Although we are the “sleep experts,” our kids certainly aren’t, and we’re by no means parenting experts. When one of our kiddos is having trouble in some area of sleep, it can seem “impossible” to fix because we’re “doing all the things” and we just must have the “hardest case ever.” But then we stop, switch places for a moment, and listen to our own advice. Guess what? Not so crazy after all.
My toddler has been a great sleeper for a while now, but she’s a human, so she certainly has her ups and downs as we travel and move, and as she grows and changes. Her most recent “down” was fighting her nap on occasion, so much so that she either protested the whole thing or I ended up caving way too much and sat in there for her to fall asleep so she would actually nap. I know, I know, hello sleep prop. This thankfully wasn’t a daily struggle, and never happened at bedtime, but that also made it more of a stumper! She goes to sleep at night no problem, sleeps 12 hours (we actually have to wake her), and 5 out of 7 days a week her naps were easy peasy. So what about those random protest days were different? At first I couldn’t think of any reason, but then I started to dig and ask questions, just like I would with one of my families.
The first piece I noted was that she rarely protested when Jason put her down for a nap. So what, does she like him better? Is it just me? After our most recent move, Olivia’s first few naps were surprisingly great, but then we had two rough days. That’s when I had my first “ah ha” moment, and here’s what I figured out: on the days Jason is home, he always puts her down for her nap. And those are days that we’re generally both home. So what does that mean? With mom and dad home, she gets that much more attention than when it’s just me and the girls. That also allows for more outside time because someone can stay in to listen for Avery to wake up, more rough housing with dada (or her favorite, Costco adventures with him), or more craft time with mama. And after we moved, I was so focused on unpacking that most of her play had to be independent. Grandma was here helping, but like mother like daughter, we switched into high intensity go mode toward the end of the week in attempts to finish (but instead I got the flu…HA!). During that time, Olivia kept on happily entertaining herself, so I didn’t think much of it; she seemed fine on the outside, but it came out in her sleep. When I realized that my sweet girl needed some undivided focus in the morning and some sort of action or adventure outside of our normal chores, ba da bing, ba da boom, no more protests!
The other piece to her nap puzzle was the actual put down and walk away piece. As Olivia is all that is toddler right now (meaning excuses out the wazoo), after singing her song and laying her down, she’d have some statement or question for me, and I’d somehow answer it while walking away. However, me responding to her swung the door wide open for conversation, and she took that and ran with it! So how many comments can she make? How many questions was too many? Surely one more sip of water won’t mess anything up. Wrong! Once I stopped entertaining her final, post-song words, no protest. Does that mean I don’t listen to my baby girl? No way! We just get it all out before I sing and leave. She still tries to pull a fast one on me every once in a while, but I simply say our usual, “I love you, have a good sleep,” and walk away. And No. More. Protests!
Such small and seemingly simple changes, but they’ve made all the difference. Just because I’m a sleep consultant does not mean my kiddo’s sleep is forever perfect, or that my parenting is forever perfect. And it’s really hard to put the coach hat on when it comes to my own. Teaching our kids to sleep is so much more than a mere formula, and it’s not always easy. But we’re all in this together, my friends!