Tuesday, September 14, 2010

sometimes attachment parenting means getting up at dawn

My husband and I have been somewhat wrestling with what to do with our son's early morning wake up calls on the weekends. There is no convincing him that just because the sun is up he doesn't have to be. And while we remember fondly those days when we could stay in bed until our sleep debt was paid we understand that this is nothing new. Parents of young children around the world have been dealing with this issue for a lifetime. Yet, knowing that there are bleary eyed moms turning down the baby monitor and hiding bed heads under their pillows all around town, maybe even on our street, doesn't help. Sometimes we just want to sleep!

I know that one day I will miss these early morning wake up calls. Just as one day I will miss the race to the bathroom so I can get there and lock my three year old out before he pushes his way inside. Even when he is locked out he spends my entire time in there rattling the door, turning the knob, and wiggling his tiny fingers under the door. It is like being trapped in a really bad horror movie. "No, don't go in the bathroom! The monster always finds the pretty girl in the bathroom!" (That's right, I have cast myself as the "pretty girl". Now is not the time for a reality check.)

So we wrestle with what to do with him at daybreak. He has gotten better. For at least his entire first year home he would wake up at 5:30 every day. Now he usually sleeps until 6:30 on a work day, when I have to wake him up for our daily chase around the house to get pants on and teeth brushed in time to catch a ride to daycare with Daddy. Often he sleeps later than this on the weekend. However, any extra hours of sleep he might get on a Saturday are in direct proportion to the fewer hours of sleep we, his clearly confused parents get by staying up too late the night before. I know. This is why all the experts talk about sticking to a schedule, even on the weekends. We have tried. Obviously we are not "schedule" people. We need to be realistic. We are not going to go to bed any earlier on the weekends, so we need to look at alternative solutions.

Solution #1. We let him go downstairs and watch tv. Pros: we are still sleeping. Cons: Where do I start? He loves sprinkles and knows which cupboard they are in. He also knows how to push the kitchen chair over, climb on the counter, open the door, reach WAAAYYYY up to the top and grab them. Three year old on the counter on his tip toes stretching to reach something is enough to give me nightmares. Move the sprinkles to a lower shelf, you might suggest. Yes, well, it wasn't the sprinkles he was originally after that first time. Something new will catch his eye.
Second Con: He can open the back door. While we do have a fenced in back yard, or a "cage" as one friend describes her kid friendly back yard space, I am convinced that given enough alone time my little guy will figure out how to open the gate. And the other day I caught him trying to scale the fence. Laugh, go ahead, but he was making a strong run at the top.

Solution #2. We let him stay upstairs and watch the television in the office. Pros: we are still sleeping. Cons: the office is a dangerous place full of staple removers, pens, and cords.

Here is the direction I think I am leaning. I believe that children need, and crave, structure. Even though most of our day with our kids is a power struggle, they are comforted knowing someone other than them is in charge. My husband and I have worked hard at attachment parenting. While we might have edited one or two of the eight principles to fit our parenting style, (we do not co-sleep), we do believe that nurturing touch and consistent and loving care paved the way for our son's smooth transition from orphanage to forever family. I believe that when my husband or I get up with Matthew and go downstairs to start our day, it is reinforced within him that we are in charge. He can relax and go about the business of being a kid, knowing that Mommy will get him his breakfast or Daddy will snuggle on the sofa and watch Little Einsteins with him. Call me crazy, but I believe that if children are left to fend for themselves in the morning it sets the wrong tone for the entire day.

Don't get me wrong. Setting your child up with a bowl of oatmeal and the morning cartoons so you can shower and get ready for work is not what I am talking about. After all, you made that oatmeal and most likely spent a few minutes rousing your child out of bed and sweet talking him into the living room. These necessary tactics still show that a parent is in charge, ready and able to respond to needs.

So sending my little guy downstairs by himself or to the office to watch tv is not going to work for my family. Adoptive parents often wonder if certain behaviors their children display are normal development or a consequence of the adoption. "Is it normal or is it adoption?" is a thought that runs through our heads frequently. Maybe my thinking is like that- maybe I feel as though I have to provide my son a deep sense of stability because of his shaky start to life. I doubt it, though. I want to be the "Queen" that runs this house, in charge and providing all who enter with love and grace, and if meeting granola bar and cartoon needs at 6:30 in the morning is what it takes, then that it what I will do. Bleary eyed and with bed head, no doubt!

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