It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Foiled by Biology

“Okay, guys. Naptime!”

“Not me!” says Gwynn. She has said this every day for the last three weeks. Every day, she denies that naptime applies to her just-turned-two self, and every day I say, “Yes, you, silly,” and escort her to bed. Where she falls asleep. Every day.

Today I take a different approach. After I have put the babies down in their cribs, I return to the kitchen, where Gwynn sleeps on a low to the floor toddler cot. She is sitting on it, playing with a small toy. Her pillow is at one end, her sheet folded neatly at the other.

I stand beside the cot, so she has to look up, waaaaay up, to see me. “So, Gwynn. You think you don’t need a nap?”

That catches her attention. I haven’t spoken in a challenging or derisive way.

Note: I am never sarcastic with the kids. In my own head, I’m often ironic, but that’s in my own head. Once in a while I say something wry that I know will go shooting wildly right over their heads, just for my personal entertainment. But sarcasm? Sneering? Mean-spirited humour? Nope. I feel very strongly that using sarcasm with a small child is simply unkind. They don’t understand sarcasm. It confuses them. They certainly understand the emotion behind it is negative, but they are not yet cognitively capable of processing that kind of duality. Besides, it’s just mean.

So when I ask that question, I am playing it straight. I am confirming that she thinks naps are unnecessary. That is not all I am doing, but Gwynn doesn’t know that… and doesn’t need to.

From her seat at the edge of the cot, she tips her head waaaay back to look at me. “No. I don’t want a nap.” Now, any adult knows that ‘want’ and ‘need’ are two quite different things. Gwynn doesn’t want a nap, no, but I am quite convinced that she still needs one. Gwynn makes no such distinction, of course. She doesn’t want one. She doesn’t want one, and that’s that. ‘Need’ is irrelevant. She, however, is pleased to be having this conversation. Maybe Mary is finally going to be reasonable about this whole nap thing!!

“Well, here’s what I was thinking,” I begin. Gwynn, finding this head-tipping thing a bit awkward, lies back with her head on her pillow to better see me. “What I was thinking was that, since you are a Big Girl now, maybe you don’t need a nap. So here’s what we’ll do.”

Gwynn’s eyes are riveted on mine. Big Girl? No nap? This is all very hopeful! She lies very still, hanging on my every word.

“What we’ll do, from now on, is, instead of naptime, you will have quiet time. You can have a toy or a book. You don’t have to sleep, but you do have to stay on your cot. You can play quietly. Does that sound good?”

She nods. She blinks. I keep talking, quietly, steadily.


“You can stay awake and play quietly. You can go to sleep if you want. You just have to stay on the coat. You have to stay on the cot. You have to use your quiet time voice. But you don’t have to sleep. So long as you have a quiet time, I don’t mind if you stay awake. It will be all right. You can just have a rest. You can rest and play quietly and not get up and just be calm and …”

Aaaaaand that’s it. Gwynn is out for the count.

The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Naptime reins.


October 28, 2014 Posted by | sleep | , , | 4 Comments

Shh! I’m sleeping!

resting-peacefully2-815611-mDaniel, who, at three and a half, doesn’t necessarily need a nap every day, has a “little lie-down” on a small cot in the kitchen. He’s put there with a couple of books and a soft doll and told to lie quietly for 20 minutes. If he hasn’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes, he’s allowed up to indulge in quiet activities.

(This is what I do with all borderline nappers. Sometime between two and a half and three and a half, generally, children give up their naps, but of course this is a process, not an overnight event. What to do while they’re transitioning from napper to non-napper? They get a quiet lie-down instead.

Now, they have to actually be quiet, and the first few times they’re given a quiet lie-down option, we learn what that means. Kicking your feet around in the air, tossing and turning, chattering and singing, well, that’s not quiet. If they do those things, they have to stay on their cot longer, until they manage quietude … or until naptime is over, whichever comes first. They usually sort it out within a week or two.

