Can you reintroduce a transitional object?

This age is just so horrible. Gotham Mom writes:

"My 3 1/2 year old has been a very good sleeper most his life, until dun
dun dun, the 3yo sleep regression. He started to climb out of the crib,
refused to stay in his room and then a week later we went on an
international trip, six time zones away. This really screwed everything
up. When we came back we moved his crib out and put in a bunk bed that
he shares with his sister, and added a baby gate to the door and he
settled into a good new routine.


7 months later he still is getting up more often than he had before he
turned three, and when he decided he no longer wanted his crib he also
gave up his froggie, which had been his transitional object. I am now
his transitional object, or his Dad, though Mom is where it's at. He
goes back to bed well most of the time but prefers to have one of us
cuddle with him (last night I was in there half the night and after I
fell asleep in his room I dreamed that I couldn't get him back to

I asked him about his froggie tonight and he told me to "throw it away"
or give it to the bigger boy who lives down the block. He needs
something to cuddle with, but I would prefer it wasn't me or my husband
all the time. Any ideas on how to reintroduce or foster a new
transitional object!?


Ps older child is supremely attached to her blanket….thank goodness!"

Remember when I used to joke about starting a ranch to make Trained Monkey Assistants that you could use to soothe babies back to sleep and pop dropped pacifiers back into their mouths and bring you glasses of water and the remote control when you were trapped under a sleeping kid? This would be the perfect situation for a TMA. The TMA would lie there on the floor next to your son until he falls asleep, then get up, have a banana, and watch some House Hunters until it's time to go soothe your son back to sleep in the middle of the night.

Seriously, though, if he were 3, or 4, I'd say that you should just talk to him about creating a new bedtime routine that did or didn't involve a transitional object but didn't involve you being his transitional object. But since he's 3.5, his brain is all haywire and he could come up with a detailed plan with you about going to sleep and then a few hours later deny that he had any part in it and wig out. Remember that 3 1/2 year olds make no sense. And when you think they make sense, they're really just lulling you into a false sense of security so the next nonsensical tantrum will burn even more. It's like their spirit totem becomes the Venus flytrap for a few months.

So. I think you CAN introduce a transitional object, but you're going to have to be very sneaky and strategic about it, and use reverse psychology. I would pick something that is NOT cute and cuddly, but maybe something hard and a little fierce/scary, like a plastic robot or scary animal (something with sharp teeth). And then don't encourage it, and push on him a little about it (like asking him not to bring it to the dinner table, for instance) and express dismay if he wants to bring it to bed with him.

It may work or it may not. But froggie's dead on arrival at this point anyway, so it's worth a backhanded try with something else.

Has anyone done this at the age of 3 1/2? How did you do this and did it work and for how long?

Yahoo, and sleep at 6 months

Thank you for all your birthday wishes!

I'm snowed in today and snowed under a pile of schoolwork.

Read this from my friend Carolyn Edgar about the Marissa Mayer Yahoo no-telecommuting thing:

Now, question:

Is there a sleep regression at 6 months? It seems like some kids START sleeping at 6 months, but others STOP sleeping at 6 months. Is this some kind of developmental thing and different kids just have opposite sleep reactions to whatever that developmental thing is?

Hand me some data points about whether your kid slept better or worse at 6 months than at 5, and anything you think accounted for that.

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's after midnight in my time zone, so I'm opening my birthday officially!

Post a link to share with everyone(start with the http:// part and it'll automatically link), and what you did last year, and what you're going to do this coming year.

I'm going to bed now, so I'll read them (and clear out the junk) in the morning!

Some homework

This spam attack thing is out of control, so I'm posting this today and giving you homework to do to prep for tomorrow, and closing comments on this post. The homework is in two parts:

1. Write down (anywhere) what's better about your life today than on February 25 last year. And write down something that you want to do between now and February 25 of next year.

My examples are that I am in better shape now than I was this time last year. And what I'm going to do in this next year is get my body fat under control to help my running performance. I'm excited about it, which is a little nutty, I'll admit.

2 (optional). Think of something funny, heartfelt, weird, or in any way interesting that you think all the other readers here will appreciate. Then tomorrow post the link in the comments and it'll be a big birthday celebration of cool stuff for everyone.


Special and for locals: I'm going to be a Detroit City FC soccer super-fan this summer. If you want to come, there are 6 home games (at Cass Tech in Detroit) and a season pass is $35. Schedule here. Buy your season pass here.

Switching bedtime routine in a 4-year-old

Margaux writes:

"My son is 4 and for the past year or maybe a bit more,
we've gotten into what I consider to be a bad habit, which is that I
have to lie with him while he falls asleep. It didn't used to be the
case, but as most habits go, I think one night he asked me to, I said
yes, and the rest is history.

