The 2 1/2-3 year sleep regression

Can we just talk about this sleep regression?

I talk a lot here about the 4-month sleep regression (when you feel bewildered and bleak), the 8-9-month sleep regression (when you feel defeated and hopeless), and the 18-month sleep regression (when you feel insulted and irate). But I haven’t talked much about the 3-year sleep regression. We’re in the middle of it here (although he won’t be 3 until May), so i thought maybe some of you would like to complain along with me.

The other sleep regressions seem to be characterized by frequent wakings throughout the night, but this 3-year one seems to be all about not going to sleep at bedtime. When he first goes into his bed at 8, and is still awake at 9:45, it starts to piss me off. There’s only so much water a kid can drink, the monster-scarer is in full effect, the temperature is fine, and no you cannot come out and read with me. And, what’s more, your brother needs to stay asleep so he won’t be tired for school tomorrow.

Honestly, at this point I don’t even care if the little one actually goes to sleep, I just want him to be quiet so he won’t wake up his brother. (The progressive lowering of standards also seems to be characteristic of the 3-year sleep regression.)

What I’ve finally come to is that I can provide him the opportunity to sleep, but cannot make him do it. We have a temporary peace with his staying in his bed quietly (so he doesn’t wake his brother) and my not caring if he’s asleep or not. I definitely don’t think it’s something he’s doing on purpose. I think it’s the same thing that happens at the other sleep regressions–the kids are working on something mentally or developmentally, and their bodies and minds just simply can’t sleep right then.

This too shall pass.

Anyone else want to complain about the 3-year sleep regression? (And, moms of older kids, is there one coming at 6 years?)

Wonder Weeks link

M sent me this link to really brief descriptions of what’s happening during the Wonder Weeks. Thank you! Bookmark it, everyone. It doesn’t tell you what to do, but it does tell you what they’re learning at which leap. I am planning on putting up something Wonder Weeks-related that’s more community-based, but it won’t happen for another few weeks. I hope this can tide you over for awhile.

http://www.livingcontrolsystems.com/wonder_weeks/content_ww.html#ch06

George

I don’t have a post in me this morning. I was working on one last night, and planned to put the finishing touches on it this morning while the kids are eating breakfast, but can’t do it.

After school drop-off and before I go to work this morning, I’m going to visitation* for my neighbor, who died last week. He’d been an alcoholic for years and years. I remember when I first moved into the building, the police came at least once a month because he and his girlfriend were having a fight and she was attacking him (and then trying to press charges against him). I’d see him around the building, and he was kind and gentle, with this mellow, sweet energy. In the last few years he dropped a lot of weight and started using a walker (I’m guessing he was around 70 when he died) and his speech was labored and slurred even when he wasn’t obviously drunk.

I just feel so horrible for him, that his whole life was so wasted by this disease. He was in bondage to alcohol and couldn’t free himself. Who knows what he was when he was young, and what he could have accomplished? He should have been New York City Grandpa, taking his grandkids to the Museum of Natural History and out to diners and to the playground, instead of this sad, kind man in a bathrobe reeking of booze.

I feel so bad for his children, who didn’t really get to have a dad.

I have no idea where I’m going with this. I think I’m just wondering how people make peace with needless waste and loss. And also how we keep working on ourselves so we don’t end up wasting our own lives.

Thoughts?

* This is when the family is at the funeral home and people come to sign the guest book and pay their respects to the family. I grew up with this in American Midwestern gentile subculture, but don’t know if it’s universal, or is called visitation or something else in other places and subcultures.

Business travel suggestions for leaving kids

Overheard on the bus. One old lady to another: "You have five grandsons! How many do you really need?!"

Laugh? Cry?

Too much to do, and not enough time, so you guys are getting the short end of the stick.l Sorry about that.

Can we talk some more about business travel and leaving your kids? I haven’t traveled in months, but have to go away for three nights next week. It’s getting harder and harder to leave my 2 1/2-year-old. He gets more and more upset that I’m gone.

Here’s what I’m doing already:

  • Leaving in the morning instead of the night before, so that I can see the kids and have breakfast with them.
  • Calling every morning so they hears me before they starts their day. Then calling again before they go to bed.
  • Talking about where I’m going ahead of time and finding pictures on the internet so they can picture it in their minds.

What else do you have? I only have to go every few months, but it’s beginning to really suck, even when the actual trip for me is fine.

Check yourself

Last night I met a mom of a 7-week-old. We were talking about how things were going for her, and she said that she was wondering when she was going to start enjoying it, and that she woke up every morning with a sense of dread and a feeling of "How am I going to make it through today?" We were talking about her baby, and she seemed not to know what to say about him.

