Friday, October 26, 2012

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance

I'm in mourning.

I think I'm in the middle stages of the grieving process, somewhere between bargaining and depression.

I've lost my afternoon break. The glorious 2-4 hours when Ellie took a nap and I could do what I wanted. I napped. I read. I made myself an espresso. I watched a guilty pleasure TV show. I crafted. I cleaned. I caught up on emails. I prepped for dinner. I did nothing. Whatever I did, it was MY time to recharge. Alone. Quiet. Ahhhhhhh.

And now....

I can't say it's 100% gone, but it's morphing. Since we returned from our trip to Oregon Ellie has stopped napping. I can blame it on our switch to the toddler bed, or maybe potty training, or maybe turning two. Regardless, this has been hard for me to accept, which is probably why it's the last stage of grief. Instead, I was trying to force sleep. You can't force sleep. Duh. I'm a very light, restless sleeper, so I know that willing sleep isn't enough to make it happen, especially on a squirrely, stubborn two-year old. But oh, how I've tried.

I've tried ignoring her, I've tried not letting her out of bed, I've tried laying down next to her. I've tried taking away toys. I've tried threats of losing out on fun post-nap activities. Nothing is working.

On Tuesday I experienced a little something I'd call a classic mom-of-a-toddler meltdown. I was frustrated and had lost all patience in the nap time department. I believe I was in the denial stage. I was hanging on to every shred of nap time possibility I could. Ellie was constantly getting out of bed to play and I had tried all of the above, and then some. I found myself getting truly angry and fired up. To be honest, I was outraged and afraid of letting my anger get the best of me. I had to leave her alone to calm down, but not without some tears on my part. We've chosen not to spank for several reasons, but I felt on the verge of desperation and physical restraint. I called Michael sobbing because I was scared of my own frustration and anger. I needed a breather. To talk it out. To change my attitude towards naps. Something. Anything. My sanity was slowing ebbing away and something needed to change.

(I don't want to explain the complex reasons we don't spank in this post. If you're curious, for a little further reading from a Biblical perspective on why NOT to spank, using the same references most Christians use to justify spanking, click here.)

I realize naps for Ellie might be mostly in the past. She has fallen asleep in the car a few late afternoons after she hasn't napped, but the lack of sleep doesn't seem to make her cranky. I'll take that. She will still have quiet time where she can read books in bed or play quietly. I still need my time to recharge. So does she. What I've had to let go of is waiting until she falls asleep to relax. It used to take her up to an hour or more to fall asleep followed by a minimum 2-3 hour nap, and I held my breath until I knew she was out before I really let my hair down. Now I just need to close the door and use my shorter time as best as I can.

The other battle is that this is the only time of day Ellie has accidents. I can't figure out if it's a control issue, as in, she's using her wet accidents as an excuse to get out of her room, or, if she doesn't understand that she can communicate her need to go potty while in her room. I've tried explaining this several times in various ways, to no avail. This only adds to the frustration that has become my afternoons.

Today I will choose to count my blessings. At least Hazel is usually napping during this afternoon quiet time. This is still my time and I can use it well. Only now instead of complete silence I hear the chattering of my two-year old as she reads and talks to herself in the next room.

I'm choosing to release my expectations and control of the afternoon. I still look forward to nap time, or I should say "quiet time," but not in the same way. Ellie still hasn't taken a nap in days, but the time she's in her room is much more peaceful and respectful. I'm not losing my sanity trying to force the impossible and have accepted the reality of the situation. Maybe I've made it to the acceptance stage after all. Good-bye, glorious long naps. You'll be missed.

Today during nap time I was able to wash dishes, start some laundry, make myself a coffee (though it turned cold before I finished it), and write this post. I was only interrupted a handful of times due to things like two wet accidents and a toddler tantrum that woke up my sleeping baby in the next room, and ended with a bit more quiet time. It has yet to be determined if my awakened baby will fall back asleep, or that I'll finish my coffee. Here's to hoping. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Changes Continue

As a parent I find myself questioning decisions. Big decisions. Small decisions. It's partly my personality but I think it's common for parents to constantly wonder if we are doing a good job. At the least we hope we aren't doing extensive damage to our kids, though I'm fairly certain that some of what I'm doing is affecting her for better or for worse. I am human, after all, and parents aren't perfect.

Ellie has experienced a lot of changes recently. A few short months ago a baby sister showed up. Then we said good-bye to diapers and started potty training. She's doing great with that and only had a few accidents while we were on our recent trip to Oregon. Since we've been home her only accidents have been during nap time. She's doing really well for a just-turned two-year old and I need to remind myself of that in moments of toddler tantrum-related exasperation. I'm very proud of my big girl and sometimes need to take a step back and realize she's a remarkable little girl who adapts rather quickly to life changes.

The two most recent changes happened on the same night, and for that reason might as well be called what it is: a parenting blunder. We took down Ellie's crib.  She seemed OK with this until bedtime when I also introduced her to a cloth pull-up instead of her regular nighttime diaper. As she realized her diaper AND her "big bed" were gone a meltdown ensued. Eventually we all calmed down and she fell asleep. She woke up at 1AM in the middle of her floor crying and traumatically upset. After several minutes I finally got her calmed down and back to sleep. I laid awake in bed for another two hours second-guessing this next milestone. 

"Are we pushing her too soon?" I asked Michael. I ask this at the beginning of every new change that leaves behind babyhood: weaning the pacifier, potty training, and now upgrading to a toddler bed. 

The next day she was excited to play a bit during nap time but eventually fell asleep. That night she had no problem laying in her bed. One day. It basically took her one day to adjust. Just like it only took a few days for the pacifier. And just like she adjusted to a new sister and potty training relatively quickly. I have to remember that Ellie usually has a strong, often emotional reaction to any new change. Routines are VERY important to her sense of security and well-being, but she also adjusts much more quickly than I expect.

We traveled to Oregon for a few weeks and we all shared a room. I was nervous for the girls to be in the same room because I didn't want them waking each other.  They both slept through the other's crying moments, including some deafening toddler tantrums at bedtime. We came home and the girls are now officially in the same room at night.  I still keep Hazel in our room for naps. They are doing great and this transition, though slightly forced on us because of our travel situation, has gone smoothly.  I should stop being surprised.

I am learning how part of being a parent is attempting, as best as I can, to be confident in my decisions and to go with my gut. I just blinked and my little baby Ellie has become a full-fledged toddler (we just celebrated her 2nd birthday!). She is funny, extremely verbal, intelligent, and a quick learner. She's fully potty trained (besides bedtimes), knows all of her colors and all of her alphabet letters. She loves to take care of Hazel and is already a proud, big sister.

I have several reasons to stop doubting how we're "doing" as parents, but I have a feeling that won't ever go away. Or maybe it will. But I doubt it. Probably. Yup.