Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bedtime Angst

Ok, so I was coming here to vent yesterday but got sidetracked. Probably a good thing because there may have been several four-letter words. See, I decided to try to train Micah, otherwise known as Baby-who-will-only-sleep-on-someone’s (usually Mommy but Daddy will do) chest. They, whoever “they” are, say babies his age should be able to sleep through the night and you can start sleep training once they reach 6 months of age. 

So I’ve been trying to put him down in the crib more. To no avail. But Valentine’s Day night (don’t ask me why I picked that particular night) I decided I was going to try in earnest. I read some in Baby Sleeping for Dummies or whatever the book is called. I did the bedtime routine and decided I would leave the room for five minutes and then come in and comfort him for five minutes. I thought I could keep doing this until I wore him down and he fell asleep. Um, no.

Our baby doesn’t just cry. He howls, he screams, the kid even rolls his R’s when he’s upset. Ken says it’s the worst cry he’s ever heard on a baby. Now he’s no baby expert. I mean, we have 2 kids; we’re not the Duggers or anything. Still. He sounds like he’s totally distressed and it’s really hard to listen to for more than a minute or two. But I kept trying. For awhile. Finally, I had to get some sleep. Long story, short. (Well, sort of.) The harder I try to get him to sleep on his own, the LESS sleep I and everyone get. So yesterday I was exhausted. Plus I was getting a cold. Brilliant idea, I know. That’s where the four-letter words would’ve come in. But I’ve had time to get some distance, so I will spare you.

So what do I read yesterday after this abysmal night's sleep? An article about gentle parenting. Ouch. And then a question.  If you were the baby, what would YOU want? Ouch again. I wouldn’t want to scream hysterically and be ignored, that’s for sure. Even just for five minutes. And the more I read, the more I realized I’m trying to force something that’s not working. Obviously, he’s not ready to go from sleeping on us to being put down alone in a dark room. And the truth is that we all get a reasonable amount of sleep the way we’ve been doing it. The problem comes when I can’t get up even for a couple minutes to do something like go to the bathroom in the middle of the night or get a snack.

Problem is, we want cookie-cutter answers for our parenting dilemmas. Believe me, I’d love to follow this 3-step plan and have my baby sleeping on his own through the night. Somehow I think if I read and research and try hard enough, I will stumble on some magical solution that will work for my kid. But babies are human beings. And human beings are unique. Don’t we tell our kids this all the time? “Be yourself. We’re all different.” So why do I think I can find easy solutions to parenting problems?

My kid *is* unique. There are no formulas. Except maybe to observe your child, evaluate your options, maybe even think outside the box and see what works for your particular situation and child. And then experiment.

So what happened last night? Well, I was way too tired to do anything like sleep training. Ken gave me a couple hours off and he took Micah so I could sleep by myself for 3 hours. Then I took over at midnight. Guess what? Micah didn’t even wake up until after 3 am. So we ended up getting a much better night’s sleep. Happy Happy Mom here. 

Am I ever going to get him sleeping in his own bed? I honestly don’t know at this point. What I do know is that I’m going to try to focus on compassion and kindness in looking for parenting solutions. And I’m going to work with my unique kid and what he needs to find those solutions. No stressing about what I *should* be doing. No formulas. (But if you find one for sleeping through the night, I’d still like to hear it.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

February Goals

Well, now that it's mid-February, I guess it's past time to blog about my February goals. :-) So I've been plodding along on the January ones and did okay. I did some writing on my novel, though I never sat down and counted to see if I wrote 15 pages last month. And I've been blogging a little more. As far as the meditating every day, I pretty much did that. One practice that I have found helpful is one I got from Joyce Meyer. She suggested "getting dressed" spiritually every morning just like we would get dressed physically. I've typed up some verses, encouraging statements, etc. that I go over and/or say aloud each morning. Things like "This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it." Or "I WILL keep my peace today. I WILL find the humor in my day." Even some inspirational parenting tips. It's a way of setting my mind, of making up my mind to be positive. Goodness knows I struggle with enough negative thoughts. This is a very good way to intentionally combat the negativity that can easily creep up on me. So I'm definitely continuing with that. 

For February, I'm continuing with a lot of the same I was working on for January. Trying to write a page a day on my novel and adding a couple of Textbroker articles. Then I've added one more - to clean off this very cluttered table in the kitchen. It's driving me nuts and maybe in a month of working on it a little at a time, I can get it done. Yeah. We'll see.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Family Dysfunction and Lessons to be Learned

I recently had a relative to pass away. He was a good Christian man who did a lot of selfless things. He was inspirational in a lot of ways - he had compassion for others and gave generously to those in need. But sometimes those that need us the most are right in front of us. I say this, not to disrespect this person, but to try to take something I found hurtful and learn lessons from it. Instead of becoming bitter and angry.

How often are we kinder to friends and even strangers than we are to our spouses or children? I'm in no way saying we should not reach out to others - the poor, the less fortunate, the people Jesus commanded us to take care of. He talks about caring for the poor and widows over and over in Scripture. Obviously, this is very important stuff. But does it have to be to the exclusion of those closest to us? Does it mean we neglect our own family in the process? What does it mean when a person does good things for the needy but leaves his own family wondering if they mattered to him? 

As I heard story after story of how this man cared for people he barely knew, I couldn't help but wonder, 'So why didn't you care about me? Was I not important to you? *Why* was *I* not important to you?' Selfish, I know. But that's what I was thinking. It hurt. It felt like a slap in the face. I felt cheated. 

Those kinds of questions don't ever really end up in a good place. I realize that dwelling on them doesn't do much good. There's no way I can answer them now that he is gone. I'm sure I did matter to him - he just didn't feel the need or see the importance of showing it. And I never felt it. I'm sure he did the best he could in the situation he was in. 

I'm sure there are varying reasons for his lack of interest in my life. It probably wasn't intentional. But one thing I know - after I'm gone (or even while I'm still here) I don't want those around me wondering if they mattered to me. I want them to KNOW they did. I want to tell them, I want to show them. I don't want to leave any doubts.

Are we always going to do the right thing? Probably not. Are we always going to even know what to do or say? No. Will we make mistakes? Yes. Will we be misunderstood? Maybe. Dealing with family and family dysfunction can be more than slightly difficult. But I would much rather be the one who at least makes the effort. I don't want to be guilty of sitting in my safe little world. Doing nothing. Thinking I'm being neutral. Or so scared of making mistakes or looking foolish that I do nothing. Because the truth is, when it comes to family, there *is* no such thing as being neutral. We WILL have an influence. We can choose to make a little effort so it will be a positive influence. Or we can choose to make very little to no effort and have a negative impact. As with most things in life, we DO have a choice.

I do not want to contribute to the pattern of indifference, neglect and isolation in our family, so I choose to sometimes do the harder thing, the inconvenient thing. It may mean risking rejection at times. Not everyone responds when we reach out. But at least they will know I cared enough to try.