I am hoping that you all had one or two tiny moments in your day today that showed you what you have been able to create for your families.
If you haven't had a second to breathe (maybe your day was full of crying, or yelling, or fighting, or managing any number of crazy social isolation moments that come with this period in history) - take that moment now.
Reflect on your babies - your impact, your teachings, your resilience, your love.
Each family I work with is different - your values, your parenting styles, your stories...
But one similarity remains: you love your children enough to do something hard to make their lives better.
Time and time again this trait has shone through - whether we met for sleep coaching, or for helping them end a cycle of bullying.
Not every family has the capacity to reach out for help - but you did.
My heart is full - not only for my own family, but, for all of yours. In your own ways, you have all inspired me to be a better coach & a better person.
Sending big love to all of you!
Did anyone else out there need this message today besides me?
I had a bad day yesterday. A BAD one.
At bedtime, I told my husband that I was a BAD mom. Of course - he disagreed... and, of course, I pushed back (you know the routine).
For me - it's important to acknowledge when I'm not at my best, so that I can analyze what I need (AND what I'm not taking!) to get back on track.
What I DON'T need to do in those moments is decide that I'm a terrible parent in the process.
So - if you're feeling this way too, remember YOU ARE DOING YOUR BEST. I promise, you are!
And, if you want things to shift? Decide what you can give to yourself. My guess is that your well is a little dry and needs some tending to.
For me? I did some baking this morning, chose to do yoga in the afternoon, have drank WAY more wanter than normal, and will be hitting the bed early tonight.
For you? I don't know what you need - but YOU do.
What DO know? You're not a bad mom... just a tired one. Or a stretched one. Or a stressed one. Or an imbalanced one.
So - go give yourself the love you deserve too.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of running a sleep workshop at my kids' Montessori School.
"Freedom within limits" is one of the main tenets of Montessori education.
In our family - sleep is a limit. Do my kids protest it? Of course!
Our toddler's job is to push our limits, and, our job as adults to keep those limits firm.
So - where do I give them freedom? So many places! They get to brush their teeth before we give a "touch up". They have a pee on their own on the potty. They pick their pyjamas. They get themselves dressed. They choose the book.
But the limits? They brush their teeth. They have a pee. One or two books depending on whether they have "dilly-dallied". They get into bed. Lights off at 7pm. One visit from a parent 10 minutes after bedtime. That's it.
As much as our kids protest these limits, they also feel safe within them. And, the more you hold those firm limits, the less protest you get.
You know what else makes them feel safe? A good night's sleep!
Any sick babies out there?
This is my daughter a few weeks ago - the start of a few weeks of intense sickness for our family. It was a really hard time, but a huge silver lining was we were able to maintain good sleep from our good sleepers through the time.
Impossible? Not at all. Here are my best tips:
- Don't wait when your child cries out in the night. You can tiptoe in and check on them - make sure they haven't thrown up, spiked a fever, and are breathing okay.
- If they do need some assistance, give it! We will give Tylenol or Motrin and then hold and soothe our kids for 5 or 10 minutes until the medicine kicks in. We'll re-check fevers to make sure that they dropped and then put them back in their cribs to sleep.
- If they are 6 months and up, and if you have a baby that already sleeps through the night without breastfeeds, feel free to give water during those feverish wake-ups to keep their liquids up.
- I will sometimes give a bottle or breastfeed if a child vomits in the night. But, know that you will need to fight the next couple of night's wake-ups when they are looking for some milk again.
- Naps can be short, or long, depending on their comfort levels. I rarely wake a sick child from a nap unless: 1. I'm worried about fluid intake 2. The regular last nap of the day I wake to preserve bedtime.
- Awake times could be shorter than normal - not longer. So, keep an eye on the child's sleep signals and the clock.
- If you need to (or are worried enough) sleep near your child to keep a close eye on them, bring a mattress into their room and sleep on their floor.
- Please don't start co-sleeping! Your mattress is not as cool as the baby's. You don't want to spike a fever higher than is needed.
Remember - if you have a baby or child that can sleep - let them sleep! Give comfort for sure, but, then leave them to sleep. Their bodies need it AND they can do it!
This is such a hard time, but, don't make life harder than it needs to be by starting to rock, feed, or co-sleep again... Everyone needs rest to fight this bug!
Dear Mama in the hospital,
Don’t forget to breathe. Scan your body - relax those muscles.
You’re scared. I get it. Me too.
