Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sleepless nights

I talked briefly with a parent who is feeling overwhelmed by the demands of 24 hours - 7 days a week. Parenting is a huge commitment. I don't believe we ever really understand the impact of this until we are right in the middle of it. When do we sleep when we have a child who is wakeful much of the night.

Sleep needs vary... theirs and ours! Some babies sleep through the night from nearly the beginning. Others seems to sleep rarely. We had one of those. He didn't "sleep through the night"- which really means a 5-6 hour stretch of time - until nearly 2, and even then it was rare. Even when he was an older preschooler, he frequently climbed into our bed in the middle of night. He knew which side of the bed to get into. Can you guess? If he climbed in on my side, he would get a few snuggles then I took him back to his own bed. If he got in next to dad, he may last the rest of the night. I couldn't sleep at all with his wiggles. And he grew out of naps by 2. Occasionally he was so tired by dinner time that he would fall asleep in his food. Then we knew we were in trouble, because after a two hour nap, he would be up from about 8pm until midnight.

Sleep deprivation is crazy making. Without enough sleep, it is impossible to function on "all cylinders." We are grumpy. We can't organize our thoughts. We live as if in a constant fog. We were not meant to raise children in isolation. In tribal communities, there are many hands available to tend to children's needs. Even though most of us do not live in these kinds of social groups, the message is still clear: We need support. We need help. We are not supposed to tough it out and raise kids alone. These times will pass, but in the middle of it, the end is not in sight. To survive these times, in addition to support, it can also help to lower our expectations about what we can realistically do in a day. And rest when the kids do!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Finding enjoyment in the little things

In this very mobile world, when many find themselves separated from loved ones and extended family members by many miles, I was very lucky to grow up in the same community as several of my cousins who were close to my age.  I have very fond memories of the times we spent together, spending the night at each others houses and at larger family events. Though I have lost touch with many of my friends from childhood, I am thankful to still be connected with family.  I know, not everyone can even say this.

My cousin Judy Martin is a quilter and has written many books. You can find her at She also sends out a bi-monthly newsletter to her adoring quilting fans. I love to keep up with her by reading this, even though we only communicate directly several times a year. In this morning's newsletter, she said,

"It’s finding enjoyment in the little things that is the key to happiness. If we wait for extraordinary things to happen, we’ll spend a lot of time in between just going through the motions."

How many little things can we find today that bring us moments of joy and pleasure? Already, I have enjoyed my leisure pace. Our taxes got mailed!! I had a lovely morning walk in cool weather. There was a hot air balloon in the sky. I appreciated a conversation with my son. I hugged my husband and enjoyed his smile.

Yes, there are many little things. And kids are so good at finding these. Let them be your teachers today and show you the path to play.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Backing down

She was feeling the press of her own deadline. She had a class that night and wanted her twelve year old son's homework to be done before she left. So she was on him to do his homework - now! Finally, he yelled, "Leave me alone!!" Rather than come back at him with what she would have said in the past - "Don't you disrespect me!" - she just stopped and waited quietly. In a minute, her son humbly apologized. Then she calmly asked him what his plan was for that night's homework. He became willing to do it.

She was pleased with this breakthrough. In class, we have been talking about the real power of listening and backing down. When we come back with our own insistence, this can be like putting fuel on an already burning fire. The flames shoot up! And the fight continues. Instead, when we are able to take a breath and think before we respond, this gives the child or other person a chance to think, too.

This is simple, but it's not easy. We need to set aside whatever is calling us into the fight just long enough for the dust to settle and clearer heads to step in. The more often we can successfully back down, the easier it becomes next time. And there will likely be a next time.