When the nap vanishes depends primarily on their bedtimes. A child who goes to bed at 7 p.m. is going to give up their nap sooner than a child who goes to bed at 9. Stands to reason. When the family only manages to screech into their home, all together at the end of the day at last at 6:00 or so, you can see where parents might actually enjoy having some family time before popping the little ones into bed. So, naptimes persist later for children with later bedtimes. I can’t say I mind: naptime is happy time for caregivers and parents alike. Hand me that teacup, will you?)

The “quiet” of quiet time, once he’s out of his cot, is a relative term with Daniel. All Daniel’s activities are accompanied by a steady stream of chatter, and Daniel? He is not so good at the inside voice. Whispering, in fact, he manages better, so we usually go for that, but, as with all things Daniel, there is a HIGH ENERGY LEVEL to it. So he’s reminded to whisper, he manages it for two minutes or so, and then whispering gradually increases in volume through murmur, to soft voice, to inside voice to … “Daniel. It’s quiet time, remember. Whisper, please!” Lather, rinse, repeat.

But today, Daniel has had a nap. Not a long one, about 45 minutes or so. Now a steady stream of of tossing and turning, small bumps, rustling, sighs and yawns floats through the kitchen door. From where I sit in the dining room, I can see his legs, but not his face. Those legs are in steady motion. Oh, he’s got to be awake.

“Daniel? Are you awake?” This in a loud-ish whisper. Just in case he’s not quite awake. Also, hello? It’s quiet time!

No answer. With my soft question, all sounds from the kitchen abruptly cease. I move to the door to the kitchen. Daniel is curled on his side, still and quiet, but rigid as a board. This is not the relaxed abandon of sleep. His eyes are screwed tight shut. This is a wide-awake toddler faking sleep.

“Daniel? Are you awake?” A rhetorical question, obviously, but I’m entertained. Besides, when he tells me he’s awake, I can tell him he can get up.

“No. I’m sleeping. My eyes are shut.”


It was tempting, you know, to take him at his word and go finish my tea…

December 17, 2013 Posted by | Daniel, sleep | , , | 4 Comments

My Little Optimist

Grace asked for a nap today.

She doesn’t nap any more, but she did look tired, so when she said she was and asked for a nap, well, she took a nap. Because she looked genuinely tired, I opted to put her in a room, on a bed, with real curtains that could be drawn. So she could have a nap in a quiet, dim environment.

She peed in the potty right before she went up.
I woke her after 45 minutes. She may be tired, but I don’t want to mess up her bedtime, if possible.

And in 45 minutes, starting with an empty bladder …

she managed to pee the bed.

My son’s bed.

Thank goodness I’d pulled his upper sheet, blanket and comforter aside so as to cover Grace with a daycare flannelette sheet.

But the lower sheet and the mattress? Big soggy spot. Ick.

I admit I emitted a dismayed, “Oh, Gra-aace!” when I realized the damage. I may also have muttered rather darkly to myself as I stripped the sheet off, pressed a towel into the wet spot on the mattress, and sprinkled it with baking powder. (When it dries, I’ll vacuum it off. Then the Febreeze.)

Grace stood to one side, watching the sopping-up and the sprinkling-on.


“Yes, love?” I glance up. Grace is smiling, and, very obviously trying to comfort and reassure, she presents me with my silver lining:

“Mary, I didn’t pee on the pillow!”

It made me laugh. I wonder if it’ll work on my son, who has to sleep in that bed tonight?

September 21, 2012 Posted by | eeewww, Grace, potty tales, sleep | 3 Comments

He knows why! Mebbe.

“We’ve found out why Daniel keeps demanding to be in our bed in the middle of the night!”

This has been an ongoing issue for a few weeks now. Daniel goes to bed happily, but somewhere after midnight he’s awake and demanding — “Mama! Dada! BED at YOOU!!!” — to join his parents. A demand they didn’t particularly mind accommodating. He slept with them for the first few months of his life, after all, they’re philosophically inclined in favour of co-sleeping … but these days, Daniel has grown into a rather, ah, physical little sleeper.

After a few nights of being kicked, pummelled, punched, thumped, and generally roughed-up in their sleep, mama and dada are no longer so inclined to share their sleeping space.

