Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Binkies, Bunk beds, and Big Boy Chairs: A lesson in letting go

It's a commonly accepted practice that moms get more relaxed in their parenting as time goes on--and as they add more children to their families. Bedtimes are more relaxed, treats are more common, that kind of thing.

I get it. I see it. And I'm not saying I don't see ways that I am more easy-going with this kind of stuff. For instance, this afternoon Roo let himself into the pantry, found the box of graham crackers, and sat down in the middle of the kitchen floor, chomping away--not on ONE graham cracker, mind you, but on several (one bite from this one, one bite from that one, put this one on the ground and pound it a bit, let the dog nibble that one and then take it back and lick it... that sort of thing). This would have been COMPLETELY unacceptable when my older kids were his age, but I was just so darn proud of the kid for doing that whole process himself that I couldn't scold him for it!

In many ways, though, I think I have gotten more uptight, more controlling, more of a worrier. When Lamb was born and one of the grandmas would watch her, they would always ask such respectful questions: "Is it OK to hold her while she sleeps?" "When do you want me to feed her?" Things like that. And I would answer, "You've been a mom a lot longer than I have--whatever you think is fine."

But now I worry. I worry about bedtimes and routines and screen time and... so many things. I feel the need to make sure that we are doing everything "right."

And then came Roo. And he continues to teach me that I need to rethink my idea of "right." And to let.the.heck.go of my worries.

I worried and worried and worried about when he would walk. And now that child runs everywhere.

I cried because the only name he would say was "Daddy." And now he clearly calls each member of our family by name--Lamb, Monkey, Mommy, Daddy, Gram, Nana, AND Papa! And every morning I walk in his room, and I'm greeted with a smile and a "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"

So you would think I would have learned my lesson by now, right? He may take his sweet time learning something, but once he's got it, he's GOT IT.

But no. No, I still have to learn over and over again. And he is a willing teacher.

At Roo's open house at the end of August, I asked his teacher if I could send a "binky" with him for naptime. Yep, he's 3 1/2. I had been thinking about getting rid of it for months, but oh. It just seemed so impossible. With Lamb, we went to Build-a-Bear when she was 2 and put the binky in the bear (whom she aptly named "Binky). Then she could snuggle her new friend and know that her binky was close by. It seemed like a good idea, but the first night she asked us to rip the poor animal open and get her binky out. For the next week bedtime was tough, but then everything was back to normal. Not too shabby.

With Monkey, I started telling him that when he was ready to be done, we would put his binky in a gift bag and leave it for the Binky Fairy. She would come while he was sleeping, take the binky for another baby, and leave him with a "big boy present." We had this conversation for several days in a row, and one afternoon I heard him SOBBING up in his bed. When I went to check on him, he sadly handed me the pacifier and said, "All done binky." I--ahem, the Binky Fairy--gave him his present, which made him happy in the moment, but did not make bedtime much easier that night... or the next several to follow.

If that's how the pacifier break went with kids who actually UNDERSTOOD, how was it going to go THIS time? Roo doesn't get abstract concepts or things that are in the future or... well, a lot of things.

But he's 3 1/2. Isn't it time? If I keep letting him use his pacifier, when do I get my "Bad Moms' Club" membership card???

All of this was running through my head as I humbly asked his teacher to give him a binky at naptime. She readily agreed--and also added that she would be happy to withhold it if I wanted to start cutting back.

Hint, hint.

(Don't jump on his teacher. She is fantabulous. She was being kind and gentle--I think she could see my hesitation on the whole thing.)

But then the craziest thing happened. When she would give him his pacifier at school, he would hand it back to her. He didn't want anything to do with it. And he would still sleep!

This was not a one-time deal. It happened the first day... and the second... and the third... and the fourth.

So I decided to do something crazy. I decided I would JUST STOP GIVING IT TO HIM.

And he didn't cry.

And he still went to sleep!

OK, so he didn't go right to sleep. But there was no crying. In fact, I'd hear him in his room, laughing and having a grand old time. And sometimes I'd have to go in and remind him to go "night-night." But eventually he would. He still falls asleep at naptime almost every day, and he still goes to sleep (though sometimes it takes a while) every night.

Can I confess something here? On the rare night that he is really struggling... like a night when he has gone to sleep, but now is restless and waking up over and over... I still give it to him. It's not often, maybe once every week. And it doesn't seem to be ruining him for life.

Do you think maybe, just maybe, I could stop worrying so much?

A few days ago, as I was watching Roo run around before lunch and mentally celebrating my binky victory, my mind turned to the next big "hurdle" I am facing with him: the crib. Yep, he's still in a crib. He doesn't climb out, and since he DOES tend to be awake for a while when I put him to bed... well, quite honestly, I am intimidated to think about trying to get him to stay in his bed. But have I mentioned that he's 3 1/2? And his other buddies with DS his age are in "big boy" beds? And did I happen to mention that I worry a little too much about making the right choices as a parent???

So as I stood there, my joy gradually replaced by more worries and insecurities, Roo came in and said, "Mommy! Mommy! Eat!" I pulled the tray off the high chair and reached to pick him up, but he pulled away and said, "No!"

Then he ran to the dining room table, climbed into a chair, and said, "Eat!"

This boy may take his sweet time, but when he's ready, he's ready. And he doesn't look back.

Take a deep breath. Relax. Go with it.

Stop worrying, Mom.

1 comment:

Mdivgirl said...

Ha! If only you were my friend in real life as opposed to on another continent you could see how "not right" things are done here and feel so much better about yourself as a mom. My almost three year old still sleeps with a pacifier and drinks at times out of a bottle because his two year old sister does both and they have no concept they aren't the same age. I'd make more of an effort to stop this, but their father would give me basically no support and I'm too busy with the actual baby. As for sleeping? Vivienne is still in a crib, Jonathan and daddy sleep on mattresses in the computer room, and I sleep with the baby on the big bed. And eating? I'm still not sure what my daughter eats beyond fried rice and the occasional fruit. So, see. You're doing well.

I did have to convince my husband that is was OK that Jonathan didn't say more than five words at two and that he was probably just taking his own sweet time about it since he was learning so many other things. Now, at almost three he talks all day long and knows how to count to 14, his alphabet, his shapes, and his numbers (thank you, iPad and Mickey's Clubhouse). I figure as long as kids are making steady progress and know they're loved, we're doing well.

(Oh, but if only I could figure out how to get my daughter to eat. And yet, she's happy, healthy, and smart as anything so I guess formula, baby cereal, and fried rice are something.)