxiety. She had to go to the bathroom countless times, would jingle her bedroom door knob or would sit at the top of the stairs when all the lights were finally turned out. No amount of reasoning, discipline, removing rewards seemed to be the key to get her to stay in her room.
Bedtime wasn’t our only issue, in the middle of the night I would find her standing over my face. “What’s wrong, Nor!?” I would ask as I jumped up. All I got in return was a dazed, mumbling response. Finally, she would muster the words and ask me to just day “night night, Princess.” After 2 weeks, I was frustrated and tired… why can moms never zone back to sleep the way dads do after a disturbance? I just wanted to sleep through the night again, I wanted a happy girl in the morning. Norah had more than conquered the middle of the night waking to go potty and go back to bed. So, why was she now waking me too??
After searching blogs and researching, I did learn that around age 4 kids often start asking to sleep with their parents, fear becomes more real and their brains are firing a lot of information from their day. People had used techniques like re-doing a bedroom, offering a night light or even allowing their kids to crawl into bed with them for a bit. I didn’t feel like any of these were an option for us- we just re-did Norah’s big girl room and she loves it, she has a night light and she never wants to sleep with us… she really does love her big girl room. I was tired of feeling frustrated with this little girl I love so much, so we decided to do a couple things:
1. Pray- seriously, I was crying out to God in the middle of the night asking for wisdom.
2. Talk- we talk to our kids about everything. Explain situation, expectations, and feelings. I explained to our 4 year old that after I say good night to her, I wouldn’t leave her. I would be downstairs doing “whatever I wanted to do.” I told her laundry, dishes, sno shack emails and even watching a “Mommy TV show” were all things I might do. When she was a Mommy she could do whatever she wanted at bedtime. She thought for a bit and then said, “Okay, when I’m a Mommy, I’ll take your car and go to the sno shack and THEN, I’ll come back and watch TV with you.” 🙂
3. Onaroo Clock– our four year old likes to know what is going on. She likes limits, rules and knowing expectations. This clock is great for her- it lights up green when she can wake up and leave her room. In the middle of the night, she is reminded that her clock isn’t green and in the morning she comes out shrieking and holding her clock because she is so proud of herself!
4. Time- seriously… maybe this was just a stage? Maybe it was a “wonder week” before a growth spurt? Maybe it was just part of turning four and trying to establish independent behavior? Either way, this “stage” has passed, just like the others always do. My four year old is back to being a great sleeper and a happy waker. And, I’m back to being a rested Mommy (with a voice). If we talked last week, you heard how my continuous lack of sleep stole my voice :).