Friday, August 5, 2011

Processing Sleep...Boundaries...And Other Things

I need to process THIS POST from over at Demand Euphoria

I like her blog. I try to "tune in" when I get a chance...She's got some challenging thoughts and ideas, and I like to think outside the box.

Some of the things she talked about we do because that's what our instincts dictate.

While I agree with her on media (more in a moment) and food...And a few other unschooly-ideas I don't really jive with the idea of "radical" unschooling. There are few things (actually only One) in life I am willing to be radical in.

That really isn't what this post is about. I wanted to process some of my parenting philosophy. She has her family, and they are called to do what their conscience rules. And I bet you, a lot of things that they are finding at this point in their journey will be different in 5 years...We are always learning, growing and changing...And I respect the journey her family is on.

This is about MY family. And any comparisons I make between hers and mine... Are mainly just my processing...

With that said...FOOD
 We are very similar in our food habits. We make sure we keep healthy stuff in the house...If our kids want "cookies" for breakfast, there is nothing in those cookies that'll hurt them (and yet, they are yuuuumy!). If they don't want to eat dinner when we're eating dinner, they're plate will wait (or they can choose from our limited pantry options: oatmeal, yogurt, or fruit).
We don't keep junk around the house (for financial as well as health reasons). Hubs and I, having been raised in homes where hot and horrible battles were drawn at meal times, aren't going there. EVER.
Our beautiful children are both growing well, and we have good and yummy supplements (which we make available to them- and they enjoy taking).

Bottom line, they won't die if they live on apples and oatmeal cookies for a few days... Or raisins and cheese on others...Or like today: popcorn was our main staple. :0. 

The thing I struggle with is her ideas on sleep. If it works for her family, that's awesome. But I (and even most "crunchy" pediatricians would agree with me) really think young children need routine and boundaries...Hold on here, hear me out.

The first year of my baby's life I let them sleep however they like (though we keep night time dark and I try to keep time when they are asleep during the day restful and nap-ish)...Some time around the second half of the first year...Or into the second year of life, they start to find a little rhythm to their sleep. I respect that rhythm and make sure they get rest at that time of day (even if it still changes quite often)...As they drop naps I shift expectations and times around so that they are getting sleep when they are tired. At some point I can usually pinpoint a specific "time" of day that will be nap time... Eventually that "time" is officially "Nap Time"

Some times they go through stages of not wanting to nap. It's part of being a toddler/preschooler: how much power do I have? Where do the boundary lines fall? Do I really need this? They are always experimenting! Most of the time they discover this via natural consequences,

I run where I was told  it was only safe to walk, I fell and scraped my knee. 

I rock the rocking chair really hard it falls backwards and I hit my head.

I don't use the potty I have messy clothes. 

Some times it's inforced by us as the parent.

I scream inside, I get placed in my room and told to scream there. (screaming isn't okay inside).

I hurt a family member I need to take some space until I am either in a better mood, or can control my body. It's okay to take space. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to be angry...I take space.

I believe parents DO have a job. The idea of unparenting is, in my humble opinion, extreme. Parents job as I see it? 1) to keep their children safe. 2) to set them up for success (and have reasonable/fair expectations) and 3) to respectfully hold boundaries that are in place for the health of the whole family.

I don't expect a newborn, or even and infant to be regularly be asleep by midnight...I don't expect that they won't wake up at 2am and for who knows what reason, be awake for a few hours. But by the time they are a toddler I expect that their brain will have matured to the point where sleep will have fallen into some pattern...And I work life and schedule in such a way that those sleepy times are respected and nurtured. Even (or especially) when those times are not convenient to me.

My kids are naturally early risers...My whole family was growing up: perhaps it's genetic? But because they like to be up by 6 every morning that means they are getting tired and needing rest by noon at the latest every day. This isn't convenient to me. But I prefer my children still nap (I feel even if I could get them to sleep later [and believe me I've tried] they still need nap)Most morning playdates or meetings don't start until 10:30 or 11. Which means about an hour in my kids are wearing out. It usually means one or both of them are melting down or screaming by the time we leave those things. It some times means that some weeks (when we've been having a bad week) we don't do morning things.

But I respect their natural sleep cycles...down with the sun, up with the sun: and rest at mid day. That's what they've done on their own...And while I could maybe (and have attempted at different points) move things around with some work, it always falls back to this rhythm.

That said. As the adult, I also have an understanding of child development. I understand that they will see and experiment with every thing. Including how long they can stay up. How much control over their lives they have.  And I want them to feel that they have choices, control, options and freedom. But I also, as the adult, am responsible for the health and tone of the whole family. And I know that we will all pay -as a family- if they skip naps. Also, I know as Mama at this point in my life, I need those nap times...I'm growing a baby and I need that quiet mid day to rest (and I usually sleep too). This means I have to be really strict about  enforcing rest times.
Can I force them to sleep? No. But I do know they need it. I am a lot older and wiser, and the on who has to put up with be around their napless selves. So they will lay in their beds and rest at "nap time". I don't tell them how they should act, I don't shame or punish. But sleep or no sleep they stay in that room and rest.  

