It happens more often than not. Something gets out of control and I feel like I am in crisis mode. It may be too many sleepless nights. Too much screen time. Too much sugar. Too much “mom, mom, moooom.” And then I hit a moment of “something has to change. I need help. I don’t know how to fix this.” So I look to my people, my online tribe, and I search for books, blogs or podcasts that can tell me what to do. I sign up for them and as I’m waiting to read, listen, or for the class to go live, I all of a sudden know the answers.
It’s like that pause in between the moment of letting things get too far and feeling crazy, feeling like you’re in survival mode, and then remembering you have the tools within yourself to improve the situation. You may not be the expert at the specific topic of interest you are questioning, but you know your child(ren) best. You know what makes them happy, sad, frustrated, proud, and curious, but if you’re anything like me, these things, these truths you know about your child, are not something you think about on a daily basis. As humans, we are made to see the problems. So we list them out easily. He won’t eat his dinner. He won’t go to bed. He won’t stay asleep. He won’t calm down. He won’t “listen.” He says “no” to that question every time. He won’t wash his hair. I could keep going, I’m sure, with the things I let frustrate me, but that does not solve any of the problems.
I know I cannot, nor do I ever want to, control my son. I want him to be free to express himself, learn about his likes and dislikes without fear of approval or rejection. I want him to be comfortable and excited to show me a new creation, not worry he may get in trouble for making a mess. And yet, the longer it goes without me taking a leadership role to create and maintain an environment that is conducive to the lifestyle I want to live while being in harmony with my son, the more I feel myself losing my mind.
I would like my son to go to bed earlier. I would like him to sleep through the night without waking so that maybe one day I can again as well. The thing is, I cannot control his sleep. I cannot make him sleep on my time. The truth is, he will sleep when it is right for him. The second truth is, he will sleep better if I match the environment, and my emotional state, to his needs. So I have to shift my focus to what I know about my son. He is a very sensitive child. What he sees, hears, smells, tastes, and feels is heightened. When I come out of the shower he will cry and tell me to dry my hair. If I wear something new, different, or not soft to touch, he will ask me to go put my sweatshirt back on. He will not tolerate any sort of blanket on him, but he sleeps best when he is warm. He is uncomfortable when he is holding his pee at night, but he will not get out of bed to pee on his own and a pull up makes it worse. He does not like a bath at night, and he hates washing his hair so much that he cries so hard he can barely breathe...even if we get a splash of water on his head or face. I could see these things as problems, I could swear he needs an OT or a sleep coach to help him, or I could flip them and embrace them. I could use what I know about my child to his and my advantage. I can listen to my inner expert talking. The mom expert who knows my son better than anyone.
A sleep expert may tell me a good bedtime routine would include a bath. However, I know that will send my child into sensory overload. Especially if he is already too tired. An OT may remind me of my child’s sensory needs and that I need to include brushing as part of his routine, yet I have tried this and I know how much he hates it. What I can do is create a simple routine that includes writing a bedtime story of our very own. One that he can read over and over again so he knows what to expect and he can feel empowered. I can wear the softest sweatshirt, one that he loves (and I love as well), and I can make his sleep space free of toys and visual stimuli so that he can truly relax when he is in his room. I can role play and practice how the night will go so he is prepared. I can literally write our own story. So if it helps any parents out there, I encourage you to write your own bedtime story. Here is our story:
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Bekytt.
And Bekytt loved to run, jump, spin and crash into things all day.
He loved to get messy and play in the mud and paint pictures to his heart’s delight.
Bekytt especially loved watching funny movies and acting them out. Some days he would be Johnny from Sing, Marty from Back to the Future, or even Cat Boy from PJ Masks.
So when it was time to slow down and get ready for sleep...Bekytt did not like it.
And Bekytt was a smart little guy so he knew if he asked for a snack, or another show, or another book in the sweetest voice possible, he was likely to get it.
But then...all of a sudden, without warming, Bekytt would be too tired. He’d be so tired that he didn’t even know it and would just start crying for no reason. Mama would try to make it better, but nothing would work until he cried himself to sleep.
This made Bekytt feel sad, and mama and papa felt sad too because they wanted Bekytt to feel relaxed and comfortable going to sleep.
So Bekytt dreamt of a plan one night, and when he woke up he was so excited to share his wonderful idea! He said “I have an idea mom. How about we set a fun timer every night on Alexa?
We can have The Power of Love be our clean up song and we will run around the house and see how fast we can pick up my toys.
We can listen to Elvis while we eat our late night snack. Like banana and peanut butter sandwiches!
Then, we can play The Candy Man while brushing my teeth and picking out my pjs.
And Johnny B Goode can be our final dance song together before it’s time for bed!
Then, we can walk around the house and say "Goodnight" to all the fun things we played with.
Once we get to bed, we can read 3 books. I can pick them, but only 3. If you stay and cuddle with me, I will be so happy to listen to my favorite books!
And finally, we can listen to a bedtime story from Moshi Twilight.”
“Bekytt!” said mama happily. “That is a great idea!”
“And I will come in at 12am and 3am to help you go potty. You can go right back to bed and sleep as long as you want. And remember, you can always come into our room if you need anything.”
“Yes,” said Bekytt. “But I like my room best!”
And they all slept happily ever after.
This is just our story. These are the things we know Bekytt likes and we want him to feel the most connection and love right before he goes to bed. And he loves seeing his pictures. What is your story? How do you help your little ones settle for sleep? I would LOVE to hear any and all comments!
Happy Good Friday and Happy Easter! Remember you can still connect with loved ones this holiday weekend. So family, friends, if you’re reading this, call or video chat with us with weekend! We’d love to be with you in spirit!
Kathryn Kraft, MPT
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