“If he’d just sleep, it’d be no problem. Thing he, he runs a half-marathon every night. It’s like trying to sleep through five rounds with a light heavy-weight.” Dad mixes his sleep-deprived metaphors in an entirely effective way.

Dad (more than Mum, in this case) has been wondering why this sudden demand. I’ve proffered a few likely possibilities, noting that whatever triggered it three weeks ago is quite probably not what’s continuing the pattern now, anyway, and summing up with my ongoing mantra: You’ll probably never know for sure, and it almost certainly doesn’t matter.

But it’s been bugging dad. He wants to know why. And now he does!!

“He gets lonely for his gramma and grampa in the night, and then he needs company.”

Oh, yes? We know this how?

Well, because Daniel told him, you see.

You all recall that Daniel is 19 months old?


Now, Daniel is a very verbal little guy. He has a good vocabulary and chatters nineteen to the dozen. Lots of words in short! excited! sentences!!! But what Daniel is not is introspective.

Dad had been talking with Daniel about this, and asked a few questions, and over the course of this conversation he had gleaned this nugget of information.

Asked a few questions. Mmm-hmm.

Yesterday I was chatting with Poppy about what she had done on her week off. Now I have no idea what Poppy did. I haven’t spoken with her parents yet, but according to Poppy…

“Did you have a nice week last week?”
“Did you play with mummy and daddy?”
“Did you go see grandma and grandpa?”
“Yeah! Gamma and gampa!!”
“Did you ride in the train?”
“Yes, train!!”

Okay. So now we know she took the train to grandma and grandpa’s, right?

Mebbe. And if I were Daniel’s dad, see, I’d stop here, sure I had the answser! But I’m a smidge more canny than that.

“Did you ride an elephant?”
“Did you sprout wings and fly to the moon?”
“Fly at a moon! Yes!”

You see the problem here?

Now, Daniel’s dad is satisfied with his interpretation. It bothered him that he didn’t know why, and now he does. Not that knowing why changes one single thing … except in dad’s head. With the reason firmly in hand, he feels competent to deal with the behaviour.

In the exact same way he’d have dealt with it without the reason.

I don’t argue. Does it matter? He loves his boy so much. He wants to understand him. And now he does!!! He’s nailed this, and he knows it! He’s relieved, and so pleased with himself. He feels competent. (And he is competent. He was competent before he “knew” why, of course.)

I don’t argue. I’m not going to rain on his parade. He needs this. In fact, I just smile affectionately. If he were his son, I’d be ruffling his hair right now, or poking a finger out to “beep” his button nose. Because, you know? Sometimes the parents are just so damned cuuuute.

March 20, 2012 Posted by | Daniel, parenting, parents, sleep, socializing | 2 Comments

Sleep, baby, sleep

I am soothing a reluctant sleeper as he lies in his crib, protesting. He’s on his tummy, his wee butt in the air, his face flushed with the vigour of his indignation, his eyes closed. He really is tired. He just needs to let go. And so I pat his back (not something I do all that routinely, really), and speak words of comfort and consolation.

Want to hear? Want to hear ‘comfort and consolation’, Mary-style? My voice is soft and crooning, pitched a little lower than normal, a steady thread of soothing white noise. And the words?

“I know, I KNOW! It’s just awful, what we adults do to you. The abuse! Insisting that you get enough sleep to be healthy and happy. Awful! Outrageous, even. How dare we? It would be much better to run around miserable and exhausted all day long, I’m sure. I don’t know HOW you put up with it, I really don’t. I should be ashamed of myself, putting you to sleep in a comfy bed in a quiet room.”

I can keep it up as long as I need to.

It amuses me and, as it’s all said in warm and soothing tones, he relaxes to the cadence, rather than the content, of my words. Because really, the point is that I’m here, right? I don’t have to think he’s being reasonable or sensible. Because he’s not. Not at all. Fight a nap? Is he INSANE? Some days I would kill for a nap. Truly.

Well, okay, I guess I really wouldn’t, since I haven’t yet, and lord knows I’ve had opportunity and motivation.

But when I have a kid who is fighting tooth and nail to resist the very thing I’m craving … pearls before swine, I tell you. Pearls before swine. So no, I’m not particularly sympatico with his position on the matter.

