When Growing Up Means Growing Out of Routines

While I am away from my blog, I am honored to showcase a group of talented writers who have stepped forward with their unique voices in support. Every guest writer who is featured here is one that I strongly suggest you follow. Today, I am pleased to share with you this guest post from Shannon at The Artful Mama. I would greatly appreciate it if you would stop by her blog and leave some comment love.

This post is updated from a previous post written by the author on her site The Artful Mama where she writes about Attachment Parenting as a full-time working parent.

A much happier Little Man

This post is going to serve a two-fold purpose.  The first will be a response to my post about my first awful night with Little Man where I handled it incorrectly and how I can handle it starting now and in the future.  The second part is to begin growing out of my routines as well.

So we have been going along happily with a plan and following our routine that we have grown accustomed to and out of nowhere[1] Little Man decides this plan doesn’t work anymore.  At this point there are two choices for me – and you if you find yourself in the same situation, fight or embrace the change.  There is also an important opportunity which can test the muster of our parenting skills for the future.

For 11 months I have had the same routine with Little Man when it came to bedtime.  It is the only structured part of our day.  I used the term “structured” loosely because I had a plan of action and flow but it never occurred at a specific time. We do bedtime much like any other part of the day: when Little Man wants to, be that 8:30 or closer to 11.

I have always embraced the Attachment Parenting theory of providing consistent and loving care which you can find more information about on Natural Parents Network.  In a nutshell it means listening to and responding to your baby’s cues about their needs and not mandating strict feeding or sleep schedules.

So on to the two choices that are presented to myself and other parents when you hit a wall like I did and the things you thought you knew, you really didn’t.

Option One: Fight the Change
As well all learned in the earlier post this doesn’t work.  Sure you, as a parent, have the ability to put your child in their crib or time out whatever the case may be, but you are only teaching the child that you feel their feelings are invalid.

If you have, up until this point followed your child’s needs and cues when it came to feeding, sleep and play, you cannot expect that they are going to understand when you don’t respond in the same manner.

The only thing that is going to happen when you run into a brick wall is someone is going to get hurt.  I hurt Little Man by ignoring his pleas and then I was hurt when he refused to nurse from me because of it.

Option Two: Embrace the Change
I have come to learn from teaching and now parenting that inflexibility never works when you are trying to coexist peacefully with another’s will.  Last night we returned to parenting with love and respect.  I did not try to put him to bed when I felt it was time.  I waited until he was ready (10:00pm.)  I did not try to force him into his crib when I was finished with bedtime – I waited until he was ready (11:00pm.)  When I went with the flow this time he returned to the basic structure of our plan.  He went to sleep and did not wake until 4 o’clock in the morning.

By allowing him to tell me of his needs, I actually found that some of my needs were fulfilled – computer time and uninterrupted sleep.

The Opportunity
In my post for the January Carnival of Natural Parenting I wrote about Finding My Tools.  This was the first of what I know will be many opportunities to hone my skills as a parent and to realize what does and doesn’t work.

I now know that ignoring my child because he isn’t doing what I want does not work and makes things worse.

I don’t want my child to ever believe that his feelings are not important to his Mama and Dada.  I know that he may come across people as he grows who will try to invalidate his feelings but I cannot do anything to change that.

The only thing I can do is change myself and in turn give him tools to accept that people may not always agree with you and sometimes you may not be right but that doesn’t mean what you are feeling isn’t important.

The other bonus opportunity that I am reminded of is that children live in the moment.  They have enormous capacity to forgive and forget.  It isn’t until we train them that they hold onto grudges and hurts from the past.  I am taking this moment to un-train myself and return to the presence of living in the moment.

I am not going to hold onto past hurts and ways of doing things that did not work.  I am going to experience the moment and do what is necessary for that one instance in our lives and remember the practice of impermance that was discussed by Natalie Fee.  That is the only thing I can give myself and you walking away from this moment.  The tools are there but they are forever changing and evolving as we do.

