“Bless me Father for I have sinned! It’s been six months since my last confession…” – NO!
“Hi Group, my name is Kieran and I’m a sleep deprived parent. I haven’t touched the pillow in two months now…” – NO!
I’m really at a loss for how to start this post. It feels half like a Catholic confession box and half like an AA meeting. Either way I feel like it’s something the neighbours would only love to have an ould bitch about or that I should be in some way embarrassed by. So, here I am sharing it all online, basking in the glory…My toddler has a sleep problem and it’s all my fault! Yes, he is nearly four and no, I am not a bad parent. Judge me as you will!
Like most kids he started in a Moses basket in our room but once he got too big for that we moved him into our bed – I guess that’s where we went wrong and the bad habits started! Initially, we didn’t realise the consequences of what we were doing. Sure we had read some parenting books and heard all sorts of different opinions from people but who is to say those authors or people are not complete lunatics themselves? I mean, everyone’s a bleedin’ expert when it’s not their own kid.
By the end of his first year things had descended into complete mayhem – think car explosions. I even remember climbing into the cot bed one night to sleep in it with him and I’m over six foot tall. Most nights we ran the zombie gauntlet that was the landing between our room and his. More often than not, I’d end up in the spare room – relegated by my own son!
All of this wasn’t helped by his eyebrow addiction. Diego never had a soother or a “blankie” but from a young age he would rub anyone’s eyebrow that was within arms reach. Sure, it was endearing but got so annoying and became such a problem. Eyebrows were his comfort blanket and he didn’t mind whose it was. The need for a good rub always got greater a bed time so if our eyebrows weren’t in the bed beside him…shit got ugly!
At various stages we tried different “sleep training” techniques. Controlled Crying worked for a while. After four nights of doing it we got four nights sleep before he had a complete relapse and regained control of the darkness. By that time we would be so knackered that we’d have no energy to start over and we’d agree to try again in a few weeks. Then we’d go off on holidays or have a wedding to go to at the weekend so we never got a clear run of a few weeks to try again – that amongst other lame excuses!
In all honesty, fine, it probably was our own lack of discipline and persistence that let things get so out of control. Mostly, I like to blame others for my problems but I’ll hold my hands up here – we were a wee bit lazy and gave him all of these bad habits ourselves. However, until you have been there in the middle of war torn sleepless nights, you have no idea what prolonged sleep deprivation can do to a person and a relationship. It’s no wonder that sleep deprivation was one of the more common torture techniques used in Guantanamo Bay!
Now, despite all of my admission above, Diego has had his own part to play in all of this too. He tries every trick in the book to keep us in the room or in his bed. He has pains in his legs, arms, eyes, teeth and hair. He started with scary wishes but now realises he should call them scary dreams. There are monsters in his room and the planets in the solar system I glued to his ceiling move around when I leave the room. At 1am he’ll need to do a poo that never appears and last week his Paddington Bear needed to do his very own poo – in the corner of the room. Kid’s imaginations are awesome!!
Fast forward to today. Diego will be four in April and it’s really time we sorted this out. At the moment we take turns putting him to bed. We almost have him weaned off the eyebrows and we at least have a routine in place.
We take him upstairs around 8, brush teeth, do a wee, put pyjamas on, pick a story and get into bed. The main problem here is we get into bed with him!! After the story we kiss him good night and roll over until he falls asleep – this can take from five minutes to an hour. He then inevitably wakes during the night, often more than once and one of us goes in to him. We have to get into the bed for him to fall asleep again and often drift off ourselves, only waking a 6am to go back to our own bed with the alarm going off at 7am. Parenting – you should try it – it’s a hoot!!
Over the Christmas holidays we resolved to turn things around and started telling him that he would be going to sleep on his own after story time. We wanted to prepare him for this change so repeated the plan for a few days so he would get used to the idea. WRONG – that just taught him new manipulation techniques and he invented even scarier monsters.
We have now let all of that die down and are ready to try again. D-Day is Friday and I have a new reward chart made up and a trip to the zoo and an Angry Birds toy will be his rewards. I read Dr. Christopher Green’s book, Toddler Taming, which has a great chapter on sleep problems with kids and Betty and I are both on the same page in terms of what’s in store for us.
Tomorrow I have a call scheduled with professional sleep expert, Niamh O’Reilly, who I met on the twitter machine and she is going to give us some much needed guidance and support. She is a real life version of the Super Nanny from the TV and is the “Sleep Expert” on EUMom.ie so we have really high hopes. We can’t and won’t fail this time. The night will be ours again and we will reclaim the darkness. Roll on Friday and the rest of our dramatic little lives!