Thursday, September 3, 2009

Nope. Definitely not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Help?

Ever get that feeling - the one where you're not sure you're going to make it through okay? People tell you it's a phase, it'll pass. They tell you it'll get better. They assure you they've been through it and survived. And yet still, you can't help imagining the possibility that actually you might not survive and that this might be IT for the next 18 years.

My problem is twofold:

First, I'm sleep deprived. Have been for 8 months now. And as I'm sure you know, sleep deprivation has a nasty habit of making every problem, big or small, seem like a catastrophe. Like, the dog gets in my way and I'm yelling at him for deliberately trying to trip me up; I forget to respond to an email in a timely manner and I'm lying awake at 1 a.m. fretting; I forget something at the grocery store and I'm cursing my carelessness; I drop a spoon on the kitchen tile and the sound is like a drum in my ear; a small disagreement feels like a major argument.

Things are not being seen in a normal perspective.

My baby, who's almost eight months, still isn't sleep through the night. I'm not talking once-a-night wakings here. I'm talking three, four, five times a night, people. Not good. My braincells are waving farewell one by one and jumping out the window because they've had enough of floating around unstimulated in the empty cave where my functioning brain is supposed to live. And also, I really don't want the circles under my eyes to get any darker. There's only so much Touche Eclat can do folks.

This morning I tweeted about my sleepless frustration and Rachel from Really Rachel tweeted back, telling me she'd experienced the same thing and eventually turned to a method called controlled crying to get her daughter to sleep through the night. And, she said, it worked! She then wrote this post, detailing the technique. And tonight, I'm trying it out. Thank you Rachel! I'll let you know how I get on.

Second problem is my toddler's new pastime: throwing tantrums.

Matthew is one of those kids who makes parenting look easy. As a baby he was unusually content, hardly ever fussing, ate well, slept through the night at two months. Seriously. I thought I'd died and gone to baby heaven.

That's why, when the tantrum monster reared it's ugly head two weeks ago, J and I were shell shocked, gobsmacked and completely clueless as to what to do. We'd never had to read up on discipline, or google terrible twos. Completely unprepared were we.

Two weeks later, some helpful books, some advice, lots of googling, we're a little better equipped, but still fairly clueless. And my hair is beginning to turn grey and fall out. Okay not really but like I said, the sleep deprivation makes me do weird things and blow things out of proportion.

These are the two main problems:

1. Any time he doesn't get what he wants - whether it's a glass of chocolate milk or drawing on the dog with red ink - the someone-is-being-murdered-in-my-house screaming begins, and goes on at intervals like a banshee being rhythmically prodded with a spear.

2. Every diaper change is a wrestling match, - him writhing to escape, me trying to hold him down with one hand while changing him with the other, him wailing, me trying to keep calm and not doing a good job.

So basically, what we have here is one toddler frustrated at not being able to communicate and do the things he wants, when he wants, and one mother who has about this much patience left (imagine me demonstrating a very small amount with my thumb and forefinger).

So far I've done distractions, time outs, ignoring (when we're at home) and taking him home straight away if we're out in public or at someone's house.

I need advice people.

I know there are lots of experienced mums and dads out there that've been through this nightmare. And there's nothing better than real advice from real parents. Any two cents are welcome.

Anyone who says the terrible threes is worse than the twos immediately has their comment deleted. Just kidding, but please don't say it.

I need a light at the end of the tunnel.
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..... Carmen said...

First, are you home tomorrow? G and I have no plans. We can come over and bring coffee. We are good at ignoring screaming. If you'd like company, please call (I'll need out for a coffee anyways, and coffee is better with a friend).

Two - earplugs? Ok, just kidding. I really don't know if this will help, because it sounds like you've tried it, but try not to give him the reaction he wants. For instance, Grace screams when we put her to bed, or goes and pouts in a corner when she doesn't get what she wants, we don't react to it. We don't pick her up, go to her room, coddle her. We continue on in very peachy voices (most times not easy) as if NOTHING is happening. She quits it out pretty quickly. No reaction, what's the point? It is trying on the patience though.

As for Mr. O, is he waking during the night because he's hungry, or just waking for the sake of waking (ignoring the part where he is currently teething?). Perhaps a CIO would help? What would happen if you didn't go to his room?

See, I think the best thing I can offer is coffee. Perhaps spiked with Bailey's.

..... Carmen said...

One last note. I just read the post about "Controlled Crying". That is what we did with Grace (I just didn't know it had such a fancy title). We started with 1 minute intervals, then after going in and reassuring her, set the timer for 5 minutes (trust me, a timer helps when they are wailing and you are going batty). We'd work up to 20 minutes but no longer. Every night it got a little better. Every few months or so she'd relapse for whatever reason, and we'd do the process again. It's still what we do now. When we go in, we tell her it's time to sleep, that we are just outside and that we love her. When she was in a crib, we didn't pick her up, we didn't change her, or do anything to furthur stimulate her. We just went in, said our bit (always the same), and left. Hope it helps tonight :)

Maternal Tales said...

