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Bed-sharing – by order of the tiny tyrant

There were three in the bed and the little one said “roll over, roll over” so they all rolled over and Daddy fell out, Mammy took an elbow to the face and gave a shout.  That’s how we roll in my bedroom these days.

I remember us on our honeymoon, putting down time in an airport while we waited for our next flight to some other new fun destination.  Airports weren’t places of torture like they are now, they could be enjoyed to some extent.  We could shop, eat, drink and just pleasantly pass time.  I bought us two of those neck support pillows, one pink and one red, in the hope they would help make long flights more comfortable.

Fast forward seven years and the same neck pillows have been dusted off and are back in use.  Except we are not going anywhere.  Picture the scene – it’s cold and both parents are wearing warm hoodies in bed.  There are no pillows to be seen but both heads rest awkwardly on those damn u-shaped neck support excuse for a pillow.  The duvet only covers both parents to their waist.  And in the middle of the bed, all stretched out and delighted with himself is the tiny tyrant.

Bed-sharing didn’t come easy to me, I was terrified of sleeping with a small baby.  My older daughter had no interest in it whatsoever and while she couldn’t ever have been described as a good sleeper (although her categorisation did go up a couple of notches after her insomniac brother showed us just how bad it could be) she did sleep in her moses basket and cot.  She loved that cot, wouldn’t sleep in our bed at all, even if she was sick and I would have preferred to keep her close.  She slept in that cot until she was 3.5 and had to be prised out of it.  In contrast her two year old brother slept in it for one full night, just the once.  I’m not exaggerating.  Once.  The cot is long gone.

In that scene above we had decided to give bed-sharing a proper chance, seeing as he ended up in the bed with us anyway.  We took all safety precautions we could think of – no pillows, blankets etc., bubs was all cosy in his grobag, we were cold but hey cold and asleep beats warm and awake in my middle-of-the-night parenting reasoning.

From the moment he was born my son knew what he wanted and most definitely knew when he wasn’t getting it.  And what he wanted was me.  Always and forever, me.  I wanted to keep him close too and didn’t have any expectations of putting him down – his sister didn’t have any time for mama’s arms substitutes either.  But I didn’t anticipate that even when he was already asleep he would know so clearly, and so quickly, each and every time he was moved to the crib.

The midwives on the ward saw in him immediately what I would come to accept, and one built me a “fort” of pillows in an attempt to allow me get some sleep while he was in bed with me.  That terrified me altogether as even though they positioned the pillows in a way to make it as safe as possible, I remained unsure.  But he slept, I didn’t really and that was that.

Varying attempts at home to get him sleep in the moses basket failed.  Maybe he hated the moses basket and would like the space of a cot we thought!  But space wasn’t what he wanted, he was happiest when tucked into the crook of my arm.  We also took the side off the cot and positioned it at my side of the bed so he could technically be “in” the cot but still beside me.  That didn’t really work either.

He is two and a half now, and a few months ago we got him a toddler bed.  The very first night he slept through the night in it!  We didn’t sleep of course as couldn’t relax wondering what was going and where he was.  That was a initial anomaly in the sleep pattern though and hasn’t been repeated.

He goes asleep in his little bed after many stories.  When he first wakes he can be easily soothed back to sleep in his bed.  When he wakes a second time he could be helped back to sleep and sometimes is, but depending on the time it is usually just easier to pick him up (along with the three teddies that accompany him everywhere) and install him in the middle of our bed.  Most nights he cuddles up against me and goes back asleep.  Other nights, like last night, he has nightmares are screams out so I like being there instantly to calm him.  He still dislikes blankets and spends a disproportionate amount of time kicking them all off.

He will inevitably sit up and announce he wants to “lie on mammy” so I become his pillow.  Nearly every single morning I wake to a big smile from my little boy.  I may sleep on a 6 inch corner of the bed as he encroaches on my room, but I know it won’t last forever.  He won’t still be sleeping between my husband and I when he’s going his leaving cert.  If he is, we have bigger problems.

Bed-sharing isn’t for everyone and ideally I would prefer if we all slept happily and well in our own beds.  But when the option is sleep together rather than awake apart, it’s an easy one to make.