“Oh, the inhumanity! How can we treat you in such a terrible fashion? How do you manage to suffer the cruelty? A nap! How dare I?”

Aaaaand… he’s asleep. And I’m amused, rather than exasperated out of my mind.

I’d call that a win-win.

August 22, 2011 Posted by | sleep | , , , | 8 Comments

Where’s my pattern? My predictability?

I’m integrating another baby, as you know. Daniel has been a delightfully easy baby to integrate. He’s a tad anxious at drop-off, but easily distracted. He prefers to toss his food over eating it, but judging from his not exactly willowy girth, intake is simply not something I need to worry about overmuch. He routinely gives spontaneous hugs and kisses. Given the girth and the enthusiasm, he’s another commando hugger, but who can argue with affection, no matter how exuberant?

So he’s got the right attitude, he’s good enough with the food, he’s cheerful and friendly. What he hasn’t got yet is anything like a consistent sleep pattern.

So far we’ve had early morning naps, we’ve had mid-morning naps, we’ve had no morning nap. We’ve had afternoon naps and no afternoon naps. I understand from his parents that this is not normal for him. His normal patterns are much the same as I maintain for the other kids, so I’m assuming this is a reaction to the both Big Change of starting daycare, and the changes to his normal morning routine that getting to daycare on time involve. Now, he’s weathering this all with his apparently standard response of gleeful good humour.

The adults? Not so much. His daytime variation is throwing his nights into a bit of disarray, I understand, one evening falling asleep in his dinner plate, the next swinging from the chandelier at 8:30, one morning up at his usual 5:45, the next at 4:30. His parents are tired. And me? I need my afternoon quiet time. With a three-and-a-half and a five-and-a-half on the roll, I’m used to having kids awake in the afternoon, but they’re old enough to be quiet. They’re old enough to be independent. They do not require constant surveillance.

Daniel? He’s a happy boy, he’s a cheerful boy, and he’s a busy, busy boy. Totally normal, of course, but not what I want for my afternoons. Even as I type, Emily and Tyler are two metres to my right in the kitchen, playing an involved game with the dollhouse and a firetruck. I think rescues are involved, but it’s all being done very quietly, and they haven’t needed anything from me in 40 minutes.

And Daniel? In that 40 minutes he has thrown three toys through the front door window onto the porch. He has eaten a crayon (purple). He has filled and emptied a box several times. (That game bought me at least three minutes of tea-drinking time.) He has tried to climb the stairs to the bedrooms. (Damn that baby gate!!!) He has tried to fall down the basement stairs. (Damn that other baby gate!!!) He has attempted to feed the puppy something inorganic, throw some wooden blocks, gnaw on a library book (which activity cost me $28 last time), poke a rhythm stick through the front door screen, pull the music off the piano, empty one of the diaper bins, and shut a cupboard door on his fingers.

Attempted each and every one of those things. Been thwarted in his efforts by yours truly.

In the same time frame, I have attempted to interest him in:

– the fill and dump game. (Got me three minutes.)
– a high chair tray full of cheerios (Two minutes. The dogs really enjoyed that one. I expected the tossing, I just hoped it would last longer…)
– a shape-sorter, some stuffed toys, blocks (cf, throwing, above), rhythm instruments (cf, through the screen), books (gnawing), play piano (music books to floor)…

He’s not extreme, he’s not even particularly high-energy. He’s just 13 months old.

Thirteen months old. And awake.


I will deal with this, just not yet. I have a couple of weeks off at the end of the month, you see, and there is no point whatsoever in starting a re-jigging of sleep campaign when, in another two weeks, everything’s going to be different yet again!

But in September? When we’re all back, when my enrollment is stable (summer is always a time of attendance flux), when Emily and Tyler will no longer be coming (sob), and everything is back to normal?

I am getting my afternoons back.

August 4, 2011 Posted by | Daniel, sleep | | 4 Comments

In which Mary digs in her heels

Top of the top of the top of my pet peeves with parents. Bar none.