But, in the midst of protecting your little person, try to remember you matter too. Your basic needs have to be met. Eat food. Drink water. Take a break. Say yes to friends requests to help - ask for a quick break, or a hug.
Impossible? You say. I get it. I’m right there with you. Day 4 in paediatric ICU. My babe cries when I leave, and calms when I return. How, when he is this sick, can I leave him to get dinner? To go to the bathroom? To take a minute to have a cry and re-group?
It’s simple - but also so so complex: For him to get a good mom, I need to tend to me too. It’s so easy to forget that. As women, we have been conditioned to look out for everyone else, and not ourselves.
We are taught that we only matter if those of us around us are calm and happy. That our worth is based on others' feelings about us. We are a good wife if our partner is happy. A good mother if our children are happy. A good daughter - friend - employee - if we make those around us feel comfortable.
Well, guess what? That’s crap. You are worthy regardless of how anyone else feels. You deserve happiness too.
As hard as it is, this is one of those times where you need to shift your mind. “But I’m already dealing with a really ill child, how can I do that too?” Because… you don’t have a choice. That baby needs you well. That baby needs you present, and caring, and loving. And the only way to sustain that - is to love yourself too. So… find a way to let you be taken care of too.
When the nurse asks if you need anything say “yes, can you get me some water please?”. Leave your child and pee - even if that means a few minutes of discomfort for them. Allow your friends or your spouse to stay with your child so you can get a break - some quiet to focus on your breathing or call a friend to vent.
Yes, your baby is sick. But you giving up all of your reserves to them won’t make them better. All it will do is make you feel stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted.
You got this. Xo
What can shift your mood for 24 to 48 hours?
For me? Time in nature.
No matter where I live or where I travel, I find myself seeking out nature.
This is a picture from my run today. We’re living at my mother-in-law’s house while we do a renovation, and I found this lovely trail beside a river.
The interesting thing about it - besides the fact that it is a part of the largest patch of untouched nature in urban area in Ontario - is that to the left of this trail is a major road. While running, I’m noticing not only a lovely duck dive under the water, but, the sounds of major traffic making its way to and from work.
I have found in my life that there are always tiny pockets of nature anywhere you go - and, all it takes even the smallest fern, and some focused attention, to decrease your cortisol levels and help you to feel calm.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, over-stimulated, exhausted or generally stressed… find yourself some nature and immerse yourself.
It can be as nice as a forest trail, or as small as a plant that you love.
Many studies have been done about nature and its healing properties - and, the good news is that you don’t have to take a 10 day hiking trip in the Rockies to get the benefits.
Spend time observing that little plant in your room, and notice your body relax.
So, for all those parents out there, don’t just put your kids in nature, get out there too! Take 10 minutes away from the dishes and just stand in your backyard while your kids play. Notice the trees, or the chilly wind, or the sunshine leaping across the snow.
And, if you have a chance to get a workout - consider doing it outside - you’ll get double the cortisol burn!
Our holidays were less than ideal this year.
This is my son - he is almost 2. This picture was taken Christmas Day at the Children’s Hospital near our home.
After a severe reaction to 2 respiratory viruses, we spent 5 days in the ICU and 8 in a regular ward.
But, scary times like these do the oddest thing - they remind you of all of the amazing things you have going for you.
Both my husband and I felt deeply grateful - for the amazing hospital in our backyard, for our family willing to stretch and change traditions so we could be together over the holidays, for the health of our other 2 children, for jobs we love, friends who rallied, and our public healthcare system.
I never imagined being with my child in a hospital so long… so it never occurred to me that I would be also deeply grateful for the fact that my child was an excellent sleeper.
We know that immune systems function way better when we sleep well.
And sleep well he did.
Amidst the bells, the alarms, the coughing fits, the nurses checks, the change in schedule, the discomforts… he was able to sleep. If he was woken by something, he was able to easily get back to sleep after we soothed him a little. But, it was never OUR job to get him to sleep - he could do that all on his own.
He maintained his 12 hours at night, and increased naps considerably so that he could fight off his viruses.
He didn’t have his regular routines, or crib, or his dark room with perfect routines… And yet, because he COULD sleep, and because he NEEDED to sleep, he just did.
The nurses were impressed with his ability to catch his zzz’s, and noted that this wasn’t the case with many families.
His sleep time provided my husband and I time to work, to unwind, to process our own feelings, and, to sleep and nap ourselves.
Honestly, I think it’s what helped us to keep our sanity during a pretty challenging time.
As we move into 2020, we are hoping to move this scary time into our distant memories. But, we want to hold onto our new-found gratitude for all the little things we forgot to focus on… with great sleep being at the top of our list!
