Saturday, April 27, 2013

Allied Forces - Guest Blogger!

I am so excited to introduce my first guest blogger!  She is a great friend and a wonderful support mom (another mom who listens without judgment!).  Please welcome Jessica to the Table! 

Allied Forces (Mommy, Daddy & Naptime) vs. Lyla

(Consistent & follow through parenting)

                Hello!  My name is Jessica and I attended high school with Kristin (we actually taught a dance class together to small children back then) and I love reading her blog. She asked me if I’d like to write something sometime.  After our WWIII battle today at my house, I thought this would be a good topic J.   First of all- I am the mother of a very strong-spirited 2 year old daughter- Lyla and a sweet 6 mos old daughter-Avyn.  My husband is an elementary school teacher and I am a licensed school counselor and a licensed mental health therapist. I was an elementary school counselor in the public schools for 6 years and worked in a behavioral health hospital for 9 years.  I resigned from both after Lyla was born and pursued a private practice.   I am currently managing a part time private practice along with all my mothering duties.

                A few months back I was contacted by the local newspaper to give an ‘expert’ opinion for an article.  I almost told the lady she should probably call someone else as I am no ‘expert’! As she was asking me if I’d like to contribute I stopped myself from saying my initial response of “I’m not an expert,” and thought wait- am I an expert? I’ve never thought of myself as an expert and no one has ever referred to me as one until now… but what to do with this newspaper article?  I decided against my urge to tell her I’m not knowledgeable enough and give it a go.  I have since contributed to three other articles for magazines, papers, etc.  I’m sharing this because in my head I’m really no expert- as this infers “perfect” and I am a life-long learner and feel there is always more to know. However, after having a discussion with my best friend about this “expert” business I came to the realization that after 10 years of working in mental health primarily with children and parents I guess maybe I am sort of an “expert”.   This is a story however to show that even a child behavior/development/effect parenting counselor “expert” isn’t a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination- because perfect parenting doesn’t exist!!  

                We have been struggling with nap time at my house over the past month or so.  It started when my 2 year old’s molars began to appear and went downhill from there.  I am exclusively breastfeeding my 6 month old and my 2 year old nurses three times a day (morning, nap and bed time) when I am home. Yes call me crazy… and NO my kid will not be nursing at kindergarten- RELAX!  The international recommendation to nurse is at least 2 years; the average age world wide of weaning is age 3.   I could say the toddler has created this habit (well I actually created it- most child habits are parent created) that she would nurse for nap time, fall asleep in my arms and as soon as I’d go to lay her in her crib she would wake up, flail like a fish out of water, scream and well that’s all folks! Good bye nap time…    I realized today that on Tuesday and Thursdays when I leave for work at 2pm I wouldn’t let her cry very long as I didn’t want her to be in a fit of emotional rage when my 78 year old great aunt (who taught preschool most of her life & is VERY sprite for her age) to deal with my daughter screaming in her crib. So I’d let her cry a few minutes and then go get her.  This really backfired in my face over the last few weeks as she wouldn’t lay down for me.  Now on Saturday I worked all day and MAGICALLY she went down for Daddy with no fight, no crying and of course no nursing? Well that’s just dandy-makes me feel wonderful. 

So here we are Sunday afternoon- she woke up early before 7am (oh ya and while she isn’t napping well she is also getting up early too?) and she’s TIRED at 11am.  She usually naps at 12:30 or 1:00.  Perfect- since we have a birthday party to attend this afternoon let’s take an early nap.  She’s all for it- says she wants to go nurse and take a nap- I’m doing cartwheels.   We do our thing- nurse in the chair for about 10 min (we play one of those music things when it goes off time for bed).  She’s dead asleep in my arms- I’m thinking- YEAH I can take a shower and get ready and we can leave when nap time ends (my 6mos old is asleep already).  I go to put her down- FLAILING FISH!!  I try to put her blanket over her blow her a kiss and walk out.  I go to daddy and say- see this is what happens.  So Daddy goes up there- talks to Lyla & suggests a book. She buys it- then decides she wants Mommy to read her the book not Daddy. He says “okay but after the book you have to go to sleep” and she agrees.  At this point I may interject- making deals with a toddler is FRUITLESS- never a good idea to bargain with any child especially a toddler. But we ALL do it from time to time- even an “expert”. 