Worse than parents who…
… can’t say no to their child.
… are chronically late at the end of the day.
… don’t call when they’ll be late dropping off the child.
… call me “the babysitter”.
… refuse to leave before they’ve calmed their baby (and thus spend 15 minutes winding the poor child up)
… consistently forget to send diapers, changes of clothes, or other necessities
… are inexcusably late picking up a sick child
… send a sick child to daycare

I’ve seen all those, and yes, they’re annoying to one degree or another. But the thing that really, really annoys me, possibly because it’s the thing I see the most frequently, bar none…

Are the ones who expect me to pick up their napping slack. The ones who say that they’re SURE their child doesn’t need a nap any more. They’re sure, because if the child has a nap, the child “just won’t go to sleep” at night.

Which, on the surface of it, sounds reasonable enough. There does come a certain point where a child no longer needs a daytime nap. For some children, that can be as young as 22 or 24 months. (Not often, but occasionally.) Some children are still needing naps at four. (Not often, but sometimes.)

A lot depends on patterns at home, of course. A child with an early bedtime (6 – 7:30 or so) will be able to give up the afternoon nap before the child who’s up till 9:00. Only makes sense.

If I have a family who has always encouraged sane and sensible sleep patterns with their child, I am always co-operative. In fact, only last week, I was the one suggesting to that parent that her daughter probably didn’t need a nap any more. Mum was describing bedtimes which have become steadily later over the preceding weeks, greatly extended periods of chat and activity before sleep finally arrived. I know this family has always had a consistent bedtime. I know the child’s sleep quirks. She’s not a perfect sleeper, but she falls well within normal, and her parents have always responded sensibly, as they are now.

“Let’s try dropping the nap for a week, and see what happens,” I said. This is her fourth day without a nap. Mum, Dad and I are working together, noting changes in night-time sleep patterns, daytime energy levels, mood, appetite… all those things that can be affected by sleep. I suspect she will only need occasional naps from here on in.

So, though I do enjoy my quiet oasis of nap time, I don’t put my quiet hour or two above a child’s genuine need. Emily hasn’t napped in about a year; Tyler naps some, but not all, days. Child-free naptimes are WONDERFUL, but if a child genuinely doesn’t need a nap… well, they don’t. I deal.

I’m not talking about that kind of parent, though. I’m talking about the ones who have never managed to establish consistent, age-appropriate sleep patterns. Year-old babies go all weekend without a nap. Fifteen-month-olds go to bed at ten at night. Eighteen-month-olds are waking multiple times most nights. Bedtimes vary by as much as two hours, wake times are similarly unpredictable. These children arrive on Mondays with dark shadows under their eyes, irritable, whiny and either lethargic or in manic overdrive. They are obviously, chronically, consistently sleep-deprived. I hate this as much as I’d hate it if I knew a child weren’t being fed properly, and was malnourished. It’s not about convenience, it’s about health.

And, very often, sometime in the second year of these children’s lives, their parents get the brilliant idea that the reason their child won’t go to bed at a decent hour is not because of any of those things. No! The problem originates elsewhere. This poor, weary, sleep-deprived urchin makes bedtime a misery because they’re getting TOO MUCH sleep! And if I would only agree to skip the naps, everything at home would be perfect.

Bugs the ever-living crap out of me.

I don’t say so, of course. “You people are making me crazy!!!!” That would be unkind, rude, unprofessional, and unhelpful. I want this problem fixed. I just don’t agree that their solution will result in a well-rested child. And that’s what we all want, right?

So, instead of laughing in their faces and out-right refusing, I suggest that I would be open to eliminating naps if I had a better idea of what their current patterns are. Which is only true, and only sensible. “We can’t effectively alter the sleep patterns until we know what they are.” I mean that. I may believe that their current problems are only the result of a year or two of poor patterns… I may believe that, but I could be wrong. It’s been known to happen.

Therefore, I ask parents to keep a sleep log. I provide the charts to fill. They keep one and I keep one, for three weeks. At the end of three weeks, I say, we will combine our charts and see what they tell us.