We talked some more, and it became pretty apparent that she either had mild PPD or was on the border of it. We talked about some things she could do that start feeling better immediately (exercise that works your core–so T-Tapp, pilates, or yoga, Omega 3s at 3,000mg a day, and B complex vitamins) and asked her to talk to her doctor in a few days whether or not she was feeling better, just to get a professional helping her.

As we were leaving, she told me she was glad she’d talked to me, because she’d thought she was just being a cry-baby about it.

That’s the thing about PPD. When you’re sinking into it, you don’t say "Aha! I have this illness called PPD. Let me get some help." You just think things suck and you don’t feel very good. And, yeah, most people aren’t really loving the gig at 7 weeks, so you feel like maybe it’s all normal. But why is it so hard for you? And if you tell your partner and s/he doesn’t know what to do so s/he just tells you "it’ll get better" then you think maybe it really is just weakness or being a whiner.

It’s not. In the first two weeks post-partum, your hormones will be whacked out and you’ll laugh and cry for no reason. Past that point, though, if you feel dread all the time, and don’t feel joy several times during each day, you’re sinking into PPD.

YOU ARE NOT WEAK. Your hormones are out of whack, and you have a treatable illness. You can probably get some relief by making some small changes, you may need meds but you won’t have to stop nursing unless you want to, and there is nothing wrong with you as a person. You are suffering from a physical illness.

Over on the left is a PDF you can download with some suggestions of things you can do to help lift the greyness (to me depression always felt like being rolled in that pink fiberglass insulation–I was still there on the inside but I just couldn’t seem to interface with the rest of the world) and give yourself a little bit of breathing room. Download it, show it to your partner, and tell him or her that you need help. Start with one or two of the things on the list, and get your partner to call your provider. They will help you.

Comments? Support? Requests for support?

Reader call: Money stuff

From the "heck if l know" file:

Shay’s Mamala writes:

"I have 2 questions related to money:

1. What do you and the readers think about saving for college? Is it a good
idea to have an account set up? What are your opinions about a 529 versus an
Education IRA? Is it better for us to concentrate on our own retirement savings?
College was not something that people in my family did, let alone saved for. I
maxed out grants and loans and worked several part time jobs to pay my way. I
don’t want my DD to have to juggle work and school and I certainly don’t want
her to leave college in debt like I did. However, I don’t know if saving
separately for her college makes sense. We could just use our own savings at
that time if she does not get funding from other sources.

2. Related to the above question and thoughts stemming from the posts on
digital organization. I wondering if other families use financial software
packages and if they are helpful in actually spending less and saving more. Are
they time consuming to use or can most information be automatically imported
into them from financial institutions. Do they make tax time easier? Not that we
have wads of dough to manage, but somehow I think we might do a better job with
our money if we were actually tracking it. What’s a good system?"

I know there’s an answer to both of these questions, and my suspicion is that a separate account is definitely the better choice for tax purposes (here in the US, at least, but I’d love to hear what Canadians, Aussies, people in the UK and other countries say). It sounds like some of this question is cultural, too, though, and that’s another interesting discussion.

And, yeah, question 2 is something I have no opinion on, but probably should.

I know you know, though, so please share.

Q&A: father not caring for baby

Kelly writes:

"First of all let me start with my sincere thanks for your
site. As a first time mother living in fairly isolated circumstances (my husband
and I are expats in Thailand which means access to very
few family or professional support systems) I have found your site invaluable and
have spent many hours scrolling through the archives. On particularly trying
days I often find pieces of wisdom from you and your commentators popping into
my mind and making me laugh or giving me new things to try with my 12 week old
son.

I am writing to you about son’s relationship with my
partner. I know you have written in previous posts that their relationship is
not my responsibility and I agree with this and I am not trying to create or manage
it for them, but here is the situation. My partner loves our son dearly.
However, he seems to be at a bit of a loss as to what to do with him. As a
result he tends to do very little. If I ask him to he will take him and play or
hold him for 5 – 10 minutes but after that he puts him in his bouncy chair
and continues with whatever he was doing without interacting with the baby at
all. I try not to interfere but it breaks my heart to see our generally cheerful
son’s face as he looks at his dad for some attention and smiles without
getting any feedback and I usually end up taking him for playtime with me.

On a practical level I also need a break in terms of nappy
changes and settling for sleep. I need to know that if I want to or have to go
out for a couple of hours they will be OK together and my son will not be left
crying because his dad doesn’t know how to comfort him and will give up
on trying — as happened on the one time I have left them together for more than
30 minutes when I had to go to a work meeting. As a result of this one time I
have been reluctant since to leave them alone together and for my own sanity I
need to get out more!