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The parenting Jinx.

This morning the parenting jinx feels very real and very cruel. I look like an extra from The Walking Dead, I feel like crap and the atmosphere at home this morning was less than joyous. I was hit smack in the face with the worst type of the parenting jinx – the sleep one.

If you have a child who has not yet fully been convinced that sleep is something to welcome and enjoy, you know what I mean. You try anything and everything in the pursuit of a couple of hours of shut eye, and when miraculously your little darling does indeed bless you by sleeping a teeny bit better, you know to keep your mouth shut. The moment you deviate from this rule, you break the magic. Your little darling’s ears perk up, even when they are far, far away. They heard you, and they don’t like it. You dare to be PLEASED that you were denied a bit more of their wonderful awake presence?? Well little darling will correct that and things are right back to where they began. And the next time that friend asks you if whatever you did is still working, you are too tired to fully shake your head and hope the desperation in your eyes will answer for you.

My two-year old has been described by a lot of different words, among those of us who take care of him the following are very common – strong-willed, not-easy, determined, stubborn, strong, angry….. (and we’re being nice there). For the sake of balance I will of course say he is wonderfully cuddly, bright, engaging, loving and funny. When he’s in a good mood that is, and that isn’t always the case.

He doesn’t put his best side forward that often, and two years in we’re falling apart with the sleep deprivation. We have long since abandoned any hope of getting him to sleep in his own room and our bed is just his bed. In fact there isn’t even a cot or bed in his room anymore. We have given in and gone with what works (a little better) in the hopes that it will appease the toddler Gods. I listen to all suggestions of what I can try and recently embarked on a homeopathic remedy adventure with him.

Bazinga! It was working! It seemed like on the 1st January he just woke up happier in himself, he was more settled and content. He was just easier to mind, and he was sleeping better! No more waking every half hour in the evening, and the screaming fits that were a nightly occurrence vanished. We didn’t know ourselves! Not only were we getting more sleep but we were dealing with a more pleasant version on him too!

And then came the big mistake.

I told other people about it.

Big mistake.

Huge.

So now we are right back at 2016 levels of rage and sleep. Too much of one and not enough of the other. The parenting jinx doesn’t like smug parents being over excited about getting 4 hours of sleep in a row (in a row people!!! it was amazing) and it opened its jaws wide and bit me on the ass. The bite feels like something Jaws would have inflicted.

So read my tale of woe and consider yourself fore-warned. If it’s working, keep on doing it, but for the love of God don’t tell anyone else!

(Unless it really is working, then tell me because I could do with trying it……)

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The innocent moment where I failed my daughter.

My daughter is beautiful; she is a radiant being who emanates her inner joy and wears her heart on her sleeve.  She is beyond compare.  My breath regularly catches in my throat when I catch sight of her at random moments and am stunned by her, the way she holds herself, her expressions, the girl she is becoming.

I am well aware that all parents view their offspring in the same manner, to parents their children are the most beautiful beings to ever have graced the earth.  This belief is the right of all parents to feel and children to enjoy.

I am also not so deluded to think that all adults view the children of others as their own parents do.  We can differentiate between the catalogue-ready model children, the cheekily cute kids and the “I’m sure he will grow into his nose” kids.

In general I try to avoid placing an over-emphasis on looks when I am with my children.  I am conscious to not berate my own appearance, keen to encourage tidiness and putting a best foot forward but not that looks are the only important factor in their presentation.  My little girl loves all things sparkly, pink and glittery; she admires outfits on her comrades and loves to play hairdressers.  The world of faces is not lost on her.   I tend to not post photos of my children on social media sites in general, I don’t want them to feel their value is ever measured in likes and comments.

Then one day, my resolve was weakened and allowed myself to buy into the “I want everyone else to see how cute she is and agree with me” mentality.  I saw an ad on Facebook from an extras agency looking for children of a certain age with visibly missing teeth.  My attention was piqued, my daughter was the requisite age and had been visited by the tooth fairy quite a lot in the near past.  She was perfect!

