How clueless were we…

As part of getting sorted for the new year, I’ve been setting some goals. There’s all the stuff you might expect – stop substituting sugar for sleep, exercise more, finish the novel that’s on draft number five, apologise to those who read draft one and two…

To help the process, I set up a spreadsheet to put in a Dropbox folder that I share with my husband. (I just had to read that sentence again to confirm to myself that yes, I am actually a complete nerd.) In that folder, I found a little piece of history – the plan we wrote for the arrival of our son in July 2014.

We were so cute! We were going to get the room ready by February, make sure the carseat was booked by March, my husband was going to block out all of June to be away from the office and we were going to get a cleaner to help us at home. All highly recommended things. Well done us.

But then I discovered a little gem – we had noted that by mid July 2014, we should be getting more sleep again. That’s about the time our son was a month old. I wonder what we would have said had we known that a full three-and-a-half-years later he still wouldn’t reliably sleep right through the night.

Here’s some other things I would like to tell us as we wrote that plan:

Enjoy the baby phase
I went into having my son thinking that the first 12 months would be a trial that we just had to get through. Everything I had read and everyone I talked to warned me about how arduous and gruelling it would be and how my ability to ever do anything fun ever again would be completely gone. In fact, I was one of the lucky ones, who didn’t get PND, managed to get quite a bit of sleep due to “naughty” habits such as feeding to sleep and co-sleeping and generally had a pretty good time hanging out with my coffee group, trekking through forests with our kids in front packs (I know! Where’s the resolution to get back to that?) and taking him out for breakfast before he got old enough to run away. I wish I had been able to relax a bit earlier and enjoy it a bit more – because the baby phase with number two was nowhere near as peaceful.

Don’t worry about sleep consultants
I have mentioned before that I talked to two sleep consultants about my son’s sleep. They each tried to get us out of our “bad” habits but in reality achieved nothing but making me feel guilty for not being able to get him to fall asleep on his own. I wasn’t willing to leave my dog to sleep in her own room when she was a puppy, I don’t know why I thought I had some hidden vein of staunchness for my son. At 3.5 he still likes to have me with him when he falls asleep and I (usually) love it. It’s when he asks me questions he’s been pondering and makes up bedtime stories to tell me. I wish I had just relaxed and enjoyed it for the first year, instead of worrying I wasn’t doing it “right”.

Don’t worry about sleep
In the beginning, I had an app that measured how long he fed and slept for. I wish I could go back and tell myself that this level of micromanagement was totally unnecessary. He fed and slept for as long as he needed to and worrying about it did nothing but cut down my own sleep.

Don’t compare
It’s great when you have a group of friends with kids all the same age. There’s a readymade play date every time you get together. But there’s also the added interest of comparisons. Someone’s walking at eight months. Someone’s talking at three weeks. What I needed to hear was that when we catch up now, at 3.5, they’re all walking, talking and interacting brilliantly. And all toilet trained.

Don’t worry about stimulation
How many hours did I spend worrying about whether my son was getting enough stimulation – were we giving him the right toys to play with, were we talking to him enough, was he getting out… I didn’t stop to consider that for a child who’s new to the world, everything is stimulation. If you’re spending time with them and enjoying their company, that will be stimulation enough. No baby classes required.

Don’t worry about using (good) daycare
Paid care has an extra layer of guilt for me because I work from home. I’m often asked: Why don’t you have them with you all the time, while you work? Clearly, no one who asks has ever tried to work with a small boy and almost-toddler around. Both times I’ve twisted myself in knots before committing to any regular care (even though we only do it part-time), but each time it’s worked out beautifully. My son thrived – and loved one of his teachers so much that we still have her over to our house twice a week, even though he’s no longer under her care. My daughter seems to pick up a new word every time she goes for her morning sessions.

I wonder what I’ll look back on in another three years and roll my eyes at. Hopefully by then, at least one of them will be sleeping through the night.

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