A blind experiment, I call it, where neither side sees the data the other has, so expectations don’t skew perceptions. (And to prevent, as happened on one memorable occasion, the parents fudging their charting to get the results they wanted. Here’s a tip: It’s silly to lie about something like that when your regular evening babysitter is your childcare provider’s daughter…)

With the charting in hand, we usually spot the problem easily. And usually — not always, but usually — it’s nothing to do with daycare. The first time I did this with a family, they called me on the weekend at the end of the second week. “We don’t need to keep up with the charting. We thought we had a consistent bedtime with occasional exceptions. The chart’s shown us that it’s his bedtime that’s the exception!”

That was nice. Moreover, they were appreciative of the exercise. That was nice, too.

Because it’s not intended as a trick to trip them up. Truly, it’s not, though I suspect some parents see it that way, as a test they can pass or fail. It’s not a test. It’s information-seeking. I want to know what we’re dealing with here, what the baseline is so that we can evaluate if our actions are resulting in the desired changes. If you don’t know what your starting point is, how do you know how far you’ve travelled? If you don’t know what the current situation is, how can you plan your strategy and evaluate its efficacy? Has the situation changed? If so, by how much? If not, why not? How do you answer any of these questions without information? You need DATA.

But do you know what? When I suggest the charting, about 80% of the contenders drop out of the race. Keeping a sleep log for three weeks is too much work? Or they know in their hearts the data wouldn’t support their position? Or it’s that fear of failing the test? I dunno. I just know that my suggestion, which is made quite sincerely, almost always results in the issue being dropped. I genuinely find that odd.

(Gratifying in some instances, she chortles evilly, but odd nonetheless.)

I want the child to be happy and healthy, and part of that includes being well-rested. I will work with the parents to achieve that. I will not, however, do the work for them.

It genuinely distresses me to see pale, weary, unhappy sleep-deprived children. If a parent’s strategy for getting their child to sleep at night is to drive them to the point of bleary-eyed, blithering exhaustion… well, don’t expect me to co-operate.

And if they expect me to make such changes without any data, and only on their say-so?

It won’t happen.


July 15, 2011 Posted by | parents, Peeve me, sleep | , , , , , | 22 Comments

Tired but hopeful

Lily is going through a rough patch.

Consequently, so am I.


Lily had a rough transition to daycare initially. It wasn’t drawn out, it took the fairly standard three weeks, but it was loud. No, it was GLASS-SHATTERING, eardrum-piercing PAINFUL. Not for the entire three weeks. By the end of the third week, she was fine. But while she was in transition? Ugh.

When she’d finished the transition? She was delightful. There was no more delightful child than Lily. Cute, cuddly, her default was glee. She took ‘adorable’ to a whole new level. Catching her eye in mid-grin always made you laugh. Always.

Note how all that is in the past tense?

Eight months later, she regressed. No more happy drop-offs. No more cheery waves. Now she entered wailing. And, for the most part, she stayed wailing. Well, whining or fragile. All day. Ugh.

What caused it initially? The theories abound… a change in the routine at home, a new kid in daycare, an ear infection, gramma visiting… all possible, but who knows? After a few weeks, whatever started it was no longer relevant, anyway.

I tried all the standard things. A new entry routine, more cuddling, ignoring the tears, being positive, tweaking her naptimes…


I talked to the parents about sleep patterns, because I certainly noticed it was worst on Mondays. Mom says they could be more consistent; Dad says they are. Hm.

So I provided them a sleep log. I charted daytime hours, they charted evenings and weekends. Separate charts. After three weeks, I collated them, and we discussed the results over tea in their dining room one evening.

Mom was right. (I thought she was.) Bedtimes varied by up to 90 minutes. Nap-times on weekends were essentially non-existent. Moreover, total sleep in twenty-four hours varied by 4 hours, anywhere from 12 to 16 hours. My nap-times were not consistent enough, either. Drop-offs varied by as much as two and a half hours. We all had some work to do.

Dad is still saying “It’s not so bad.” Mom points out the 90-minute bedtime variation, which he shrugs off until I say, “In order to be considered ‘consistent’, her bedtime should vary by no more than 15 minutes. Twenty at the very most.”

“Oh.” They both look startled at that.