So far? They always fall asleep, even if it's just for 30 minutes.

Our family needs that rhythm and order to our days.  Toddlers and preschoolers brains are developing in such a way where they literally thrive on order...They love to look for it, find it, or create it in almost every thing they do. Even from as early as 18mos they like to know "what comes next" ever day. Friendly, not quite 2 knows when it's nap time and starts talking about what we'll do before we go to sleep.  When it comes to sleep, we are willing to stay with our littles, they aren't forced to be in isolation..Be it nap time or bedtime they have choices and we'll be with them.But the boundary is: night is for sleep. I start telling them that at 6mos old (while I nurse, pat and comfort and hold the boundary by keeping it dark and quiet).

SShhhh sweet baby, night is for sleep...shhhsh.

I really and maybe it's my type-A-ness coming out. But I couldn't personally function if my child was allowed to nap 4-7pm and then up until 2 or 3 a.m. I don't think (and a lot of sleep research would back me up) wonky sleep rhythms are healthy for anyone. And as the parent I couldn't let my young preschooler or toddler alone roaming the house (not saying DE does this!) in the middle of the night: which would mean *I* (or my dear hubs) would have to be up supervising. We have  responsibilities during the day, and while we're more than willing to be up at night with a sick or scared child... We are NOT willing to pander to their every whim. We will gladly let them make choices (it's time for bed, what do you want to do first brush your teeth? or use the potty? or What do you want take with you for the night?)...and even some times negotiate (yes, you may watch one more short video if you're not tired enough yet...But after this it is bed time.)

If our kids nap at 5pm we know the "awake all night"  scenerio is on the table...At the very least, up until 11pm which is just not okay for us. Because they'll be up at 6a.m. regardless of their bedtime...up at 6a.m. and miserably grouchy all morning long.
So we keep them awake if they are acting tired at 4pm. We keep the early evening calm and comfortable as possible and put them down as soon as we feel safe they will sleep well (or decently) at night (6ish pm). But honestly? This doesn't happen because we consistently [at roughly the same time every day] make sure we are making time and space for them to get rest. Even if that means missing out on a trip or showing up late to an afternoon at the park or pool. It's a season, missing fun sucks...But for the sake and sanity and healthy tone for *our* family we have those boundaries in place.

This is some thing I've struggled with recently. Every family is different, but it feels like I have the only early risers in my circle of friends. The only kids who have to nap at noon sharp or all co-operation and safety  (if we're out and they are acting punch drunk from being ready for nap) are hanging by a thread. It's been hard to come late, or miss out entirely because my kids were up at 5:30 and had a rough morning and I know heading out at 10:30 is just going to be met with and ugly (and so not worth it) tantrum or other craziness by 11.

Setting your kids up for success isn't about controlling them, or making sure every scenario will go perfectly. But it is about making sure they can behave appropriately for the setting (we don't go to the library right after nap when they have lots of energy), have fun, and stay safe (we don't go to a park  or playground when they are getting tired and tend to be less coordinated or don't "stay close" [aka run away] and follow the park rules).

While I very much agree with her about screen time/media exposure.. Just this afternoon my kids were in their bedroom jumping off the trampoline onto the "pillow mountains" and then running back into the living room later to watch "their favorite part" of  "Nemo". If I feel they are watching "too much" TV, I offer other activities...But if they're having a down day, or really prefer TV to some thing else (so rare) than so be it. I strongly believe in really almost every thing thing kids will self-regulate...But I do offer boundaries and other options when I feel that they are necessary. That's my job as their parent. 

My kids are expected to bathe when they get stinky...It's the same for brushing teeth. I want my children to learn to listen and recognize what they need, to learn and discover things that interest them. But I also want them to learn that there whether we like it or not: there are outside forces and unfortunately cultural expectations that they will have to comply with. And if they can't comply, I help them, protect them, and set them up for success until they can.

We all have to do things in life that we don't like. I believe it's good for them to deal with disappointments, and occasionally do things that aren't what they would choose to do. I don't dictate how they should behave or feel when I know they are struggling with a situation. They don't have to like it, but that doesn't change the fact that whatever is at hand, has to be done.  I feel that (some times) exposing  them to things that they don't choose, teaches a different kind of self-knowledge...Character.

I want this for my children. I also want to raise adults who can hear what their instincts and conscience are calling them too...Adults who have a strong sense of right and wrong and His Voice. Adults who can do the right thing even when it doesn't feel good (though they do it because they know deep in side they must, not out of shame or guilt, but love). Adults who are aware that they always have a choice.

That said, with all things, balance.

All things balance...

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