Through High School, I went every day on only a few hours of sleep. I was a teenager, it was fun talking to my friends late at night, and I could bounce back pretty fast. Even now as an adult, I have nights where I stay up reading until four or five or six in the morning (though as a mom, it is much much harder to bounce back from only a couple hours of sleep). It actually makes birth work a little easier since I have never had much trouble from lack of sleep, and sometimes we are out all night and I get home, sleep for an hour, and then my daughter wakes up.
No biggie, right?
I didn't realize that lack of sleep and being able to function could be passed on to my children.
Even when I lie down for bed at night, I have to relax, try to empty my mind, and even if I am dead tired, I won't be asleep for about a half hour. As opposed to my husband that is out like a light the second his head hits the pillow.
My daughter is like me, only worse.
I've heard of kids fighting IN their sleep, I've heard of kids that sleep very lightly and wake up at the slightest noise, but I had never heard of kids that actually fought for HOURS before falling asleep for naps or for the night.
Lucky me, my daughter is one of the latter.
When I was nursing her, it wasn't that bad. She would fall asleep nursing, and we would nurse when she woke up. When she weaned, she still had a pacifier, so she would wake up, put it back in her mouth, and go to sleep.
My sleeping peacefully and without bruises ended when we got rid of the pacifiers when she was almost eighteen months old.
This was also about the time that she cut out naps during the day. Joy.
You would lie down with her, and she would fight you. Kicking, screaming, throwing herself, more screaming, punching, biting, anything really to get out of the bed and not to go sleep. When she was potty trained, she would say she had to go to the bathroom, or needed a drink of water, or she would scream that you were hurting her.
It got so bad that I didn't even bother trying to get her to nap. If she was really tired, she would fall asleep on the floor, just conk out, but nothing I did could make that happen.
For two years, going to bed was a three to four hour fight, even with bedsharing. It is really really hard to be a gentle parent (or even to feel like a gentle parent) when your child is screaming at you that you are making her bleed (which is never true) or when she is kicking you/biting you/hitting you. The patience wears thin fast.
Pretty soon you just put off going to bed for hours, even though you know they need sleep, all because you dread the fight. It's easier to stay up into the wee hours of the morning when they fall asleep on their own than to fight them.
We tried instituting a bedtime, we tried doing a ritual (brush our teeth, read a book, say prayers, go to sleep) but she would always want one more or the story wasn't right (even if SHE picked it), and it became exhausting.
We tried going to bed at the same time as her, showing her that we weren't doing anything exciting. That didn't fly.
We were just at our wit's end. I thought very hard about trying CIO, and realized that sleep fighting wasn't her way to push me away, and if I tried CIO, I would push her away without any reason at all.
I finally decided to talk about our sleep troubles with other moms, and I ended up crushed. No one else that I knew had this much trouble putting their kid to sleep for this long. They would look at me with pity and with a little bit of wonder as to what I was doing wrong because my child refused to sleep.
I felt like a walking time bomb ready to go off.
And then, I found it. I found another mom that had the same trouble with her son! I found a woman that, on a good night, fought for two hours to put him to bed. I instantly didn't feel alone! She is also a gentle parent, and talking to her, I realized I wasn't doing anything wrong. My daughter is just like this!
My brother and his wife were staying with us for a couple days this week, and my daughter has started having really good days with going to sleep (where she is out within minutes without a fight!) and then has really really bad nights where the fight lasts anywhere from an hour to five hours. Of course, every time they had seen her, she had great nights.
Finally, the gloves came off. For an hour and a half, she fought me, while they were sitting in the living room. I could hear their shocked voices, wondering what I was doing to her as she screamed, "Don't touch my owies! No! There's blood everywhere!!!" (I am actually surprised none of my neighbors have called the cops on me because of what she screams while fighting.)
After an hour and a half, I gave up and took her back into the living room. We sat on the couch with my brother and his wife, their eyes as big as saucers, and my daughter was asleep within a few minutes. I could see the questions forming on their faces that they were too scared to ask.
"Are all kids like this, and no one tells you??"
I was able to calmly tell them that most children didn't do this, and mine is one of the select few that will punish me with her sleep habits for years.
And the thing is, saying it made it seem like it was all okay. I knew that I wasn't doing anything wrong, that there is nothing physically or mentally wrong with her, she just does not like sleep.
Basically, what I want you all to know that have children like mine, you are not alone.
You may feel very alone when you are trying to get your child to sleep, or when they say they hate you, or kick or bite or punch, but you aren't.
Many of us are hiding on the sidelines because we feel it is our fault, and guess what! It isn't!!
Not all children are the same, and even though it sucks so very much to have a sleep fighter, there is nothing that you did to cause this. Some kids have trouble sharing, some have trouble eating vegetables, some hate water, and then some kids just do not want to go to sleep.
As parents, we all have something we hold in, something we wish we could do better or someway we could be better, and this is mine.
She is much better now than she was two and a half years ago, thank goodness, but those hard nights still make me wish I had done something different, even though rationally I know that I have done all that I could to fix this "issue".
I just need to back off a little, realize that this isn't about me, and go back to finding out and trying what works for her until sleep fighting is a thing of the past.