Some nights I don't mind it; I work and he goes to daycare, so
it's nice to be able to have that time with him. However, some nights
all I want to do is be free of that room. I have a 1-year-old and do
freelance work after they're in bed, so some nights it's really a matter
of necessity.

I have asked daycare to stop allowing him to nap (he hasn't
napped at home in probably two years) so that he falls asleep easier,
but I really want him to be able to fall asleep on his own. I don't
think he's afraid. I just think it's a habit.

Wondering if anyone has had any success with any
particular method of this. He is very headstrong so whatever I decide to
do is probably not going to be easy."

First, I'd like to say to all of you with teeny tiny babies who are worried about getting into bad habits, especially bad sleep habits: Don't worry. There's ALWAYS time to get into a bad sleep habit.

Seriously, though, we make and break habits throughout our lives. Think about what time you go to bed yourself now, and how that was different ten years ago. And will (we hope) be different ten years from now. People bite their nails for years and then suddenly stop. A friend of mine ate tuna melts for lunch every single day for six weeks a few years ago, then stopped abruptly. Habits and breaking them are a normal part of the human experience.

Lots of parenting literature talks about bad habits like terrifying bogeymen that we have to do anything to avoid. I see them differently. There's a reason you developed that habit. It served you when you started it. The only thing that makes it "bad" now is that it's no longer serving you. So it's time to change it. And you can.

Four-year-olds seem so big, but are really still so little. So I'd do two things. I'd figure out what, exactly, he's getting from you lying down with him. Is it the extra time with you? Is he afraid of being alone in his room in the dark? Is he afraid he's missing something when he goes to sleep? If you can figure out exactly which need the lying down with him is filling, then you can figure out what else to substitute. (An extra ten minutes snuggling and reading together if he wants more time with you, or a new cool nightlight if he's afraid of the dark, or a silent house if he's afraid of missing something, etc.)

Once you've determined what he's getting out of the lying down, brainstorm WITH HIM about a new bedtime routine that will give him that same thing he wants, but without your having to lie there for an hour or however long it is. (And having lived the full-time job plus freelance work after bedtime lifestyle, I salute you, Margaux.) If you give him a stake in the deciding what the new routine is going to be, then it'll be something he's helped create and it won't feel like a punishment or like it's something you're forcing on him. When you talk about changing the routine, use the standard "big boys do X" language to get him on board with a change in general.

You said he's 4, so I don't know if he's closer to 4 or to 5. If he's closer to 4 the above plan should work well. If he's almost 5, this is a big dig-in-their-heels-to-be-a-baby-for-just-a-little-longer phase that lasts for a few months right around 4.75 years. If that's what he's in now, you'll have better luck making a change two weeks after he turns five. If you can hold on until then, the whole thing will be so much easier.

Did anyone else break the lying-down habit? I have memories of lying down with both of mine, but no memories of how we got out of it. So it was either too easy to remember or too traumatic to remember…

Who's got ideas for Margaux?


10-month chaos?

1. I apologize if I accidentally deleted your comment on my last post. Massive spam attack.

2. My 40 Fun Things project is DOA. I don't have time for that much fun! I think what I've learned is that I had it in me all along. I'm trying to embrace it by having a couple of parties to celebrate. T minus 6 days…

3. I got two questions from people with kids in the 9.5-10.5-month range that were ostensibly about the 9-month sleep regression, but were really about how awful they felt that they weren't more on top of things as a parent. I vividly remember feeling like this with my first. It felt like 10 months was the worst point emotionaly for parenting, because I just felt like I should be better at it than I was. Everything seemed so chaotic, and even though I had almost a year of being a mother under my belt I seriously felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

One of the women who wrote me said she just felt "so disappointed in herself." That hurt my heart, partly because I think she's doing a great job, and partly because I remember being disappointed in myself at that stage.

Are we the only ones? Or is this a thing? Feeling inept and a victim of chaos at around 10 months?

Also, it gets better (obviously!), but feeling like you're not doing as well as you could be is gut-wrenching. FWIW, I think there's something about that age that's pretty much the equivalent of 52 Pickup in all areas of the baby's life, and therefore the parents have to scramble to find a new equilibrium.


I am very sleeepy

My kids don't have school this week for Presidents' Day, so my ex and I decided to do a one-on-one weekend in which we each had one kid Saturday through Monday. I got the 7-year-old, and decided to take him to see the wardrobe that inspired C.S. Lewis to write the Narnia books, which is at the Wade Center at Wheaton College, just west of Chicago. He'd mentioned several times that he wanted to see it, so I knew he'd be excited.