At this point I will mention that a photo of my children and I was in a national newspaper as part of a feature I was mentioned in and she was in her element, the paper cut out was taken into school and toted around for ages as she enjoyed her moment of supposed celebrity.  So I told her about the search for a gummy 5 – 7 year old for a TV ad campaign and asked if she wanted me to send her photo.  Of course she did!  So we took the necessary full length and head shots on my phone and I whizzed them off in an e-mail to the agency.

Then…. nothing.

The days passed and my daughter asked when she was going to be on TV.  I had failed her.  In my enthusiasm to have everyone else see her as I do, I got caught in the moment and brought her along for the ride.  She didn’t even warrant a response it seems, the photos of her beautiful self clearly not rated as what they were looking for.  They just couldn’t see what I could.  It hurt.  But it hurt because I lost myself and allowed myself to buy into it for a moment, I had to have a conversation with her where I told her that maybe they decided to use a boy instead, or a girl who didn’t have glasses and so on.  She readily accepted this (and who is to say it’s not the truth?) and went on her merry way.  And I gave myself a mental dressing down and promised to never, ever do that to her (or my son) again.

They are my children and the most beautiful creatures on this planet.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so, my husband and our families think so too.  And isn’t that enough? All kids deserve to bask in that admiration, as families don’t see beauty as only the arrangement of facial features but they see the person as a whole.

 

 

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His & Hers Holidays

The notion of summer conjures up leisurely images of relaxing on a pool side lounger, a book in hand and a cool drink within arm’s reach.

poolside 1

 

Like a lot of things in life, once you enter the realm of parent-dom, that notion has an expiry date.  I do cling to the hope that we will return to this glorious state once the toddlers are no longer toddlers, but that is a bittersweet thought and I don’t dwell on it too much.

Any holidays we have embarked upon optimistically with small babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers have been true tests of patience and made us realise the grass is greener at home for the moment.  In fact, I even discussed this in a newspaper article written by Office Mum.  With rose-tinted sunglasses firmly in place we jetted off to the Canary Islands not once, but twice, with babies.  I like to relive my mistakes it would appear.  My babies did not like the heat, the pool, the change to their daily routine and the days were pretty much spent tag-teaming indoors with the baby and outdoors at the pool with the 5 year old (where she was 5 of course).

With the little boy being quite a spirited and energetic child (to put a positive spin on it) we were unanimous in the decision that this year we stay put.  We do have a few nights in a family friendly hotel in Cork planned in the next while so clearly we haven’t completely given into pessimism!

However the hankering for some adult down time still persists.  So when it seemed every male in a 5 mile radius was packing his tri-colour flag and setting off to France for the Euros, I encouraged the hubby to go too.  He was a bit taken aback, but the seed was planted.  Discussions were held with would-be travel companions and then late one night a text message pinged in from a friend “The missus gave me the green light!”, and off they went.

holiday beach 1

In return, I booked a 4 night break to the sun with a friend, which is still looming in the distance.  It’s win-win, neither of us are gone for more than 4 nights so it’s manageable when you’re the one at home with the munchkins but long enough when you’re away to really relax into it.  He came home worse for wear but with memories of good time to buoy him along.  And then he started to realise I still had my trip to look forward to…  So now himself and a couple of mates are off to Madrid to a match later on in the year for a couple of nights.  Which means I am free to peruse other opportunities should they cross my path.

holiday cocktail 2

I am very much looking forward to a time when we can holiday properly as a family again, and also when the two of us might enjoy a long weekend break away together but for now the kiddies just aren’t the sort that are easily left so this works for us, for now.  Having something to look forward to (or impatiently cross the days off in the calendar..) makes me a more pleasant person to be around, so while this arrangement isn’t for everyone, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  We all do need a break, whether we want to admit it or not.  And I sure as hell am going to make the most of mine.

Any ideas where I can go next???

images courtesy of http://www.pexels.com

 

 

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Bed sharing with a toddler vs those first few nights with a new partner.

As I lay in bed last night (who am I kidding, as I hung on to the edge of the bed precariously and shivered as there wasn’t a square inch of duvet anywhere near me) I thought about how sharing a bed with a toddler is like those first few nights with a new partner.