Ok, here's a light at the end of the tunnel...controlled crying works like you could never imagine, but you have to be strong. It only lasts 3 or 4 nights, and during that time it is hideously painful, but after 4 nights you just wish you'd done it earlier. Be strong and it will all be worthwhile. As for tantrums - don't worry - terrible threes are much easier!! I have terrible twos at the moment as well as awkward fives so I speak from experience. But first things first...sort out the sleeping and the tantrums won't seem so bad. Godd luck my dear xxx

Mwa said...

That sucks. Especially with both of them at the same time. Just believe there IS light at the end of the tunnel and this too will pass.

Could you leave them with their dad/grandparent/anyone one night so you can get a decent night's sleep?

About the toddler situation, ignoring tantrums is the key (in my opinion), but always with the vital addition of being a brainless cheerleader when they are being good. As soon as they are sitting still, playing a nice game, anything, shout bravo and clap for them or something - I used to give "happy faces" on a sheet of paper on the wall, and a treat every time he got five (just a small thing). Rewarding good behaviour always works better than punishing bad behaviour.

Of course, that is all very nice in theory, but SO TIRING if you haven't slept.

Good luck with it! This will end. One day. And I hope it's soon for you.

Really Rachel said...

We're all waiting with great anticipation to see how your night was!

Oh, the terrible twos! FP is full of tantrums. She gets enraged by the slightest thing and cries just as you described! I did a "Taming Toddler Tantrums" post a while ago and got some good advice in the comments section. Basically it's about consistency and reinforcing the positive. But I'm with MT; everything is SO different when you've actually slept!

whistlejacket said...

Found you via Really Rachel, great blog. It sounds like you're having a really awful time at the moment, I'm sure it won't always be like this especially when you manage to get more sleep. Toddler tantrums are tricky because, like you say, they usually come out of frustration. My oldest is nearly 4 and the tantrums started shortly before his 2nd birthday. I found we'd have a few really bad weeks, then they'd ease off, then we'd have another bad patch again. He still lies on the floor and screams more than others his age I'd say, and it's embarrassing sometimes. I've always tried to stay calm (difficult!) and take deep breaths and have never given into him. I usually let him get on with his tantrums and once he's got rid of the frustration and anger he's fine again. It doesn't get easier but it does get much easier to cope with. Good luck with the controlled crying and hope you get some more sleep soon.

cartside said...

We didn't get regular sleep through until after end of teething which was 17 months. However, it got much better with less wakenings from 9 months. And I found I could function on 2 wakings a night. Controlled crying didn't work for us, I couldn't ever go longer than 2-3 minutes by which time she would throw up for distress. So if controlled crying doesn't work for you, it will get better without it too.

What I try to do about tantrums is to acknowledge the feeling, explain my expectations, reassure and then ignore - and praise endlessly after when it stops and every good behaviour.

Chic Mama said...

Oh poor you!! I know exactly how you feel I was dealing with both those problems at the same time too with sons 1 & 2.
Firstly I went to a sleep clinic.The only way I could get no2 to sleep was to feed him & every time he stirred during the night I had to feed him again.We choose to go down the leave him to scream route rather than controlled crying. I was just too exhausted to do that. It started by daytime naps, getting him in his cot, if he screamed leave him. Then waking him up BEFORE he woke up & managed to scream so that he would stop associating the screaming with sleep.
Did this for a few days then at a weekend decided to try the night time leaving him. It was instantaneous. Couldn't believe it. He slept through from then on.
No 1 was a very easy baby, I truly believe that you either get a good baby & terrible toddler or vice versa & I have five. I've learnt to ignore the tantrums...they soon get bored. Or, I get down on the floor kick my legs & scream with them. They soon stop. Or just try holding on to them giving them a big cuddle.
Sorry for the length of this. Good luck.

Nick the neighbour said...

Sorry love no real solid solutions suggestions for you. I know you don't want to hear this but he WILL stop the tantrums. Your life just has to be hell until he does. The above comments all seem like pretty good suggestions.

I can only suggest-start drinking earlier in the day. With me. It's not irresponsible if you just have to walk down the road a bit to do so, no moving vehicles are required. I figure anytime past 11 a.m would be considered acceptable.

Oh yeah...something that I always have done on a particularly hard day with the kids. When the hubby gets home -LEAVE, get in your car and just go, breath, return home somewhat refreshed and delight in his frustration.

Lady Mama said...

So, update - the controlled crying thing worked a treat! It was difficult, but Oliver slept through the night and I slept a whopping 7 hours! Woohoo.

Thank you for your great tips Rachel!

Lady Mama said...

Carmen - you are the most awesomest friend (yeah, I said most awesomest) for bringing coffee this morning. And always, I appreciate your advice. It's always spot on. :)

Maternal Tales - it really does work! There was a moment last night where I nearly caved, but it was worth it! Thank you for telling me the threes are easier. I'm starting to see the light. :)

Mwa - I love your ideas about the rewards for good behaviour. I'm going to try that. Thanks.

