Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Sleeping arrangements – there’s a toddler in the room!

‘Is he a good sleeper?’ a friend asked me soon after our son moved in with us.

‘Oh, quite good, I think. Last night he only woke five times.’

She laughed. She’s a mother of four. ‘Welcome to motherhood.’

The first year or so Digger woke a lot during the night. Five, six, seven, eight times. Every night.

I tended to the nightly call outs, mostly because I woke and Pierre didn’t. But then come morning, I would be cream crackered. So Pierre would get up with Digger. Before the crack of dawn.

Even after such a broken night’s sleep Digger would wake around 5.30am. That gave daddy the time to play with him for a good hour or two, before he set off for work. Leaving me to catch up with sleep. Digger himself caught up at his two daily naps.
Especially the mid-morning one was lovely for us both. I often joined him for a nap. Either on the sofa or on the parental big bed. Him in the nook of my arm. Super bonding time. I did so after the sound advice given to me by my sister: sleep when baby sleeps. This as opposed to stressing out over how to make the most of the time he was out for the count. Should I read a book? A magazine? The newspaper? Or call a friend? Make a cuppa tea? Iron? Write a letter? Check emails? Shop online for baby stuff? Oh the choices!

‘Before I know it,’ I told myself, ‘he will have outgrown his daytime naps. And I will miss them.’ And indeed I do miss the naps, and holding a sleeping baby.

I was so relieved when I heard that Digger slept in a cot in his foster mum’s room. That was exactly what we did and still do. We live in a ramshackle Victoria terraced house, where it’s just not possible to have his bedroom on the same floor as ours. And trekking up and down the stairs all night long is not something I would enjoy. We have a super-sized cot, hand-me-down from a friend. One that even I fit into. Knees bend but still. One he can probably sleep in till he is 5.

I can’t see how I or Pierre, or Digger for that matter, would have survived the first year, had he not slept in the same room as us.

To this day Digger still calls out an occasional nocturnal ‘Mummy….? Daddy….?’ No longer as urgently as in the beginning. Some calls may even be speaking in his sleep. Like last night when he asked if he could have some ice cream for his bike.

I often hear him rustle the sheets; I peek and see his little silhouette. He is sitting up. He’s checking that we are still there. After a while he lies down again. And falls back to sleep.

I love the sound of his and my husband’s slow, regular breathing. It calms me. And sends me back to sleep.

It’s easier to see the progress towards all night sleeping looking back. That first year was hard for us all. But we took his lead. I tried a couple of times to walk out of the room just for a sec, - to get him used slowly to me not being there. He broke down almost immediately. It broke my heart to hear his grief and fear. It took forever to calm him down again. Somehow this unlocked memories of my own. Of my own mother, getting annoyed with me for not falling asleep. Not unlike the book with the memorable title ‘Go the f*** to sleep!’ I remember her gritted teeth, and my own fear. Hmmm. Let’s try something else. To be the parent I needed back then. Not permissive, just empathic and trusting him to let me know what he needs.

So we abandoned sleep training before we even got started. We didn’t have the heart or stomach for it. For all we cared it was utterly counter productive too. We stuck with a slow routine of bath (now optional), cream, bottle of warm milk, books, songs and stories. Finally, a short goodnight poem. Full on 1:1 time with a hand over from parent 1 to parent 2 in the middle. Milk and stories would be administered on our bed, still he was properly out. Then, and only then, could he be decanted into his own bed.

We reconciled ourselves that just like walking, when he was ready he would let go of our hands so to speak.

This was most definitely the quicker way to settle him, and after a while it led to uninterrupted nights sleep. Which they have remained ever since, but for the odd hick up in case of illness or such.

Overall bed times have become shorter and easier, especially since he dropped the daytime naps. 30 mins all in. Sometimes quicker.

About a year ago he started to ask to go to ‘little bed', to fall asleep. Usually that’s how we do it now. Except for some nights, after days of big emotions, or just if he is especially tried; then he falls asleep in our arms on our bed.