  1. You wear something you imagine they will find attractive to bed, despite the fact that you might prefer a different nocturnal outfit yourself. However, the sexy undies are banished and fluffy pyjamas that are perfect for little heads to snuggle up against are in.
  2. You are nervous trying to sneak out to use the bathroom during the night. Not because you don’t want to remind them that you’re an actual person who does need to answer the call of nature, but because you are terrified that you will wake the sleeping monster.
  3. You sleep in positions that aren’t all that comfortable. While in the early days of a relationship that might mean keeping up the pretence you like to spoon as you sleep (when in fact you need to have your backs to one another to avoid having someone breathe on you), with a little person in the bed you discover that having feet, a nappy-clad bottom etc. positioned in your face is the norm. And you will put up with it if it means s/he stays asleep.
  4. You ideally want to wake before them and have a chance to get yourself “freshened up” before they see you for the first time that day. These days this means managing to make it to the bathroom to drag a brush through your hair, scrub your teeth and lather on some cream which promises to make you look ten years younger all before the all-demanding tyrant wakes.
  5. You go to bed at the same time and try to fit into their sleep habits. Gone are the nights of marathon book reading and not caring about having the light on. You go to bed together and stay in bed together. With a toddler this doesn’t have the romantic overtures but more to do with grabbing some shut eye when you can. If the toddler will only sleep if I give in and go to bed with him, I will admit to often succumbing and having an earlier night than I had planned. But hey, ultimately it means I get more sleep, as does he. So win-win. And maybe less of that expensive face cream is needed.
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10 Things you give up when you start a family.

I could wax lyrical all day about the joys of having children – from the squidgy newborn snuggles, the toddlers who hug like their life depends on it, to the inquisitive nature of pre-schoolers… But there has to be a balance, a pay off. With all this enormous joy there does come a price. A well worth it price, but a price nonetheless. When you invite little people into your home and heart, there are certain things you will more than likely wave farewell to for a good few years. From personal experience, here are the things I miss-

  1. Long, hot showers. You know the kind, where you can shampoo and condition your hair, maybe put in a treatment, exfoliate every square inch of your body, use the fancy shower gel and just luxuriate under the constant stream of hot water. My 5 year old likes to come and sit on the edge of the bath-tub and chat to me while I shower. She believes I enjoy these little discussions, and the one time she discovered the door was locked she was perplexed. When she asked me why and I replied that I wanted some peace and quiet, she said she could be quiet. So I can’t bring myself to lock the door anymore. She also can’t bring herself to be quiet.
  2. Leaving the house efficiently. I am an organised person. Everything has a place and I like to put things away. I believed I would get the better of this particular obstacle. Pride comes before a fall. I was wrong. It will be impossible to leave the house in under fifteen minutes from a request. Some body will inevitably need a nappy changed as soon as you’ve fought with them to get their coat on, someone else will be bursting for the toilet the moment they’re strapped into the car seat, somebody else will forget to bring the changing bag/snacks/toys etc. No matter how prepared you think you are, when little people are involved there will always be an unforeseen situation.
  3. Eating junk food openly. This is where the do as I do and not as I say statements come into play. All very well and good when you’re preaching the virtues of sharing and being kind to one another; not so easy when you’ve had a rough day and are just itching to break out the chocolate hob-nobs but you know if you do, they’ll want some. And you can hardly tell them it’s one rule for you and one rule for them on the healthy eating front. So what you need to do is stash chocolate all over the house in unusual places and practice eating covertly behind a cupboard door. You may laugh at me now, but clearly you don’t have kids yet.
  4. 4. Opinions on parenting. You know the kind, “Oh when I’m a parent I will never allow my children to watch television” and “I will make all my own home made organic baby food from scratch every single day and never let as much as a fruit pot pass their precious little lips”. Once you’re in the parenting game, you realise quickly that you do whatever works to get you and your little family through the day so that everyone ends up safe, healthy and happy at the end. There is nobody giving out medals at the checkout to the parents who don’t buy the pre-packed baby food for back up.
  5. Sick days. Inevitably when a parent is sick, it will be on a weekend. For some reason viruses wait to strike a parent down just as soon as they have full care of their offspring. And their children will either be incredibly hyper the entire time Mammy or Daddy fights off the cold, or succumb themselves and make a nurse maid of you. The halcyon days of old where you could ring in sick to work, camp out on the sofa with a hot water bottle, duvet and TV remote control are long gone. There is no such thing as a sick day for a parent. Life goes on.
  6. Relaxing holidays. Do you remember the holiday where you lounged on a sun bed, alternating your time between a dip in the pool, a drink at the pool side bar and reading your book? Hang on to those memories as holidays with kids are not so relaxing. They can be fun, and exciting of course but relaxing they are not. Anytime spent in the pool will be in the company of inflatable toys, pool side drinks will necessitate toilet trips with children already in wet clothes (not fun) and who has time to read a book when you’re trying to keep an eye on the sprogs to make sure they’re safe?
  7. Money. Kids cost money, we all know that. And of course, hopefully, money will continue to come into your household. What you don’t see coming is that what disposable income you do have, you will always want to spend it on the kids. You will walk into a department store to buy yourself something and suddenly find yourself in the children’s section. Buying something for your little one and seeing their face light up is worth more than buying something for yourself.
  8. Worry free existence. You will never know a worry free moment again. From the moment you now you are expecting your first baby, the world suddenly seems full of dangers you didn’t fully appreciate before. Perils lurk at every corner and it sometimes seems impossible to manage to raise healthy, happy children with all there is to take into consideration. But you will manage; learn to weigh up the anxieties with the practicalities. It doesn’t mean you will drop worrying though, my mother says it never, ever stops.
  9. Alarm clocks. Babies and small children tend to operate on their own schedule and have no respect for GMT and the normal sleep habits of adults. You will suddenly find that having breakfast at 6:15 on the weekends is the norm and a 5pm dinner is no longer classed as “early”. I have been told that when they get to be teenagers this all changes and they can be a nightmare to get out of bed. I am living for that stage.
  10. Empty arms. While your home will shortly be over-run by soft, cuddly toys for snuggling there will be no need for them for you. A warm, soft little body will always find their way into your lap and cuddle into you just as they are meant to. Fitting perfectly in beside your heart.