I really need some advice on how to help my husband
understand that baby needs his dad to pay him attention, comfort him and really
interact with him and ways in which I can help my husband to learn the skills
necessary to manage the baby (without telling him how to do things as I am conscious
he will have to learn his own way of doing things). Also any thoughts on activities
they can do together bearing in mind that we live in a very polluted and “park-less”
city which means going for a nice long walk with baby in the kangaroo pouch (which
they both enjoyed when we were recently overseas) is not really possible.

I am concerned about the long term ramifications that the
lack of interaction will have on their relationship and would really appreciate
any advice you have on this."

I really love the internet. It makes me so happy that my dorky little site can help people connect with each other and help each other all over the world.

It sounds like one of two things is happening here. Either your husband just hasn’t figured out that he’s the dad yet (which I can understand, since while 12 weeks is an eternity in some ways, it’s a blink of the eye in others), or he’s feeling conflicted or stressed and is showing that externally as indifference.

It’s entirely possible that he just hasn’t figured out that he’s the dad yet, and that he’s got to be the one who actually takes care of the baby. At that stage in the game I can still vividly remember hearing my older son cry and thinking "When is this baby’s mother going to come take care of him?" and then having that thunk of realization of "Oh. I’m the baby’s mother." And that was after the whole pregnancy and labor and delivery and leaky boobs and all of that. So I’d imagine it’s even harder for a man, who doesn’t have that constant physical reminder that he’s now in charge of caring for a teeny tiny person.

I also think some men just have problems connecting with their children when they’re tiny and not so interactive yet. You hear stories over and over again about men who barely pay attention to their babies but can’t be dragged away from the same children as toddlers. Once kids can talk and walk and play, it becomes easier for some fathers to connect with them. So a lack of bonding and interest in the baby stage doesn’t mean a man will never interact with his kids ever.

I think it’s also possible that he’s feeling pressure and anxiety about being a new dad and being so responsible for your son and the family, and that it’s making him curl back into himself. What seems like indifference could just be fear and stress. (If there are any dad readers who’d like to comment about this, please do!) I think for women, we take so much of the parenting hit physically, between the sleep deprivation and constant carrying and feeding and everything else, that it’s hard to remember that the men are also in the middle of a huge change, and feel pressure and fear and can be as overwhelmed as we are.

Now clearly it doesn’t help anyone for your husband not to be doing any care of the baby. Especially when he’s the only one in charge. I don’t know his personality of how best to approach him about it, but I generally think honesty is the best policy. Simply stating what you’ve observed and asking him how he’s feeling may help get to the bottom of it. If he really just hasn’t connected yet, you may have to lay out expectations (i.e. if the baby’s crying, pick him up and go through the routine until he’s settled again). If he’s feeling stressed and is withdrawing because of that, then you have a bigger opportunity to grow closer by working through your stress and all these changes together.

That sounded really Pollyanna-ish, didn’t it?

I do think that if you both can acknowledge how you’re feeling at this super-stressful time of life, and work together to help each other out (which means he needs to learn how to care for the baby) you can grow together and be stronger. If you let things fester, it’ll make everything worse. So you’re going to have to have the crappy conversation.

Comments? Again, I’d especially love to hear the male point of view on this.

Reader help for pregnancy qualms

Heather writes:

"During
your Christmas to New Years open thread I tossed out a little whimper
of an "OMG, I’m pregnant" and got a few very nice responses for which I
am grateful.
In the last year I have gotten engaged and married,
quit one job, moved 800 miles away from my family, didn’t work for
awhile, got a GREAT, CRAZY, HUGE job which I love{!!!}
and am only just now figuring out how to do. So … there has been a lot of change. I’m still not really dealing with the fact that I am pregnant very well.
Still, I’m eating right, taking the vitamins & fish
oil, went to the doctor yesterday and saw the heartbeat {I broke into
heartbroken tears, and now feel bad that this magical moment just felt
… ugh … awful} and asked the doctor for help finding a therapist
{because BOY HOWDY do I need one apparently}.

So, first,
thank you for saying at some point awhile back that it was ok to find a
therapist because that helped me find the guts to do it. Second,
right now I am trapped in the things that are changing and going away
{perhaps, I recognize, being a little overly dramatic about those
things even} and I know that I don’t understand the good things that it
will be replaced by.
Can you and the lovely ladies in the computer articulate the good stuff and help a woman find her way out of the dark?"

Boy have I been there.