We drove to Chicago on Saturday (it took about 3 1/2 hours, most of which my son spent telling me jokes like "Why did Tigger stick his face in the toilet?" "Because he was looking for Pooh! Get it, Mom? Hahahahahahaha!"), and went to the Museum of Science and Industry. He loved it and ran around looking at everything for a few hours. We were fascinated by the submarine, and the weather installation, and the space stuff. It amazes me how cheerful he is, almost all the time. I often feel like I share more interests with his older brother, but I appreciate so much how willing the 7-year-old is to try new things and just let things unfold.

Through a series of misunderstandings we ended up staying in a hotel instead of with a friend that night (thank goodness for discount sites), and he was enchanted by the hotel. It was in the Loop, and we walked around for a bit and he said that Chicago "was like New York but not," which is true. He was baffled that taxis in Chicago don't have to be yellow, and wondered how people know they're taxis if they're not yellow.

The next morning we took the El up to Ann Sather on Belmont for Swedish pancakes (I have to go to Ann Sather every time I'm in Chicago), and then came back downtown, checked out of the hotel, and took a cab (it happened to be yellow) to the Planetarium. We had discussed the aquarium, but the line was so ridiculously long as we passed that we decided just to do the Planetarium. First we checked out Lake Michigan and went down to the water's edge to check out the icebergs in the water. Then it was Planetarium time. He loved it, and could have spent the entire day there playing with the exhibits. We saw one of the movies in the domed theater, but he was much more into the exhibits (and the pieces of asteroids), and we wore ourselves out. We stopped and got hot dogs from the stand across from the aquarium, then hopped a bus on Lake Shore drive to get back to the hotel to get our bags, then drove to Wheeling.

One of my oldest friends lives in Wheeling, and we stayed with her and her son. The boys had never met before, but started giggling and wrestling almost from the first moment they met. We had pizza and a lot of talking and some tequila and some more talking. I'd lost track of this friend for about 15 years and then we found each other again, and just picked up a few years ago like it was nothing. I love friendships like that, and am so lucky to have known her then and to know her now, too.

This morning my boy and I drove to Wheaton, had breakfast at the Seven Dwarfs Restaurant (excellent cinnamon french toast), and then went to the Wade Center. He walked in reverently, looked at the wardrobe, and his eyes got big. When I showed him that he could open the wardrobe and look inside he was amazed. The Wade Center also has the desk at which J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, but my son isn't into Tolkien (yet?) so he wasn't interested in the desk.

After the wardrobe visit we drove home (and got stuck in traffic after what turned out to have been a horrible accident involving fatalities on 94 East near Kalamazoo). On the way home my sweet boy told me he had "an idea" and could we stop at the grocery store. So we did, and he bought mushrooms and shredded cheese, and he came home and cut holes in the mushrooms, stuffed them with salt and the cheese, and then sauteed them in olive oil! He handed me a plate of them and said, "Here's your fun guy!" and then laughed like a maniac.

I am very sleepy. And happy. We need to go to Chicago more often. Our kind of town.


A note from me to you

Hi lovey,

You're doing a great job, you know.

With all the pressure you've got on you, you're still holding everything together. And figuring yourself and everything else out. Maybe not as fast as you want to, but you're getting there.

You think you're yelling too much, but all your kids are going to remember is the laughing you. The embarassing-dancing you. The popcorn-for-dinner you. The you who loves them more than they'll ever know, unless they have kids of their own someday.

They know you're amazing. I know you're amazing. You probably know you're amazing, too. It's ok to admit it, especially today.



Neutralizing tasks

Last week I sent out my sort-of-bi-weekly email about neutralizing tasks. (If you don't get my email, go look on the left sidebar for the signup box and put in your email, click through to confirm when you get the autoreply, and then you'll be on the list.) I talked about how I identified that packing lunches was stressing me out, so I figured out how to neutralize it. I got a few questions about exactly how I did it, so I thought I'd talk about the process. Warning: This is going to get very micro and consequently truly boring.

First of all, about "neutralizing" tasks. I am really trying to just stop doing things that there's no payoff to doing, or see if I can outsource them to someone else. But there are some things that I still have to do, so I'm trying to neutralize them. By that I mean that I'm trying to strip them of their power to drive me nuts. Think about all the tasks you do every day–taking a shower, brushing your teeth, putting on clothes, driving to work–that you do but that don't cause you stress. I'm trying to remove the emotion from them.

I used the Pareto principle to figure out that packing lunches was in my 80% of aggravation. Prime target for neutralization. First step, figure out exactly why it bothered me so much.

I observed myself as I did it for a few days, and observed my feelings about it. I determined that I was feeling anxious about getting it done before school while also doing everything else (herding kids to get dressed and make breakfast, have all the important conversations they want to start exactly then, making sure I'm ready to hit it as soon as they leave). As you can see, I have nowhere near the pressure to get ready in the morning that I used to (or that most of you do) but I was still getting all anious about it. I switched and started packing lunches the night before, but still felt that same anxiety! Weird, but I've started going with my feelings instead of judging them, so I kept observing.

