The end of the afternoon nap

I always assumed that Avery would need her afternoon nap until she started kindergarten. She was always such a high sleep-needs baby. But the length of time it had been taking for her to fall asleep for naps and bedtime lately was problematic. It felt like she was being forced to get too much sleep. So I cut out my 26-month-old’s last remaining nap of the day, and here’s what happened…

She was happy, relaxed, and well behaved all day. We watched Frozen and relaxed during what would have been nap time – now renamed quiet time. She asked to go to bed at 7pm, lights were out by 7:30, and she was asleep by 7:45. The past few weeks had involved going to bed at 7:30 and not falling asleep until 9pm. It worked!!

We’ve now gone 3 days without a nap and it has been the same result every day. She’s tired by bedtime, but not an emotional wreck like she used to be when tired. She’s just tired enough to be ready to actually go to sleep when we want her to.

We’re not going to withhold a nap if she wants one, or if she looks like she really needs one. And we don’t have a hope in hell of keeping her awake on a long car ride (which we do most weekends to visit family). But for our general routine, the dropping of naptime has been a successful change!

And here are some pics of our wintery, festive fun, just getting started!

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The fight… with my 2 year old

We’ve been encountering some counterwill at toothbrushing time lately. We have brushed Avery’s teeth every day, morning and night, since she was 4 months old. But suddenly, she does NOT want to give us our turn to brush her teeth after she has had some time with the brush. We’ve managed to regain control of the situation thus far by threatening no books at bedtime if she doesn’t let us have our turn to brush her teeth. But tonight, that didn’t work. Tonight, I was caught in a 20 minute battle with a 2 year old who did not want to give up her toothbrush. She decided she was fine with going to bed alone and without books if it meant I wasn’t going to get a turn with the toothbrush, but her sneaky plan was just to never finish brushing her teeth. She was sobbing the entire time we were in this battle of wills. I was calm. I was trying to be very clear with what was going to happen. But at 15 minutes into the battle with my 2 year old, I lost it. I don’t normally yell as a parenting tactic – it’s just not in my comfort zone. But I yelled. I let the situation escalate. I ripped the toothbrush from her hand and hauled her tantruming body to her room and used my body to block her from opening her door and leaving. She screamed a blood curdling scream. I put my hand on her back and tried to get her to take deep breaths. “NO DEEP BREATHS!” she screamed. I finally got her to say that she would let me brush her teeth so we could go to bed and read books.

When we got back to the bathroom, however, she took back her words and refused me the toothbrush yet again. I yelled again. I yelled loud this time. And it wasn’t just an emotional outburst, but a calculated tactic. What if a loud yell was what she needed to listen? But my loud yelling was met with more screaming and crying. I gave her a time out, right where she stood. More like I gave myself a time out. I left her there in the bathroom and closed myself in my bedroom. She came banging on my door, crying for me.

It was a horrible, muddy, messy situation. My wife stepped in and saved the day. Avery let my wife brush her teeth. I met her in her bedroom and we turned out the light together. She grabbed a stuffed animal from a drawer and cuddled it. She NEVER does that at bedtime. She always gets her cuddles from me. She needed comfort, and wasn’t turning to me for it. I looked her in the eyes and said I needed to talk. I told her I was sorry that I yelled; that I shouldn’t have yelled like that. Then I asked if there was anything she was sorry for. Through her dwindling sobs, she said “yes. Sorry for not letting mommy brush Avery’s teeth.” I said “I love you.” She said “I love you.”

I felt like shit for how things escalated. I cried my way through her bedtime stories. Parenting is hard.

I needed to read this today (on attachment parenting and sleep)

My wife and I have been having more and more conversations about having Avery start to fall asleep alone rather than with one of us cuddling her to sleep. The conversation totally ruined a date night recently.

As it turns out (and not what I expected before becoming a parent), I subscribe to attachment parenting philosophy. Maybe it’s because of who my daughter is as a person, maybe it’s because of who my maternal instincts makes me, maybe it’s both. I feel a deep urge to satisfy my child’s need for physical contact, a sense of unconditional love, and emotional comfort, over and above my need to get a good night of sleep, to fit in with how many traditional parents parent, or to make people around me feel comfortable (e.g. with nursing a toddler).

So it’s just who I am. It’s how I choose to parent. But of course not all parents parent the same, and that includes parents within the same parental unit. My wife is of the camp that we need to teach our kids to be independent – even as babies. Denying them physical closeness (even with a gentle or slow withdraw) is important to give them the tools they need to be independent. The terms “self soothing” and “needy” have become trigger words for me… Anyway, I’m thankful that my wife is on board with a gentle – albeit traditional – parenting approach, and has proposed that we gently withdraw our presence in our daughter’s bed over the course of a few weeks. I agreed to try this a while back, and on the night we were set to start, I freaked out and said I wasn’t ready. The truth is, my instincts are telling me that I’m doing everything right to meet my daughter’s needs. Also, I love the quiet cuddle time… I’d happily spend an hour of my evening every night snuggled up to Avery, listening to her sing quietly to herself, and listening to her breathing slow and regulate as she falls peacefully asleep. But that’s not for every parent. Some people like to have their evenings free. That’s fair. It’s just not my priority.