                So I go back in, we sit in the chair and pick out a book- Lyla wants to nurse again while I read her the book (she’s a nursing addict- she calls my “nursies” the ‘big one’ and the ‘little one’ as we all know one breast is typically slightly larger than the other and often chooses which one she wants to nurse from at that moment- weaning her is obviously going to be WWIV).  So we read the book- and again I remind her that when the book is done its nap time.  I mention we have fun things to do this afternoon and she has to take a nap.  Book ends- kisses, hugs, sweet dreams. She lays down- I walk out- 30 seconds later she’s standing in her crib (we have a video monitor) SCREAMING!  L   Daddy went to take a nap, baby Avyn is napping- screw it I’m taking a shower.  So I take the monitor with me in the bathroom while I shower listening to Lyla yell: “Mommy I want you right now, I need you right now, I want out of here, I am not tired, I don’t want to take a nap” etc.  This was extremely difficult, as the comforter in me wanted to jump out of the shower, wet and soapy and just go get her- but I knew that wasn’t what was needed at this point.  For the record I am NOT a supporter of the cry it out method in babies.  I use attachment theory in a lot of my practice and crying it out is not good for bonding/attachment.  However at age 2 years and 3 months it’s very different.   My “expert” suggestion is don’t let your baby under 12 months cry longer than 10 minutes.  At 2 yrs 3 months I had to undo the bad habit I created which meant letting her cry and I knew it L.

                When I get out of the shower the yelling has slowed down a bit- still going in waves- like the ocean.  Quiet whining, building up to “I want outta here” to then screaming “I need you Momma” then silence and we start all over.   I decide she needs to lay down so I’m going to dry my hair which is a huge treat for me since I don’t ever have time to dry my hair- heck I don’t usually take a shower alone as Lyla is often with me.  While I’m drying my hair the crying/yelling really slows down and even stops a few times.  I look at the monitor and this child is of course still standing in her crib holding her blanket and stuffed animal leaning against the crib rail falling asleep!  Her head nods forward her knees to start to buckle and she slides sideways- then she shakes- wakes up and starts yelling again!  This goes on for probably 10-15 min.  Seriously this child is so stubborn she’s going to fall asleep standing up in her crib- Lord help me.  Finally 50 min after the last time I walked out, 1 hr and 50 min after we started nap time Miss Spirited Lyla finally gives in, lies down in her crib, covers herself up with her blankie and goes to SLEEP!   Unfortunately she slept less than an hour but at this point that was but a small loss in a much larger victory! When she awoke I told her “Thank you so much for taking a nap- don’t you feel better?”  “Mommy needs to do a better job of making sure you take a nap every day and rest in your crib- sorry you were sad about taking a nap but it’s what’s best for you.”

                So what to learn here: 1. Parents create bad habits in kids- not kids.  Accept it and admit it- we all do it!  2. I really wanted to go get her when she was screaming that she needed me, but I knew we had to figure out this nap time battle and this is one I had to win.  3. I wasn’t following through with what I said over the last few weeks and I needed to mean what I say, and say what I mean.  4. Always empathize with your kids- EX:  “I’m sorry you’re mad but you can’t have a 2nd cookie”.  You are validating their feelings; which makes them feel understood by you. You are giving them a word for their feelings which will help them communicate it later in life. But, don’t give in.  Effective parenting is labeling and validating feelings but not giving in when you’ve set a boundary or said no.

                The Allied Forces won this battle- but rest assured it won’t be the last, and with Lyla’s strong-willed spirit she will win a few!  All parents make mistakes; all parents create bad habits in their kids and then get frustrated with their child about it- even “expert” parents!  The key is to realize your part in it, fix it and stand your ground even when it hurts your heart. Parenting is hard- but admitting your mistakes to yourself and to your children is what fixes all those darn parenting mistakes we make!  Make your goal to be a loving effective parent J not a perfect one!
 Jessica A. Zimmerman LMHC 260.452.5336

                Thank you Jessica for a wonderful post!  I gotta say it does feel good to know even an “expert” is at a loss at times.  If any other followers of Nuts of the Round Table would like to be a guest blogger please contact me.  We can all learn from each other; whether it be about new recipes, parenting, caregiving, green living, or just plan living; and it just feels good to be heard or find someone you relate with!

Today, choose love!