This post originally appeared on the lovely website Nanny Village.

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Sleep. The (day) dream.

My son has no respect whatsoever for sleep.  His own, mine, his sister’s or father’s.  He will happily reign supreme all during the wee hours only to contentedly conk out just in time for my daughter (and by default me or Daddy too) to get up.

He kept us up all night last night, screeching at the injustice of eye-teeth.  He wanted everything and nothing by means of comfort.  I rocked, shushed, cuddled, paced, sang, patted, returned the favoured soother repeatedly……… no one “trick” worked for more than a few moments.

To put it mildly, I am tired.  The last few nights have been getting progressively worse.  An ear infection added insult to injury and medication was prescribed and my empathy levels upped a notch.

I wandered bleary-eyed to my desk in work, facing a day of keeping my eyelids propped open.  I just know he is most  likely happily slumbering away now in a marathon length nap in the crèche.

I’ve read every article that I can find about how to help you baby sleep, dealing with sleep deprivation, avoiding bad habits (that ship has sailed I’m afraid), I’ve bought the books, the white noise CDs, the slumber-bears and all other gadgets pedalled to desperate parents.   I won’t leave him to cry, it’s just not right for him or I.  I need to find something that works for us.

The tiny tyrant will object to sleep in his cot at night, until he is nestled in bed beside me he objects most vociferously.  I have to admire his tenacity.  He knows exactly what he wants, and will settle for no less.  He has no doubt that he is entitled to what he views as the best possible service and will wail until he gets his own way.

Even I have forgotten by now what my point is.  But you get the drift.  I would dream about sleep, if I could get some sleep.  In fact I did conk out on the bed around 11am over the weekend (when I was meant to be changing the bed clothes), my husband was under no illusions that household chores were being tended to and left me to doze.  When I did wake up 1.5 hours later, I realised I had been dreaming about being tired.  So even when I got the sleep I (day)dream about, I was even tired in the land of nod!

So please, anyone out there.  Tell me your success stories about how at 18 months your toddler decided to opt in to the notion of sleep.  Or else just sympathise with me and discuss what bottles of wine are on special offer…