Two Parenting Epiphanies I Wish I’d Realized Sooner

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

I’ve had a couple of valuable epiphanies since Baby Gwen (our third) arrived. After an easy-going season for four-year-old Benjamin, the addition of a new baby seemed to throw him for a loop. His frustration wasn’t ever directed at her, his “sweetheart”, but at me. We just weren’t clicking. It felt like he was a black hole of needs and I was in the throws of postpartum sleep deprivation with little to give.

IMG_4102

After reading one of Auntie Leila’s posts about whining, a light bulb went off. Benjamin was TIRED. Although after his first year he has slept consistently through the night, he doesn’t sleep much. He only sleeps 9 hours during the night and when Gwen was born he had given up naps for a rest time in his room playing with LEGOs and looking at books. I had been viewing the whining as a behavioral problem, but Auntie Leila’s explanation that it’s a symptom of a need that’s not being met helped me connect the dots. Giving up that nap….not sleeping any longer at night…not enough sleep for an active four-year-old. Duh. I realized that Lucy, our 2-year-old was sleeping at least FOUR HOURS MORE than he was every 24-hour period. No wonder he was crabby and emotional. The poor kid was tired.

IMG_4296

But I couldn’t figure out a good way to solve the problem. He couldn’t seem to wind down enough to nap, even though on the days he DID fall asleep, he acted like a different child. A helpful, cheery kid.

My second epiphany was that I had been physically distant and it was hurting our relationship. I was pregnant with Lucy just after he turned two. Months of morning sickness meant that I did NOT want to be touched and climbed on, and I simply couldn’t carry around a big almost-three-year-old by the end of the pregnancy. Then I was nursing 24/7. And before Lucy weaned herself I was pregnant again and sicker than before. I couldn’t bear to be touched and I thanked heaven that at 13 months Lucy decided she wasn’t interested in nursing anymore because it made me so nauseous. I was too sick to be emotional when she weaned. I breathed a sigh of relief. And then when Gwen arrived I was baby wearing and nursing 24/7 again. I was touched out.

It took me awhile to figure this out. But when I did, I realized that Benjamin was needing that physical connection that I hadn’t been able to give. Although I spent lots of time verbally connecting, that wasn’t cutting it.

So, I tried hitting two birds with one stone. I started nursing the baby to sleep at naptime and bedtime and once she was out, going into the big kids room and climbing in bed with them until they fell asleep. Lucy wasn’t as physically needy and was typically happy to snuggle her baby dolls and animals, but Benjamin wanted and needed someone there to snuggle with. It was amazing how quickly that improved our relationship. He could snuggle up as close as he wanted, climb all over me, hug me, and then fall asleep (sometimes for two whole hours at naptime!). At night we would chat about the day and then settle into snuggle time and he would fall asleep an hour sooner than before. He was getting more sleep AND getting the physical connection he was craving that I had been unable to provide for the past 2.5 years.

IMG_5001

I always expect that other mothers feel like experts after having three kids. But maybe they feel just as unsure as I do. Always readjusting, examining, altering, transitioning, becoming more aware of the individual needs of each child, what makes them tick and thrive, and switching gears. It really is an amazing process and I’m honored to have the opportunity to learn how to love my kids.

*For other parents of highly sensory, active kiddos that have trouble settling in to sleep, I also recommend getting a lycra sheet. On days that Baby Gwen isn’t napping and I don’t have the opportunity to snuggle Benjamin to sleep, having a sheet that “hugs” him helps him relax. My cousin who works with kids with all sorts of sensory challenges sent it to us and it’s been very helpful.

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Comments

  1. Theresa says

    This is so helpful – we’re expecting our third in May, and while my 4yo is doing well, the 2yo seems to be getting needier and needier lately. I’m sure it’s because I’ve been feeling so “touched out,” and I like the suggestions you have for handling it.
    Here’s hoping for a smooth(-ish) transition!

  2. says

    Figuring out that my son is whiny probably because he is overly tired has been huge for me. I knew that’s what it it was when he was small, but as he got bigger (4, almost 5) I think I have been expecting too much and not realizing he still needs more sleep.

  3. Sadie says

    Thank you for this post today! My kids are the same age as your kiddos (give or take a few months) and I am having these same issues. I will definitely take the time to focus more on that now!

  4. says

    He really is such a cute kid. I’m glad you’ve found a great way to keep everybody happy and well-rested. The sensory children-folk that I’ve worked with in the past have been big on weighted blankets and pressure swings.

  5. says

    This is a great post! I think when it comes to sleep, society pushes kids and babies towards independence so early. I wish more people realized that it’s okay for kids to need “help” falling asleep at age 2 and 3 and 4…sometimes they just need a big person there to hug and cuddle and help them calm down so they can get the sleep the need. And, that’s ok…it doesn’t last forever.

  6. Leigh says

    My three are also the same ages and we find this with our five year old too. Naps and snuggles improve things immensely.
    And the baby is his sweetie.

  7. Shannon says

    Yes! When my now 4y/o was 3.5 he began regressing on putting himself to sleep terribly. Once I started laying with him, he dozed off much faster (and with no battle). It really is easy to “grow them up” all too fast and forget that they’re still sort of babies!

