Here in the DiClemente house, we ALWAYS have the “case of the Mondays”. It’s the day where mornings are like pulling teeth to get Anthony (and myself moving). Anything from getting out of bed, eating breakfast, wearing something other than his pj’s to just starting the day. It requires a lot of patience and deep breaths to make it until Dad comes home or bedtime (whichever comes first). Believe me, I love my little guy. He is so funny, happy and sweet 95% of the time. But Mondays… are hard in our family.
I totally understand why it’s happening and do my best to re-instill boundaries and consistency to smooth out the rest of our week. We have a very consistent routine throughout the week and he knows his boundaries and feels safe and secure within them. Then the weekends come and Dad is home, we always have tons of family/friend activities and our routine is a bit more flexible then Mon-Fri. I can always see by the end of the weekend he is always a little overstimulated and getting right back to our routine is just what he needs. However, it is never easy and requires a lot of patience and consistency do to so.
Mondays are never without some kind of struggle. It is the power struggle to see who has the control. Him or Me? Over the weekend, he is with family or friends, who “spoil” him a bit more (which I am not complaining about) and he has a little more control over situations. He might not always have to clean up after himself or eat the most well balanced meals. He gets so many extra cuddles/snuggles and helping hands. I am not saying this is horrible or wrong but it makes transitioning back to our normal boundaries a bit of a challenge. Such is life…
The reason I am saying all of this is because this is how we should be looking at sleep for our little ones. We know that our kids need healthy boundaries where they can feel safe to be happy, excited, sad, cry, angry, etc. While creating these safe boundaries allows our babies/toddlers to explore all their different emotions and an opportunity to feel them and process them at their own pace. We are supporting them as loving parents but giving them the necessary opportunity to not be afraid of their own feelings, emotions and skills. The more we can experience an emotion, not be scared of it, and learn how to cope with it, the more we are able to grow.
A lot of parents/clients tell me that they don’t want their babies/toddlers to feel alone and that creating them to be fearful or scared. And because of this fear (the fear we feel as parents), we aren’t giving them the chance to even feel what it is like to be alone. Being alone is not a negative or bad thing (outside of neglect of course). Being alone creates boredom. Boredom creates creativity, imagination and problem solving. If our children never become bored because we are constantly entertaining, stimulating them, solving every single problem and trying responding to every whine or cry, they will never learn how to play and learn by themselves.
It gives them a chance to decompress, process their emotions and feelings and be comfortable with working things out themselves. Even as adults, when we are feeling angry, sad, overwhelmed, frustrated, creative, motivated, etc. we usually need to take a step back, assess the situation, be in our own space and process what is happening. Once we have settled we can then better approach any situation. It is the same with babies and toddlers. If we are ALWAYS intervening and not allowing them to feel all of these awesome and different emotions they will not know what they are and how to deal with them later on in life.
As much as we want to intervene when they start walking because we don’t want them to get hurt, or leave them in diapers because of the craziness is too much or keep the bottle because they refuse the sippy cup, we know we must allow them space to learn on their own. We create consistent boundaries with lots of positive reinforcement because we know that they need this change and to learn on their own for their growth and development. There are bumps, bruises, crying and tantrums but we keep on with our loving support and healthy boundaries that we have created. We have created a safe and secure place for them to express these emotions. We may feel some parental guilt (and it never goes away) but we keep motivated because we know it is for the best. It’s a positive skill they must learn and will only benefit them.
So why is sleep so different? Why are strong emotions and crying so much harder in regards to sleep? Why are we so hesitant and intimidated by allowing our children the space to learn how to fall asleep on their own?
For me and in my personal and professional experience, a lot has to do with being so sleep deprived ourselves. Because we are suffering from chronic sleep deprivation we are afraid to try something new because we are afraid that it will take away the little sleep we already are getting. We are afraid of change ourselves. We then become fearful of any negative we are going to create by allowing our babies/toddlers the opportunity and space to figure out this awesome skill of falling asleep on their own. They are so little and tiny, right? But we have witnessed how incredibly strong, smart and capable our little ones are. They are growing at such a rapid rate and are constantly changing. Around 4 months of age, babies are 100% capable of learning independent sleep. They possess the ability to do so.
Let’s not be scared of the unknown. It is ok to cry and feel mad about change. Give permission to our babies and toddlers to feel these emotions while loving and supporting them. Be witness to this incredible change.