June 3, 2014

Choosing My Battles

The pearl "choose your battles" might be most helpful to keep in mind when it comes to parenting.

(Also marriage....seriously, why do we subject ourselves to these things?)

I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm not in the habit of giving parenting advice. No, no. When I write about parenting it's merely to talk about something I've learned, and I want to share in case it might be helpful to someone. Because I am no expert. I'm just a mom, figuring it out as I go.

For example, I recently decided I'm going to mellow out about my son's sleep habits because I have bigger fish to fry.

I know, sleep habits are a BIG parenting issue, so how could I possibly give up that particular battle?

Well, AJ has never ever ever wanted to sleep alone for very long. He was a terrible napper as a baby and toddler, and now, at eight, he is having serious fears associated with nighttime and sleeping in a room all by himself.

I am told the fears are a normal developmental thing that he will eventually get over. For now, though, they are pervasive and nearly traumatizing to try to MAKE him get over. We've tried ALL THE THINGS. I can't do it anymore. And I honestly don't see why I should.

Mark and I have already, and for quite awhile now, set the boundary that he is too big (like, his physical size) and no longer allowed to sleep with us in our bed. After a suggestion from a friend, I placed a sleeping bag next to my side of the bed for him to use if he needed to be near me. He has been totally OK with that and uses it regularly.

We have been consistent about having him fall asleep in his own bed in hopes that he would eventually figure out how to stay there....but then something happened. He and his sister told us that they prefer each other's beds. In hopes of helping AJ be as comfortable as possible (and maybe less afraid?), we decided to let them sleep in each other's beds, meaning Camryn in his and AJ in hers.

This went pretty well for a few nights, probably due to the novelty, but AJ's fears just keep winning in his head. Obviously, he is simply afraid to be alone.

And then he started asking if he could sleep on the floor. Not just in my room, but in Camryn's too. So I realized something else: AJ feels too exposed up on a bed, thus contributing to his fears.

He's happiest when we allow him to sleep on the floor next to our bed, which is only my nightstand's width away from the wall, when I let him make a bed on Camryn's floor, between her bed and her desk and when I let him go to sleep on the couch in our "loft" area.

I can totally understand this, as I used to feel too exposed, and like the boogeyman would get me if I didn't have any covers on, when I was a kid. For awhile I even felt like I had to have the covers tucked up around my neck so a vampire couldn't bite me. This is what goes on in a child's imagination.

AJ's imagination is in overdrive right now. He is so full of anxiety at bedtime. I feel frustrated that my kid won't just go to sleep in his bed and stay there all night. But on the other hand, one of my jobs as his mom is to make him feel safe. It hurts my heart that he doesn't feel safe.

So I've decided this is a battle I don't want to fight anymore. With summer upon us, it seems like a good opportunity to give AJ control over how he sleeps, even if it's not what I would choose. The most important things to me are a) he gets sleep, and b) he feels safe doing so.

I talked to Mark about it, elaborating that I'm more concerned about AJ's manners, his continuing inability to make himself a PB&J and how he behaves when he's angry, than I am about where he sleeps. I'm 99% sure Mark agrees with me.

I am well aware that there are many arguments that can be made on this issue. You could say it's my fault because I co-slept for too long. You could say my son is manipulating me and I'm a big pushover. You could also tell me I just need to stand firm and force him to sleep in his own bed, in his own room every single night.

I've considered all of that and I disagree. I will never regret co-sleeping with either of my children. I defy you to look at my son crying for me or his dad because his closet is freaking him out and not see his fears as valid. And I already said, Mark and I have tried the "stand firm and be consistent" routine, to no avail.

Because our best parenting tactics are not going to fix our son's FEELINGS on the matter. And I am never going to tell my children that what they feel is wrong. Feelings are irrational, but they aren't wrong. You can blame my therapist for that one.

Honestly, I have no idea if this is the right thing to do. It just feels right for my kid, right now. That's the way I parent, with my heart and my gut, based on what I know about my children.

Also, sometimes you have to make your kids be guinea pigs for your parenting experiments!

Also shared with Pour Your Heart Out.

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