Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The things no one tells us

I have been a parent for seven years, eleven days, and a few hours.  The longer I walk down this parenting path, the more I realize that there are a lot of things no one warned me about before I became a mom.  I mean, I don't blame y'all for keeping your lips sealed, but holy cannoli.  Some of this stuff is getting really hard, really fast.

Dallas has been having some sleep issues lately.  Those sleep issues bleed into behavior issues which ooze back into sleep issues.  See what I'm saying?  Ever since mid-October, Dallas has decided that he doesn't want to be alone.  Ever.  He doesn't want to play alone in his room or run down to the basement to get a toy or sleep alone.  He has always been a kid who enjoyed time alone to decompress, but for the last few months, I can't be more than ten feet away from the boy before he starts to panic.  I have NO earthly idea how this started or where it is coming from.  We have the same nighttime routine we have always had - no shake-ups or surprises - but the routine doesn't seem to be cutting it anymore.  He wants someone nearby while he falls asleep.  Scratch that: he wants ME next to him in bed while he falls asleep.  When I give him snuggle time before he goes to bed, he cuddles under the blanket next to me and says, "Now this is what I'm talking about," while he sighs contentedly.  It's literally the only time of the day when he is fully and completely relaxed.  He doesn't want to feel this way.  I mean, who would want to spend his life being tired and mad?  He's a happy, sweet kid when he is a well-rested kid.

Now, I know you all are rolling your eyes and thinking that the kid has me snowed, that he's doing it all for attention.  This ain't my first rodeo, and I know when I'm being snowed.  When it comes to snowing Mama, Dal is the Sahara.  Whatever is going on is terrifying and absolutely real to him.  I can't dismiss what he's feeling, but it sure would be fabulous to figure out why he's feeling this way.  We have tried a menu of things to help him feel better at night: soft music, plenty of snuggle time, lots of reassurance, leaving a lamp on, and even giving him audiobooks on an iPod to try to quiet his mind.  Is any of it working?  Not so much.

Because he isn't sleeping well, he's a bit of a grump during the day, especially as it gets later into the afternoon.  The bedtime ritual is strained because he's grumpy and tired, so he's going into sleep in a bad mood.  VICIOUS CYCLE, y'all.  Vicious.  It's hard on everyone because he isn't kind to any of us, and it's hard on him because being mean is really not who Dallas is.  He's a sweet kid who likes to keep the peace, but he can't do that when his brain is a grey fog of fatigue.  I try everything I can to smooth things over so we can all enjoy a good dinner and a quiet family evening together.  Nice, right?  Well, Lottie has started saying that all I do is pay attention to Dallas.  Her favorite new phrase is, "Little brothers get EVERYTHING!"  So, that's pleasant to hear.  I have been making a concerted effort to be equal in all of my attention to both kids, but there is only so much I can do.  I'm spreading myself pretty thin, y'all, and I am toeing the line of sanity.  And it didn't help that this happened on our FUN FAMILY TIME at the ice skating rink:
First time on ice skates plus falling on her face equals a sweet shiner. 

No one ever told me how guilty I would feel about my parenting.  I spend hours and hours and HOURS worrying about what the heck I'm doing to my kids.  Am I too strict?  Not strict enough?  Do I push them too hard?  Do I do too much for them?  Am I babying them?  Am I expecting too much from them?   What am I doing right?  What am I doing wrong?  Am I doing anything right?  When they were babies, I didn't worry this much.  I changed diapers, I nursed them, I swaddled them, and I put them down for naps.  Easy peasy.  No wonder women keep procreating: babies are awesomely easy compared to what comes later.

When I had kids, I knew I would love them deeply and intensely for the rest of my life, but I had no idea how much I would question every single move I made.  Being a parent has made me realize how utterly clueless I am and how helpless that makes me feel.  I guess I'm not the only parent who feels this way, so I'm in good company.  But to all of my readers who don't have kids yet, I give you a warning: do lots of smart things now to build your ego because once you have kids, you're going to become a drooling fool who knows absolutely nothing.  For real.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

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