Not with the job I love and marriage and move all happening at the same time. But with the "What have I done??" and "My life has hardly even begun–how can I have a baby now?"

Personally, I think it’s counterproductive to try to force yourself to think it’s all normal and happy and the best thing that’ll ever happen to you. Being uncomfortable with the change and transition, now that’s normal. I think it’s important to let yourself mourn your old life, and to explore the fears you’re feeling, and to know that it’s not all going to be great right away and that it will take a lot of time and energy and lost sleep to get to the new normal. But that the new normal is thousands of shades richer than the one you have now. The highs are higher and the lows are lower.

I could go on about this for pages, but I think it’s better just to turn it over to the commenters, who will do a better job in fewer words. Please work your magic, friends.

More on nursing and sexy thoughts

The people have spoken. From now on I’ll separate posts. Special thanks to Rachel for emailing me to bring it up, because I honestly never would have thought of it.

Product review of Cranium Bloom toys below.

The whole nursing/sex dreams question from last week reminded me of something I read years ago (I can’t remember where, for which I apologize) which was a stat that mothers who breastfed had more sex (by a lot) in the first year post-partum than mothers who formula fed. I had no idea why that would be when I read that stat, but it stands to reason that since breastfeeding produces oxytocin, which is the same hormone released during orgasm, moms with more oxytocin racing through their systems would be more interested in sex.

(Also, do I need to mention that nursing doesn’t inspire sexy feelings toward the baby? It seems pretty obvious to me, but I’m worried someone’s going to find this post and wig out about it without having any understanding of how nursing produces hormones so it’s a natural physical reaction.)

I wonder how that interacts with the feeling that many of us who’ve nursed have had at different times, which is that we felt "touched out," or just tired of someone else wanting something from us that involved our bodies.

Sexy hormones vs. overwhelming emotional responsibilities? My suspicion is that sleep is what tips the balance, and that mothers who are getting enough* sleep feel less touched out and have more sexy hormones.

And I have no personal experience with formula feeding exclusively, but suspect that the intersections are probably the same.

Any thoughts you’d like to share on that?

* and by "enough" I really mean "maybe 60% of the sleep you got before having a kid, but enough that you can remember your middle name on any given day."

Product Review: Cranium Bloom toys

I was asked to review the new "Bloom" line of toys, made by the Cranium people (the same people who make Balloon Lagoon, possibly the most fun game for 4-year-olds ever).

I got to review the "Let’s Play: Count & Cook" game and the "Seek & Find: Let’s Go to the Zoo" puzzle.

The Count & Cook game is a board game with a playing board, a bunch of little discs with different foods on them, a die, and a recipe book. You put the food discs on the board in any order you want to be the path the tokens follow. Then you open the recipe book to a recipe that takes four different foods. Roll the die, and move the tokens. If you land on one in the recipe, take it off the board and put it on the recipe. The person who adds the last ingredient to the recipe wins that round.

There were a couple of things I liked about the game. One was that the kids arrange the path themselves and can switch around the order the food discs are in, so there’s none of the board-memorizing and cheating that can happen in games with static paths. Also, even though there’s a winner, the game was mostly cooperative and not competitive.

The game is rated for 3+, and I think the ideal age for the game would be 3-5-year-olds.My kids are 2.5 and almost 6. It was a little too simple for my older son, and a little too tough for my younger one. But still, they played happily together (with several reminders from me to "help your brother move his guy") for about 15 minutes. The last 5 minutes of that time they completely abandoned the rules and just moved their guys around the board pretending to eat the food discs, but this game seems to encourage that kind of exploration.

They asked to play the game again a few days later.

The Seek & Find puzzle is a puzzle with 24 pieces with a scene on it (we had the zoo one) and a picture of the puzzle, a dry-erase pen, and two little notebooks with elements from the puzzle picture. You put together the puzzle, then flip the notebook and take turns looking for the things in the puzzle that the notebook tells you to. When you find them on the puzzle, you circle them on the puzzle with the dry-erase marker.

They really liked this one. My older one put the puzzle together easily, and then he helped the little one find the different elements. They had fun doing the illicit drawing on a puzzle, and the picture on the puzzle was detailed and silly enough that they kept finding new elements and laughing at them. My only complaint about this game is that I got a paper cut on my knuckle while opening the box that still stings.

I think that these games are good alternatives to Candyland and Go Fish and the other beginning-level games, and are simultaneously simple enough and layered enough to draw 3-year-olds and 6-year-olds in at the same time. My 2.5-year-old was mostly fine with them with his brother’s cooperation, but you couldn’t have a couple of kids that young playing at the same time without many adult referees.