Rachel - I'm going to check out your "Taming Toddler Tantrums" post. Seriously, you should just turn your blog into a parenting 101 site.

whistlejacket - thanks for stopping by! Yes the never giving in thing is key, I think. Very difficult though. Thanks for letting me know it gets easier - that thought does help me. :)

cartside - thanks for visiting. :) Excellent advice. I'm definitely taking that on board, thanks.

Chic Mama - I knew you'd have some advice for me! The crying it out techinique is a popular one that works for lots of people. I say, whatever works for you, great. Interesting theory about good baby, terrible toddler. Thanks for all the advice.

Nick the neighbour - yes there's a certain amount of accepting things aren't going to be pretty for a while. And yes, getting out of the house is a good idea. Thanks.

Chandra said...

When my now 7 yr old was a baby we did EVERYTHING wrong especially when it came to his sleeping. We were not going to make the same mistake twice so when our second one came along (now 3 yrs) we did the controlled crying..and IT WORKED! It took about 3 nights and that was incredibly hard..but by the 4th night he was sleeping through...and it was glorious and the angels started to sing...LOL!

As for the tantrums. I wish I had advice but there is not such thing as reasoning with a 2 yr old, for that matter I hate to say that it only gets worse...then when they can communicate all they do is talk back to you...this motherhood gig is hard I tell ya!

Elisa, The Unlikely Housewife said...

I think he might be sleep-deprived, too. If being tired makes you bitchy, it probably makes you cranky, too. Unfortunately I've had a similar experience and you know, the only thing that made it a little better was co-sleeping. Stella just always slept better with me, so as long as I can get a bit more sleep and so can she, then be it. Now she is 3, and while she enjoys sleeping with me and has reverted to waking up at night again after the move, she generally sleeps in a big girl bed, on her own. I lie down with her to help her fall asleep and then I leave.

Good luck! Sleep deprivation is not fun, I was the bitch from hell for over a year after Stella was born.

LZ @ My Messy Paradise said...

My daughter was the same way. Dream come true baby and young toddler, and then 2 hit, and WHAM! Terrible two's like you read about.
With my oldest, the only thing that really helped is to remind myself not to react. To let her fuss and as long as there wasn't something she really needed (hungry, thirst, hurt, wet?) That I could leave her in a safe place and walk away. I did it a lot. Her reaction was always worse when I reacted to it. Giving lots of choices helps, too. "Do you want applesauce or a banana?" gives them a feeling of control.
Good luck!
Now, with the baby sleeping, I would probably cry it out. I'm not a huge advocate of it, but would see how it worked for a night or 2. Helping him learn to sleep is a benefit to both of you...

OHmommy said...

Oh Gosh. I am so different with my 3rd then I was with my 1st.

I still have to deal with struggling matches when putting on her diaper for the night. But this time around, I divert her attention with kisses.

I am a lot more laid back. I pick my battles. When they are 3 they understand a lot more. I just am laid back.

James (SeattleDad) said...

As far as the sleep thing, I didn't read the other post, but controled crying sounds like what we used on Lukas at 7 months to get him to sleep through the night. He was waking every hour and finally we decided that we would do a program called sleep sense. Worked great. You have to let them know you are there for them but only go in in intervals and there will be a few rough nights but having a routine and sticking with it works. They get over the crying and are much better for it.

As for the tantrums, Lukas does his share, but Mrs. LIAYF is a champ at redirection. If he starts screaming she gives him a choice, you do this or Mommy will do this for you. He usually chosed to do it himself. Then we give him praise for accomplishing said task. It takes discipline, and I am not as good at it, but am getting better.

Hope that helps somewhat. I can follow up by email if you have any questions.

Lady Mama said...

Chandra - I'm looking forward to hearing the singing angels!

Elisa - Me could be sleep deprived if his little brother is waking him in the night. Hopefully the sleep training will help that. And yeah, it's no fun being the bitch from hell! I know there's a nice, well-rested me somewhere in there...

LZ - not reacting is a good idea, although hard for me as I'm a very reactive person. And yes I'm doing the choices thing and that seems to help a little.

OHmommy - yes I'm more laid back the 2nd time around in some ways. But then I have two boys 19 months apart in age and so that's another challenge. I'm hoping my toddler will be easier when he's three.

James - yes the sleep sense thing you did with your son sounds very much like the controlled crying technique. Glad to hear it worked! And with the tantrums, I am doing the choice thing and it seems to help a little bit. And I think praising him when he does the right thing is a really great idea. Thanks for the advice!

Loukia said...

Awww, sweetie... big hugs to you. It's not easy. And as I sit here typing this to you, I'm a mess myself... being a mom is hard work. I don't know when it's going to get easier. Maybe never. Great, I'm sure that's just what you wanted to hear! I hope that new sleep method works for your baby. That is some serious sleep deprivation on your part... I'm sorry. 2 kids being so young in age is HARD. Tantrums suck. And they also last a LOOONG time. My 4 year old still freaks out if he doesn't get his way, sometimes. Sigh. Sorry. I don't have any good advice, except maybe sleep with your baby - that's what I do mostly and it works for us. Good luck. If we lived in the same city we'd go out for coffee and talk about it in person! xox