I suggest that for a child experiencing transitional difficulties, consistency is very important. Predictability and routine are good, they provide a sense of stability. They give her certainty which she appears to very much need.

We leave the table with some strategies. They will choose a drop-off time and stick with it. Similarly bed-times. I will give her no more than 40 minutes nap after drop-off, and ensure that her afternoon nap starts at precisely the same time each day. I will employ a strategy they’ve use with good results, of giving her a positive word to strive for. Instead of “Calm and quiet”, I will try “Let’s giggle, Lily!” (It’s been working, not to make her instantly happy, but to shake her from the Misery Groove when she gets stuck, so you can shift her in a more positive direction.) We will continue with the charting.

And, after a week of our new regime?

I can see progress. She still comes in wailing, but it’s low-level. In fact, I’d call this morning’s entry more ‘whining’ than ‘crying’. Her mornings are still unsettled, but after lunch and nap, her afternoons are much better.

And yesterday? Yesterday afternoon I saw the Old Lily! The cheery, smiley, how-can-you-not-squooze-the-child happy Lily.

I am so relieved. Because really, I was beginning to think this was one of those children for whom daycare is not the best option. “It could be that Lily would be best off with a nanny at home,” I had told them, a thought which they said hadn’t yet crossed their minds. After a week of consistent improvement, I’m not thinking that any more.

But, lordy, I’m tired. My mornings are intense. Lily is always in my mind. I’m constantly monitoring her emotional state, ready to divert, to intervene, to distract. I am pouring out a steady stream of cheerful narration of our activities and doings.

And I’m seeing results. A concrete example: Mary needs to pee.

On Monday, I took her to the bathroom with me. On Tuesday, I told her I was going to go up to pee, and when the lower lip started trembling, I told her I would only be a minute! And then we would read a book!!! Which worked, if I was very quick. On Wednesday, I didn’t have to be so manically quick. On Thursday, I could tell her (and all the children), “I’m going upstairs for a sec,” and there wasn’t even a quiver to the lip. Progress.

But, goodness, I’m tired.

See, all week I have been upbeat! and happy! soooo happy!! ALL. THE. TIME!!! And you know? I am not that kind of person. I am a quiet sort. Low-key. Calm, not perky. Cheerful enough, but not bubbly. My forte is peace. And all this pouring out and pouring out and pouring out of positive energy, though it is rewarding in that it is moving the girl from her funk to a more positive state of mind, is exhausting.

I won’t do it long-term. I can’t do it long-term. I am seeing enough improvement already that I don’t think I’ll have to.

If it turns out, though, that when I return to my normal, low-key peaceful self (instead of the Manic-Peppy EverReady Bunny I’ve been this week) that she goes all Mr. Hyde on me again? Then it will be time for her parents to seek other care. Because if that’s what she truly needs, well, I can’t deliver.

Sometimes that happens. I will regret it, because Lily at her best is way beyond delightful! But I won’t feel guilty or inadequate, because I’ll know that we all gave it our absolute best, and, bottom line, we want what is best for Lily.

At this point, I still think that’s here with me. I’m hopeful this will work out.

We’ll see, won’t we?

January 14, 2011 Posted by | Lily, sleep | , , , , , | 8 Comments

A bit of a mystery…

Lily comes in wailing. She’s been doing that for the last little while. The sudden reversal, however, is not the mystery. It’s not unusual for a previously chipper child to suddenly evidence reluctance, even outright distress, at drop-offs. Parents love to speculate why this happens — a visiting gramma, a cold, some disruption of the routine — and sometimes they’re right. Very often, however, it’s just another of those inexplicable vagaries of young children. Something set them off, obviously, but we will likely never know what it is. This particular one usually goes away by itself in fairly short order, so long as all the adults stay calm and upbeat in the child’s presence. Don’t make a big deal of it, and it won’t be one. It will pass. As so many things do.

The more I work with young children, the less I worry about the ‘why’ of things. Sometimes it’s obvious, and I’m happy when it is, but mostly we have to respond to things without knowing the ‘why’. And you know what? It works. You hardly ever really need to know why.