On top of the pressure I’ve been feeling from my wife, My daycare provider today suggested I train her to fall asleep on her own. “Just put her in bed, leave the room, close the door, and if she gets out of bed put her back in bed and repeat. I saw that on Super Nanny.” Like it’s that simple. We nap-trained when we weaned, and even laying next to her, I had to haul her body back into her bed dozens of times while she tantrumed for an hour. It took just under a week to “train” her that to fight was futile. I am in no rush to go through that again.

But then, during nap time today (after I’d laid with her for 45 minutes), I picked up this month’s parenting book club selection. The passage I started into settled my fears and self doubt. I hear ALL THE TIME that parents need to push their young children (and babies) to be more independent, to not need their parents so much. This has always felt counterintuitive to me, even before I started reading psychological research on why it’s counterintuitive. Here’s the passage that I really needed to read today.

The key to activating maturation is to take care of the attachment needs of the child. To foster independence we must first invite dependence; to promote individuation we must provide a sense of belonging and unity; to help the child separate we must assume the responsibility for keeping the child close. …We don’t help a child let go by pushing the child away but by providing more contact and connection than the child is seeking. We do not liberate children by making them work for our love but by letting them rest in it. We do not help a child face the separation involved in going to sleep or going to school by enforcing the separation, but by satisfying his need for closeness. Thus the story of maturation is one of paradox: it is dependence and attachment that foster independence and genuine separation.

This is the attachment parenting approach. It is supported by psychology (sorry, I don’t have time to pull up references here, but if you want some for personal reasons, let me know).

It’s not everybody’s approach or belief. I don’t judge other parents’ approaches at all. This is how I function as a parent from a natural, primal, hormonal, instinctual basis. I just like to be reassured sometimes that my instincts aren’t out to lunch, and that I’m not messing up my child by sticking to my guns on this.

One and done or two and through?

I have been swinging back and forth from two extremes lately – desperately craving another baby and not wanting another child at all.

Right now I’m nearing ovulation, and my body and soul ache for a baby. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but I feel dramatic. So, there.

Last week, I absolutely did not want another child. I even drafted a blog post about how my one child was everything I wanted for our family, and I didn’t want to mess with our perfect dynamic by having another child.

My thoughts about having a second child have been on a pendulum, like this, since Avery turned two. The older she gets, and the easier life gets (no consequence), the harder it sounds to introduce baby days back into our lives. But on the flip side, the older she is when we have a second kid, the easier it could be to manage both kids. If one sleeps through the night and goes to bed on her own, having a new baby who is glued to me and keeps me up all night should be no less manageable than it was the first time.

In the summer, we thought seriously about starting to try for baby number 2 this December. But now, my wife and I are trying not to rush into having a second kid because we don’t know a couple of important aspects of how the near future will look. Most importantly, when will I finish my PhD, and will I find a job right away that I’ll be able to take a paid maternity leave from; and will we want to buy the small house we’re in (from my mom for an affordable price) and try to squeeze a family of four into it, or will we be trying to relocate to a bigger space outside the city.

As you’ve probably gathered from the last paragraph, we still plan to have a second child. It’s just that some days it seems like a terrifying and exhausting idea, while other days it seems like it can’t come soon enough.

Voting Day and my changing thoughts on war

I’m Canadian (and I vote at every chance I get in Canadian elections), but I’m deeply entrenched in US politics. Any citizen of the world should be. On this day of perhaps the most important midterm elections, I find myself reflecting on the upcoming Canadian Remembrance Day and the idea of wars started over an ideological divide.

Canadians will know, on Remembrance Day we wear red poppies on our lapels to remember the fallen soldiers who died protecting our freedom. I used to refuse to wear a poppy. I was a pacifist, and I was engaging in peaceful protest of war.

This morning I listened to a news story on CBC radio about extreme right families moving to Texas because they felt that Democrats – those abortion loving people ruining the sanctity of marriage while pissing away America’s money on criminals from other countries – were making some places unsafe for them to live. This one family started a business to help “refugee” families move to Texas; the refugees they were referring to were Republican, white Americans. This family honestly felt that their political and social ideology was under attack and that “the other” (Democrats) were making their country unliveable for them. These Republican families thought of themselves as refugees from parts of their country that held different dominant ideologies from them.

And on the other side of the coin you have vulnerable people – women, LGBTQ+ people, people of colour, refugees and immigrants – feeling that the Republicans are making the country unliveable for them. On my social media I’ve seen a lot of queer families from America wishing or planning for an escape to Canada.

America is so incredibly divided right now. And extreme divides in ideology make me fear war.

And to my surprise, I feel a strong willingness to fight in a war to bring freedom to the vulnerable. To fight to defend humans rights. To fight to keep the world liveable for me and my people.

I don’t want a war. I DO NOT WANT A WAR. The thought makes my head spin. It makes me feel nauseous. But the situation brewing in America is terrifyingly familiar to sociopolitical situations seen on the cusp of past wars: the Civil War. The Cold War. World War II.

I’m getting up in arms. Let’s hope that voting is the only “arms” we need right now.