The Update
Since becoming more mindful of the requests and cues of my son’s needs we have had a much more peaceful bedtime “routine”. We have continued with our fluctuating schedule but since I have opened myself as a parent to the idea that my son is communicating a need to me, it has been less of a struggle. Even though my work schedule does not change and my son’s sleep does change, I have found balance.

My choice to listen to his needs has helped me to teach my son who is now almost 18 months a valuable lesson as well – his needs are important to me. Because he knows that I value his needs, he has learned to value mine. Even if he is not tired but he senses that I am he will lay next to me quietly while I rest my body. We have a mutual respect for each other’s needs. On the nights where just laying down with him still awake in bed is not enough for my needs, he will be accepting of his crib and play quietly until he is ready to fall asleep. This is quite a difference from my forced objection to his lack of a sleep schedule that ended in tears for both of us so many months ago.

Related Links:

[1] Really if I look back I knew this change was coming.  The week up until our meltdown he had been pushing bedtime back and running out the room during the first attempts to play.  I just was not following my own beliefs when it came to my child and trying to bury my head in the sand.

About the Author
Shannon is a full-time mother, wife, high school art teacher, editor for Natural Parents Network and cloth diaper consultant for Everything Birth, Inc. She began her blogging journey after the birth of her son. She has grown passionate that all working mothers should have the opportunity to care for their children how they choose. She features a weekly post dedicated to Working Parents that practice Attached Parenting called Monday’s Mamas. She also cohosts The Freedom of Cloth Carnival held in July with Melissa of The New Mommy Files. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

7 thoughts on “When Growing Up Means Growing Out of Routines

  1. I am a bit behind on my reading, and this post is one I have had saved to read later for too, too long. How appropriate that i should finally get to it on the night when I started trying to put my daughter to sleep at 6:30 and only settled down, very near tears, with my glass of wine and soundly sleeping child at 10:30pm. Shannon, thank you for the reminder that our children CHANGE, and as such so do their routines. I really needed that this evening. As often, I am inspired by you and your approach to parenting/loving your sweet guy.

  2. Isn’t it kind of funny how our culture is so obsessed with ‘children’s healthy sleep habits’ that we forget to just let our child show us when he needs to sleep? I remember fighting with my firstborn about WHEN she was going to sleep and HOW she was going to sleep and WHERE she was going to sleep. When I finally stopped fighting we all slept much better! 😉 (And now at 7-years-old she sleeps at the foot of my bed and puts herself to bed whenever she feels tired. Much better than fighting!)

  3. Kelly – I’m glad you liked it. This is actually was really good for me to revisit as well, since here we are at nearly 18 months and we are going through some more “routine” changes. It is really funny though as parents we quickly forget that things change and what worked before doesn’t now, but that it isn’t the end of the world either. We are thinking about transitioning to a different sleeping arrangement that I know will make things difficult at first but easier in the long run. It is just taking that first step as a parent. I wish you luck in finding balance in your home and starting a new adventure.

  4. I love your take on this!

    I had to deal with a similar situation. My little was about ten months old, and she was waking up earlier and earlier each morning. I was getting more and more tired as I got less and less sleep.

    Then I realised that it was just her growing up and changing. I could try and stick to the old ways, or I could embrace the change and adapt. I adapted, and life became so much easier for the both of us.

  5. Pingback: Guest Post on TouchstoneZ | The Artful Mama

  6. Shannon I so enjoyed this post – and it’s one I really needed to read right about now! Naptime/Bedtime is essentially something I’ve turned into one of the most frustrating aspects of parenting – but any time I’ve let go and done as you’ve discussed, the results have been completely better (funny too – because my daughter is 11 months and the same exact thing is happening!).

    It is so hard for me to have patience in this area – but it’s so necessary and worth it – I want more than anything for my daughter to know her needs are just as important as mine. I really value your words and plan to keep them in my mind next time I start to get annoyed when our ‘routine’ doesn’t go as I’ve planned…

I love comments and try to reply to each one. I look forward to connecting with you. Namaste

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