  8. says

    I’ve always loved having lots of comforters on my bad for the heaviness of it–maybe I need to look into this Lycra sheet business! Thanks for this insightful post!

  9. says

    {Kathy} How insightful this post was for me. I still have much to learn, even after having four. These are precious, short years — with long days. You are so wise to do whatever it takes to help him through adjustments with such love and affection. Peace be to you.

  10. says

    Um, lycra sheet? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE? I have two boys who have sensory issues and take forever to wind down at bedtime. When they finally fall asleep, they’ve got two tons of blankets and toys on them. Thank you! I’m trying this thing ASAP.

  11. says

    THIS IS MY HUSBAND.

    Okay, so he doesn’t really get whiny… but man. He needs that physical touch.

    Zeke’s folks don’t hug. Ever, really. (I’m breaking them of that, slowly!) My parents were very physically affectionate… so I always thought that I was the one who needed touch. Boy was I wrong. Zeke does not sleep well without having his back scratched gently before bed, and a foot rub will seal the deal and he sleeps wonderfully.

    Maybe I should check out that lycra sheet….

  12. Pat says

    Haley, I just wanted to assure you that the fact that you’re HAVING epiphanies means you’re doing an AMAZING job! You’ve already realized that each of your children is different and will have their own needs, desires, and pace throughout their lives. No matter how long we keep at it, parents always feel like we’re a little behind the curve–lol!–but I think that may be God’s way of reminding us to rely on Him and not to lean on our own understanding. You and Daniel are such wonderful examples–and delightful writers, too! Thanks for sharing your lives with all of us. :-)

  13. Leah says

    I have 3 kids, too. My oldest boy is 5. I always tell myself that I’m a veteran mom of a baby but I’m still a newbie with the 5 yr old! Helps me gain perspective when I continue to make mistakes. Thanks for such an insightful blog!

  14. says

    Oh my goodness, I’m about to have my 6th and I’m constantly learning new things. I think if you EVER feel like an expert as a parent, you are probably not a very good parent :) My kids respond well to snacks and hydration if they are whiny. I just think, when’s the last time they ate or drank and usually that does the trick!!

  15. says

    Haley, it seems like you’re one step ahead of me again! I’m having the same experience with Anthony. I am touched out too. No nap and not sleeping longer at night –> whining –> me disciplining –> even less physical attention –> more whining–> he’s worked up and refuses to sleep —> whine whine whinity whine whine

    When he gets good sleep he’s his sweet self. I guess I have to make myself stop and cuddle him, and get him to sleep better! Doing better in having things in hand so we CAN do bedtime earlier wouldn’t hurt either. That’s hard because it seems like Ryan has no time with him when bedtime is early.

  16. says

    While I’ve only got one, I’ve realized the same thing with my son. He needs a lot of quality time and cuddles. Without it he whines, clings and gets very frustrated. I took me forever to realize that he’s got a love language just like I do (if you’ve read the Five Love Languages, you’ll know what I’m talking about).

    Anyways, great post!

  17. says

    Haley,
    I think there is a little section of my brain that I keep reserved for parenting information for the future, and I’m pretty sure your pearls of learned parenting wisdom take up a cozy little front row seat! Or a whole row of seats…? In any case, please still be posting awesome posts about parenting in a few years, k? Thanks. :)

    Your children surely are darling and they always put a smile on my face when I check my app in the morning before work. Thanks for a great post! There’s just so much honesty in your writing. I love it.

  18. says

    Yes, I too thought this was a great post, and timely – mine are about the same ages as yours. And I love your commenters, the one who said having the epiphany means you’re doing a good mom, and the one who said that even though she’s a veteran mom of babies she’s a newbie at 5 year olds. I can’t seem to remember that! Anyway, thanks for your post.

  19. says

    This is a great post, Haley. Still learning with 4 over here! Sleep and food are tied for number one on the List of Things That Cause Crankiness in our house. Touch is HUGE, too. I read somewhere that 96% of American kids don’t get the optimal level of physical touch daily. I’m not a real touchy feely person so I have to remind myself to slow down and hug them, scratch their backs, etc. It really makes a world of difference. This for the tip on the Lycra sheets, too. I have at least 2 kids that would love those.

  20. says

    I don’t think there are any “mothering” experts, because all of our kids keep growing and changing. I suspect we’ll get to be students of them forever. ;)

    Figuring out how to get more rest for an under-slept little one is such a challenge every time. I love your method!

  21. says

    We discovered the same things but they’ve recently come up again with our seven year old. We can’t seem to find the right balance these days, so it’s tough. So many arguments. Just when you get something figured out everything changes. And so far our two oldest are so different that we have to parent then both completely differently too, so all new lessons to be learned. At least there’s never a full moment, right?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Two Parenting Epiphanies I Wish I’d Realized Sooner – this one gave me somethings to think about as I’m still struggling with our four-year old especially now that the “baby” is not just taking up mama’s physical time but is also getting into every one else’s territories.  […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>