Why do we want to know why? Because it gives we adults a feeling of control, or, in this case, competence. If we know why something is happening, we’re three-quarters of the way to solving it, right? Weeellllll… maybe… Thing is, you’re never going to be totally in control (which is not an excuse for out-of-control children, ahem) and, more importantly, knowing why has essentially NO correlation to competence. You can be 100% in the dark about why something is happening, and still be a very competent parent.

I am a competent caregiver, and sometimes I have only the foggiest inklings of why something is happening. But I am also a very experienced caregiver, which means I don’t sweat it. My own curiosity would looooove to know what on earth is going on in that wee mind, but if I never find out, it doesn’t mean I’m one whit less effective and competent as a caregiver.

Kids are weird, is all.

Just like the rest of us…

So. Lily. Coming in wailing. In fact, I do have a theory: she’s tired. She comes in wailing, and stays whiny as long as she’s awake. She needs 100% of my attention. I must hold her at all times. If I so much as look at another child, the low-level whine ratchets up a notch. If I set her down, she moves up to full-bore wailing. If another child inadvertently bumps into her, in the bumper-car way of a semi-coordinated, oblivious toddler, she wails louder. If I serve apples for snack and she wanted Cheerios, she wails. (She ALWAYS wants Cheerios, and, sadly for her, I serve them only intermittently.)

In short, she is one miserable little camper. Miserable in herself, miserable to be around.

But put her down for a nap, and, after some initial wailing, she settles in for a substantial snooze. And when she wakes? Lily’s Evil Twin has left us (praise be) and Delightful Lily is back. Delightful Lily, let it hereby be related, is the cutest, funnest, nicest, just the most damned engaging child you’d ever want to meet. I adore Delightful Lily. The Evil Twin… not so adorable. At all.

The contrast between Tired Lily and Rested Lily is dramatic. Doctor Jekyll had nothing on this kid.

So I’m pretty sure I know the root cause of this particular behaviour. Even better, Lily sort of gets it, too. For the last week or so, when she arrives, wailing, she will lie her head on my shoulder and say (in a long, drawn-out, truly annoying whine), “Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaap!”

Well, okay then. Good to know we’re on the same page, sister.

Here’s where it gets weird. So I put her down, for the nap she asked for. I give her her soother, tuck her in and say, “Have a nice nap. When you wake up, you will feel SO MUCH BETTER!!” Because she will.

And Lily? Now that she’s all settled in for the nap she demanded?

She cries.



So I go into her room. “Lily, do you want to have a nap?”


This seems clear enough, but I’m canny enough to know that it often pays to ask the opposite question. If I get a “yes” to it… well, it’s just not so clear anymore, darnit.

“Do you want to come upstairs?”


That seems clear enough. Let’s double-check.

“Do you want to play blocks with Rory?”

“No! Nap!”

Okay, then. She doesn’t want to come upstairs, she doesn’t want to play, she wants to nap. All-righty, then. Napping is good. We can do that. So I leave the room, and…

she wails.

Is that not so weird?

Toddlers are weird.

And this one is also tired, so… I walk away. We both know what she needs, but I can’t do it for her. And in a few minutes (5? 10? 15?) all is quiet.

Ninety minutes or so later, she wakes, cheerful, happy and ready for her day.

But what a noodle. She’s tired, she knows it. She doesn’t want to be up and playing, she wants a nap. So I give her the time and space and comfy spot to have that nap, and she OBJECTS!


December 6, 2010 Posted by | Lily, sleep | , , | 6 Comments

The only reason for the damned things I can think of

A baby cries. I walk up the stairs and pause on the landing. Which of the three bedrooms did the cry come from?

Who knows? The baby, probably as a result of hearing my footsteps on the stairs, has stopped crying. I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I guess he/she has gone back to sleep. I go downstairs. I sit with my tea and my laptop. Two minutes into my next round of Scramble pithy, well-crafted words of wisdom, a baby cries. I walk up the stairs and pause on the landing…

We have now done this dance three times.

Once in a very long while, I can see an actual use for baby monitors.

October 27, 2010 Posted by | sleep | , , | 2 Comments