Sunday, January 5, 2014

Getting 3 Kids To SLEEP

I have concluded that getting 3 young children to sleep simultaneously is a bit like juggling a watermelon, a grape, and a carving knife. It is unbalanced, chaotic, and potentially hazardous to your mental health.

When I am successful balancing the three- I feel like queen of the world. I work constantly to figure them out- cuddle the ones who need cuddling, let the independent non-cuddlers cry out what they need to cry out, give ginks (drinks) to those who need them to fall asleep, sing songs when necessary, and tweak schedules here and there to make sure that I'm not missing the window of sleep opportunity (not too early so that they whine for hours about how they're not tired- or too late where they just cry and cry because they are over tired...right in-between: the window of sleep opportunity.) This is a constant learning game. Never do I feel confident enough to say "NOW! I have figured them out. HERE IS THE SECRET TO SLEEP!" Because they are all different, respond differently, and each and every day varies in what they truly need to pass out drooling and adorable on those little pillows.

3 children. None of them are the same as far as sleep goes. And yet my job is to get them all consistently on the same schedule. This is where superpowers would be useful in motherhood.

Addison's sleep habits as a newborn were ideal- although we didn't realize it at the time. She spent her first 5 weeks in NICU and when she came home, not only was she still physically very weak and required extra rest, but she also had a g-tube. A g-tube means that you can silently send food into your child's belly WHILE they are asleep. You can stave off hunger before they even feel it enough to wake up and cry. As Addison has grown- she has continued with her good sleeping habits excepting 1. She tends to get up very early in the morning no matter what time she goes to bed and 2. If Carter is sleeping in the same room as her, he WILL keep her awake no matter how tired she is. (when Carter was a newborn, not gonna lie- there was a time that we truly missed the magic of a g-tube with night feedings).

Carter's sleep habits as a newborn are the kind of sleep habits that maintain that that child will always be the LAST baby (thank goodness for oopsie #3). Up every 45 minutes for at least the first six months- refusing to be rocked or cuddled to sleep- randomly having screaming night terrors- getting worked up and on purpose vomiting if he felt he was put to bed too early (as he grew into toddlerhood). His sleeping habits are still a bit questionable- getting up at least once a night to cry about the unfairness of life, and don't even get me started on the transition to the toddler bed (before we built his "baby gate" that kept him confined) where he would get up at 2:30am to scout out cookies and sweets in the kitchen to consume while we all slept.

They both need a lot of sleep. If Addison doesn't get enough sleep she gets sick. If Carter doesn't get enough sleep he is an absolute brat the next day, and no measure of obedience training works to get him to shape up.

Eli so far has been way better than Carter as far as infant sleep goes. He loves swaddling, white noise, his rock 'n play, and a 7pm bedtime. But if there is one thing I have learned as a mother of 3- it's that this sort of thing is never a constant. It changes faster than clean clothes end up in the giant dirty pile (and that is fast).

One day I'll be juggling my watermelon, grape, and carving knife- carefully getting my children all to sleep at the same time and feeling so proud of myself for tiny successes, when all of a sudden the grape turns to an orange, the watermelon transitions to a bowling ball, and the carving knife explodes into a sphere of fire.

The one thing that is constant? Flexibility, willingness to rework preconceived notions, and ability to survive on little sleep when you least expect it.

We had just fallen into a decent schedule with the 3 (the tots sleeping from 7pm to 7am and Eli varying from 3 hour stretches to 4 and maybe 6) when we took an impromptu vacation this past weekend. The vacation kind of fell into our laps, and was amazing- but that's not the point of this.

The first night in this new, strange place- little Eli got up once. ONE TIME! YAY! Sleep for this Mama! (Confession, I still got up every couple of hours to make sure he was breathing)

The problem with this crazy "sleep" plan was that this same night Addison woke up in the strange, new room at 3am requesting a drink. She woke up Carter. When she was ready to go back to sleep, he was bouncing off the walls and using all his powers to keep her awake. They fed off of each other's energy, and we spent the next four hours constantly putting them both back in their beds begging, PLEADING, sobbing for them to go BACK TO SLEEP. (Side note: I find these nights my prayer life really gets a kick in the pants. Oh how I wish prayer worked like wishes from a genie in the bottle. sleep SLEEP sleep amen. /child passes out on pillow/)

The next night, we learned from our mistake and put them in separate rooms- far away from each other. This meant that Aaron and I had to split up as well to make sure they were both being monitored in this strange, new place, but it was worth it to finally get a little shut eye. Worked like a charm. They were both exhausted from the night before. They passed out and slept soundly all night long.

Only problem with this "sleep" plan was that Eli was up every hour that night, sometimes more frequently- requiring "snack" feedings and demanding cuddles. Sleep achieved that night: a few broken hours. The third night they switched it up and took turns being up every few hours as well as one refusing to go to sleep at night and another getting up super early the next morning- just to keep us on our toes.

Vacation was awesome, but you know what else is awesome? Sleep. I'm beginning to crave it intensely. And I have a newborn who normally loves sleep. Who knew that the tots and newborn would be equal offenders on the sleeplessness scale??? No one warns you about that.

I wish they would just get together and plan a couple sleepless nights a week, and let all their good sleeping fall on the same nights. But no. And that's where the juggling comes in. And the naps. And the self medicating.

Anyway, we're home now. And one of the nights I was awake most of the night on vacation I thought of the watermelon, grape, and carving knife illustration, and I just had to use it somewhere- even if it meant giving up that first peaceful hour of 3 sleeping at the same time to type it out. Because the "hazardous to my mental health" thing has already kicked way in. If this makes no sense to you- two guesses as to what I blame for my incoherency and the first guess doesn't count.

Now if you will excuse me, it's 7:30pm and I have an important appointment to keep with my pillow. #partyanimal #thisiswhygodmakeschildrensocute #stillworthit



Like peanut butter on the fingers of a curious toddler, this post is begging to be shared.

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