He can fall asleep in his own bed, on his own, albeit still with us in the room. He nestles into his pillow, with a smile on his face. Eyes closed. Soon after he is gone. To the arms of morpheus.

No longer closing his eyes as he falls asleep, like a baby would.
He can close his eyes to fall asleep.

Now he definitely is a good sleeper.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Dropping the diaper (a short ode to a small man’s underpants)

I love my son’s underpants. Cute, clean and easy. 

I love this new silhouette too. He looks taller without the bum padding. More grown up. It’s a proportion thing. Slim hips and bubble bum.

I thought I would miss diapers, even blogged about it. Truth is: I don’t. We both just moved on. 

Predictably, the washing machine runs more often. And he still needs night-time diapers. But I reckon not for long.

In the end, he dropped the diaper aged 3 1/2. I did manage to wonder whether he would ever loose it. I noticed that often he was the oldest boy, or even the only boy in diapers. And so did others, mothers in particular... Sometimes I felt stressed about him still being in diapers, when no one else seemed to be. I even started to worry that he wouldn't be able to start preschool in September, because they insists that the children should be potty trained to start.

But I just had to be patient. Let him drop the diaper when he was ready. And he wasn’t. Till he was. He had a couple of false starts, which lead to accidents, which he hated, so back in diapers.

Until one day…

‘I like my underpants. They feel good.’

Now if he wets the night-time diaper he cannot get out of it quickly enough. Not long ago he even said ‘Don’t worry mummy, I’ll just wee in my diaper.’ In answer to whether or not he needed to visit the loo before a long car journey. In fact, just the other day when facing a 2-hour car journey he did suggest he could wear a diaper. I said he probably didn’t need it, but I admire his thinking.

Today I finally gave away two un-opened packs of diapers. And two potties, a small travelling potty and two children's seats. He never really got into of these gimmicks, graduating straight to balancing on the big loo. ‘Ticky’ as he calls is, in his trademark no-'r' speak.

I knew I wouldn’t want to hurry him. I learned quickly that pushing the issue was completely counter productive. This is his body. Not mine to train. Despite his incredible physical abilities (more on that another time) and the fact he is very advanced in other areas, he still needs to be a baby many times a day. We bottle feed twice a day. 3 years into adoption, he still needs it. We are still playing catch up on the first 10 months we weren't there. I think the diaper fits into this pattern too. Advances in other areas of his life and skills, always seems to be accompanied by a strong need to be babied. Forcing or even just suggesting to grow up is just not the way forward. 

‘NO!!!’ he’d shout with ear splitting force, if I ask once too much whether he need to go to the loo. I can accurately tell about 5 mins before he can. I can only suggest he goes. And only once. It’s about balancing respect and helping him. 

It infuriates him if I ask him in front of other people. Especially if I press the issue. ‘Are you sure you don't have to go??!’ is as disrespectful as it comes for a 3, 10, 14 or 30 years old. ‘No!’ is a great reminder that I have overstepped it as an eager mum. Well, fair enough. So we have agreed that I whisper the question. Once. Usually I don’t need to.

There is only one come back to his NO!, and that is ‘Okay.’ Said not in the patronising way of a mother who knows better, but in the accepting, trusting voice. There are times, when I find the line a between the two a blur and he know exactly which side of the fence I come down on. He so has my number.  

‘Just let me know when you are ready.’ 

There are times when I have to remind him. Because he hates wetting himself. It's embarrassing. So he needs a little help. For instance if he is engrossed in something, so engrossed he may forget. Then I ask him in my mothertongue or whisper in his ear: ‘Let’s go to have a wee. If we do it now you can play longer afterwards.’ That is my most effective sentence. Along with ‘I wonder whether there are any plants that would like watering in the garden…’.

Usually though, I just have to trust him. He thrives and grows on the trust.

Slow down, mummy. Slow down.

I came across a couple really helpful articles at the time about potty training by the paediatric urologist, Dr Steve Hodges. This one at and this one in the huff post. He also wrote this nice one on bed wetting. The right kind of articles at the right time.