Sigh… Holidays are over, and real life returns.
The fun, the family, the presents, the late nights, and memories…. And… the tantrums, over-sugared, over-stimulated children that are STILL flying high.
You might be asking - Is it even possible to return to a normal routine?
The good news? YES. It’s totally possible.
The bad news? It’s likely not going to happen without a bit of protest from your children.
Here are some easy steps to follow to get back on track:
1. Sit down and make a list of troubling behaviours.
2. Decide on what your limits actually are that will fix the problem behaviours (e.g. no popsicles, bedtime at 7:30, sitting through dinner, etc.)
3. Make a plan of action and then let your kids know what the new (old) rules are, and that things are changing to help them get back to a healthier lifestyle.
Option 1 - Rip Off the Bandaid Method - Bring all the rules back on track at the same time. Major protest, short time.
Option 2 - Slow Rip Method - Pick one rule, reinforce it for a few days until it’s back to normal, then move to the next rule. Minor protest, longer time.
4. Most importantly: BE CONSISTENT & DON’T FOLD. If you say there’s a new rule, and then you let your child whine for 40 minutes and THEN you fold, what you have taught them is that IF they whine for 40 minutes, they get what they want. Don’t want that? Don’t fold.
What rules did you slip away from over the holidays?
We love them - intensely. But, that doesn't mean it's always easy.
Especially when it comes to unsolicited parenting advice.
Now, don't get me wrong. I believe that if a parent is unknowingly doing something dangerous or harmful to their child, that we SHOULD speak up (unsolicited or not).
But then there are all the other times. Sigh.
For THOSE times, this is my best tip to get through the holidays with happy kids: You know your newborn/baby/toddler/child. You know what they need, how they respond to things, AND how much sleep they need. So do that.
When, let's say, Aunt Betty goes on a rant about how SHE got her babies to sleep, that THEY could skip naps and be fine, that they probably just need a little stricter discipline... My suggestion?
Smile, nod... and then say "So interesting! Thanks for the advice, I'll take it into consideration" - and then proceed to do whatever you were planning on doing with your child.
Many parents fall into the trap of pleasing their FAMILY to not create conflict and sacrifice their CHILDREN'S needs. Which, ultimately creates discomfort for their kids.
When someone tells you to do something different, play out the scenario in your mind. Think about the outcome for your child if you do what Aunt Betty suggests. We know Aunt Betty will feel happy (or be less critical... or maybe not!) but how will your son or daughter feel?
If it's no-big-deal, then please-away. But if it's not - then I'd (again) smile, nod, thank her for advice and then go on with whatever you think is best for your baby.
Feel free to share your Aunt Betty success stories here! Extra tips are always welcome!
Big bedtime feelings getting in the way of getting to sleep?
Just "let feelings be".
What does that mean? Don't distract, attempt to stop the crying by yelling, or let your toddler or older child feel badly that they are feeling sadness or anger.
Sometimes bedtime is the only quieter time of the day - and, if your child is struggling with something, this is when the feelings will pop out.
What can you do instead? Ride the wave of their feelings.
Stay with your child as they bawl, or rage... Say back what they are saying and include the emotions you are observing (this doesn't mean you agree with them, just that you can hear them!) "You want more milk. Oh, you are so sad, mummy said no and you REALLY want it!"
Then just let the feelings flow up and out.
The benefit? The feelings are then gone!
When we are upset and we get distracted our stress hormone (cortisol) stays high. But when we allow ourselves (and our kids) to feel the full expression of their feelings, our cortisol drops.
And you know what that means? Their brains and bodies are ready for sleep!
Anyone out there handling massive toddler meltdowns?
We have not one, but TWO toddlers in our house! The feelings are big, and the frustrations are real!
One thing that shifted my twins' moods considerably was giving them agency over their environment. To figure out what their present challenges are, I observe their moods and what they seem to be getting annoyed with.
I notice the frustration sometimes because of series of meltdowns about one specific thing, for example, not being able to climb onto the toilet. The solution? Put a stool next to it so they can safely climb up.
Other times, they simply will ask to help with something. This weekend, we discovered they both really wanted to help us cook. We gave them toddler-safe knives, taught them how to use them, and then let them chop away (with adult supervision of course!)
These are the years where our kids learn to become active citizens in their world. Toddlers need to feel like they have the capacity to have independence AND contribute to the family unit.
The more agency they can have over their environment, the less tantrums they will have. Doesn't THAT sound nice?