Frank and I ate breakfast in semi-silence the other day. His offense? He asked if I had a rough night’s sleep.
Don’t even ask me about sleep until Elle is five years old!!!! I grumped.
Even on good nights, when both girls go down easily and sleep (mostly) through the night (What does “through the night” even mean? Until 6:00? 7:00? What time do you go to sleep to count it?) I think it will take a decade of beautiful, elusive, uninterrupted sleep to make me feel like I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep.
A friend who’s pregnant with her first asked which sleep book we liked most – BabyWise, Happiest Baby, Sleep Solutions? I laughed and said, If someone has figured out the magic cure for sleep, there’d only be one book for sale!
It’s funny how much emphasis we place on sleep, especially during the first year. Something I learned from Bea is that, once we got into a routine, something would throw it off. Teeth… Growth spurt… Big kid bed… Potty training… Anything and everything would disturb her sleep. Elle has always seemed like a better sleeper, but it may be that our standards for good sleep are so much lower this time around.
Before he left for work, we briefly talked. It wasn’t about the sleep so much as it’s about me. I would have responded so much differently if he had greeted me with a simple Good morning or I love you or something similarly meaningful-yet-benign.
I recently read an article on NPR about parents who sleep poorly. Apparently, they tend to think their kids are sleeping worse than they actually are. I get that. We project our own restlessness onto the times our kids get up. (Though, to be fair, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect a three-year-old to stay in bed during the night. I could be way off, though.)
The article – and our focus on sleep these days – had me thinking about how we project our own frustrations or worries or stresses onto others. How we can magnify these own areas in our lives onto our children.
When we’ve had a super-busy day, if dinnertime seems chaotic. When Bea has held it together so well for others, she falls apart with us. When Frank is stressed about work – either when he comes home or because he hasn’t left early enough – it seems like the girls are moving slower or requiring extra attention. I’m sure it’s about the same – it just seems different because we’re projecting our own frustrations.
I was talking with a friend about sleep recently. We were saying how frustrating it is when the baby sleeps through the night and the big kid is the one to wake up with a need. Our shot at sleep ruined from the one who should know better!!
We were talking about people we know with kids in the next stage – that magical age when they can brush their own teeth, take their own baths, get ready without prompting or hand-holding. It’ll be here before I know it and I’ll look back on the days of one more story with fondness (I hope!)
Until then, I need to recognize that it isn’t just about good sleep or bad sleep or sleeping “through” the night. It’s about seeing the bigger picture. That sleep is an indicator of well-being. That our kids can take out their stresses in sleep and rather than be frustrated, I need to stop and look at indicators.
Maybe, if I’m more attuned to the possible whys behind the girls’ sleep patterns, perhaps I’ll view my own sleep patterns differently, as well.
And to parents in the midst of newborn-baby-toddler-preschooler-whatever-challenge-comes-next sleep challenge: All I can offer is solidarity. Rumor has it, we’ll get through this and onto new unknown challenges.
Were your kids good sleepers or did you look for help from books and other parents? Are you a night owl or early riser – did your kids match up with you?