I also identified that I was feeling pressure (from myself, I guess) to pack variety so my kids would stay entertained. Right when I was having that key insight, I got a huge bill for the school lunches my younger son had been eating at school instead of the lunches his dad and I were packing for him. Ha! Most of you know I believe in God, and specifically in a personal God with a smartass sense of humor, and this was yet another example of that. I took the hint and asked my son if he wanted to go legit and start eating school lunch for real, and he said yes. So half my problem disappeared.

That inspired a conversation with my other son about how he really wanted the exact same thing every day. So I let go of the variety myth. And then I realized that the things he wanted to take could all be packed up on Sunday while we were sitting around anyway. So I spend ten minutes packing up my half of the week's lunches on Sunday, and just grab them and stick them in the bag in the morning, and now lunch has no power over me anymore.

My next move is to use the process of observing my feelings about sock maintenance to figure out how to neutralize that.

Did that help? Does anyone have thoughts about neutralizing tasks you hate?

Q&A: 20-month-old squirmy at mealtimes

Sylvie writes:

"Here is a toddler question. Our little one is almost 21 months, and in
the last couple of weeks he has started being difficult at meals. He
still eats well, but he gave up sitting in his high chair one day and
mostly he wants to sit on one of our laps for the whole meal. He has the
Tripp Trapp chair, so at first I took off the baby seat, thinking he'd
be happier sitting in it like a normal seat. Didn't work. Then I bought
him a little step stool, thinking that he try to climb up himself. Also
didn't work. I even don't have a problem if he just sits in a normal
chair to eat. But usually he just whines and screams until he gets a
lap. Otherwise he is a cheery, happy toddler. He sleeps well, eats well
and there haven't been any other big transitions lately.  Is this just a
phase? I'd like to know any good strategies to enforce some type of
meal time rules that avoid any yelling. I assume he is just testing
boundaries, but I'd like to teach him about basic rules (i.e. we sit
either in a high chair or a normal chair for meals) without having to
yell at him. Ideas?"

It's been awhile since I've posted a mealtime question about a 20-month-old, so Sylvie's question was right on time. It's no coincidence, I think, that 20 months seems to be the peak of mealtime resistance. If you think about what's going on developmentally, it makes total sense. The 18-month sleep regression, which gets all the press (at least here on, is really just part of a larger phase of development that includes brain development stuff, movement stuff, speech development, pattern recognition, and a big phase of figuring out that they are separate from you (and from the rest of their environments). It seems to last roughly from 15-21 months, but of course varies in length, intensity, and scope across all kids.

The upshot of this phase is that they can see and taste autonomy, but can't actually reach it. They can tell that they want to go someplace, and can maybe run there by themselves, but aren't allowed to. They have things they want to say and tell you, but probably don't have the speech skills yet to say all the words. They can see all this cool stuff that they want to do but The Man (aka you) is keeping them down.

Meals are the only area in which they can really exert any control. Either by refusing to eat things, by refusing to swallow, by eating only a limited range of foods, by throwing food on the floor, by refusing to sit in their high chairs, whatever. And because we parents are so concerned about their eating nutritious meals in adequate amounts, their power is actually real instead of just symbolic. In other words, when parents care, kids actually have power. Which is why they keep doing it.

[What you do about that depends on what your goals are. I never wanted to disenfranchise my kids. I wanted them to feel like they had some control over their actions and environments. So I tried to give them a lot of choices (binary choices–this or this, in which I was truly ok with either choice) to help them build decisionmaking skills and also help them feel like they had some autonomy. At the same time I tried to let go of the food stuff, so that anything that happened at mealtime wasn't going to bug me so much. I wanted to shift my kids' way of learning about control from mealtime (which was annoying to me) to other areas that weren't as annoying to me. And all this theory was AWESOME, except that my kids were still toddlers and were not on board, so it was all a chaotic crapshoot anyway. Cue the thousand tiny violins. Also: It gets better. My kids both got their own breakfast today and I'm not actually even sure what they ate.]

So, yes, this is just a phase. Sylvie's doing the absolute right thing since her goals are to teach her son table manners and a standard of conduct at mealtime, while still giving him choices within that. It would probably be working really well, except that he's 20 months old. And it's coded into him to resist. When I think about kids this age the phrase "bag of cats" comes to mind.

So my advice is for Sylvie to stay true to herself and her own ideals of both a) what she wants to teach her son, and b) how she wants to teach it to him. She is being an excellent mother and doing all the right things (for her own personality and goals). Eventually her son will come out of this phase (probably in a month or two, but at least by the time he leaves for college), but in the meantime, she's at least doing the best for herself, and knowing that eventually what she teaches him is going to click. You can't control your kids anyway, so you might as well be happy with your own decisions while your kid is going through the necessary but annoying developmental stages.