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You are the expert in the topic of your children

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We have just come through a week of pretty angsty bed times. Some nights Ramona took a whole 1.5 hours to get to sleep. Even though we are just reading, nursing, singing and I should be able to think wonderful pleasant thoughts about spending all that extra time with my tiny delight, I don’t. I just get a bit annoyed inside, dreaming of being able to go downstairs and read without having a full-of-life  toddler flickering about around me.

And then, as quickly as the Bedtimes of Terror period began, it stopped. It stopped because I began trusting myself again.

You see, a week ago I read on a blog that I had been lurking on a bit (a blog that really resonated with me about lots of mothering practice) about children’s sleep. Sleep is always the thing that makes me a jittery mother – when Ramona was a baby I spent hours a week, it seemed, googling topics to make sure she was getting enough (or not too much!) After many months we settled into a pattern I was comfortable with and I stopped my obsession. Then I read a bit on that there blog about how crucial toddler sleep is, and how tots MUST go to bed before 7pm.  I was a bit stunned. 7pm? So certain? Just like that?  But she mentioned “circadian rhythm” with real conviction- I don’t know what this is but it seemed to be about syncing with the earth, which, y’know,  I am all for.

Now, Ramona tends to go to sleep between 8 and 9, unless she is sleepy earlier. What a TERRIBLE MOTHER! That night I vowed to give her the opportunity to sleep at 7pm. It didn’t go down too well with her but still, for the following 6 nights I tried every trick in The Book to convince her that 7pm was the right, circadian time for her to go to bed.

Every evening after she finally nodded off I’d come down, Battle Weary (a loving, cuddly one but a wrestle of wills all the same) and annoyed at having frittered so much time away upstairs.

It took six days for me to regain trust in my parenting. Six days for me to realise that the sleep pattern we had woven for ourselves was the right one, despite what other mothers do and the experts say.  Six days to sod the Circadian shizzle.

See, when it comes to Ramona, no-one is more expert than me.

And when it comes to your child, you are the know-it-all; the person most in tune with his rhythms, the detector of her subtle signs, his soul-whisperer.

Childhood charts and sleep guidelines and “Musts” and “Ten Signs of” may be helpful for some – I am sure. But for others of us they undermine what we have come to understand of ourselves, our children, and our ways. When I read that Ramona is just under the “normal amount of sleep for an 18 m old” I am wracked with guilt, especially when it is followed up with facts about how vital sleep is for development. But then I take a moment to look at my daughter and see her joy, her exuberance, her calm, her growth and  I feel okay about it all again.
When I trust that she will sleep when she needs it and eat when she is hungry, our lives have a certain flow and a tangible ease.  (My role is to provide the right conditions for these things to happen, of course,  but I need to trust her to take the bite or rest her head.)   I also need to trust myself as a mother, trust my intuition and my instincts and trust my ability to interpret my daughter and muddle through our own path.

Sometimes when I read the stories and tips and facts about others I find all of this trust just eroding a little bit. If you are like me in this, I just want to say it again:

You and your child are the best experts in all of this. You are the same flesh and blood, and your hearts beat to the same rhythm. Embrace the fluidity of your lives – don’t hide it or be ashamed- too soon they will have boring meetings to arrive promptly at and all the Schedules of Adulthood.  Feel the freedom of knowing trust in each other, to be guided by each other. Not a soul on earth knows  or loves your child more than you. And that is just how you roll.

Right, this is me using all of my blogger’s monthly entitlement for cheeseball posts.  Please forgive me, I was just really feeling this today.

22 responses »

  1. absolutely! my little one used to go to sleep at 8pm and would wake again at 8.30pm every night for years : ) why? we could never figure out, Then wake at a crazy time in the morning! Now at the heady age of 8 he’s asleep for 8pm and has a solid 11 hours sleep a night, yeh!!!!!!

  2. Very true. All children are so different, I’ve learned that from having my second. Their sleep patterns, both day and night, do vary and no matter how hard you try you can’t always change them. My son never got enough sleep as a toddler and he was always pretty grumpy, but there was nothing we could do about it, we couldn’t make him go back to sleep at 5am! Thankfully as he has grown it has improved!

    • Now I think that is JUST the point – sometimes our kids don’t get enough sleep, but there is nothing – when we have tried everything!- we can do about it. Let’s not heap the guilt on on top of that. 🙂

  3. Thank you for that!

    The best night sleep we three get is when we stay out late or snuggle down to watch a film together and J fall asleep in our laps and gets dropped into bed at 10 or 11. He will quite happily then sleep 6 or so hours 🙂

    If however, I think: “right, bedtime” and do all the right things (bath, etc) he goes down fine, but I end up the human yoyo, up and downstairs to refeed and resettle every half an hour or so… that is just about ok, and we get some toddler free time, but then those nights are terrible. I guess I may never know why…..

    Thank you again, I am pleased to be reminded that I’m not a bad mum for “keeping that child up so late” when actually we are just “being”

    • There is no rhyme or reason. With Ramona sometimes she goes to sleep and stirs only when we go to bed. Other times, like you, I am a yoyo. Let’s stop analysing everything little thing, and just, as you say, “be”.

  4. Enjoyed this advice. Trust ur gut.

  5. Go girl! *waves pompoms and blows whistles*

  6. I remember getting the ‘instinct’ advice or encouragement as a brand new mummy and it has always stuck with me too. Especially when they are so wee, and they can’t verbalise why they aren’t up for sleeping/eating etc, it is so hard to know what your move should be but that deep down gut resonance is powerful and always trumps the ‘should’s’. xo

    • Yep, exactimo. I am sure we all have it. And back in the day this would have been supported and encouraged by other tribal mamas, but now the expectations and norms just crowd it out.

  7. I’m awful-ler. We go to bed no earlier than 10:30 and usually between 11:00 and 12:30. We are a house of night owls and late risers. Got to block out all that static and do what comes natural!

    • I bet that makes a million people feel so much better – I know loads of people who do this but keep it top secret! Having said this Ramona fell asleep for the night at 6pm tonight. She just tops up when she needs to!

  8. Absolutely, no-one knows your child better than you and you have to trust that they’ll sleep when they want to. Plus those sleep tables were made up without any research or any real evidence or discussion with mothers (mentioned in C. Hardyment’s Dream Babies book, which looks at changing childcare advice over the last 100+ years.)

  9. Always follow your instincts.You were chosen to be the mother of your baby; your baby chose you as a mother.Trust in yourself and your child, love with all your heart and life will be beautiful.Always love your posts about honest parenting!Xx

    • Lush, I love the idea about us being chosen for each other. My hypnobirthing tape chanted that at me throughout my pregnancy and I really believe it!


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