Although our 4-year old daughter has never quite been a settled sleeper, over the past several weeks, we have been endured some specific bedtime setbacks primarily with getting her to settle her body, mind and being into falling asleep. I’ll break it down briefly here:
- Bedtime routine has been in place (consisting of: shutting off any use of electronics about an hour and half before bed, taking a bath/shower, getting into pajamas, brushing teeth, going potty, reading bedtime story and / or listening to music box (one song) with lights off, rubbing head / back and speaking calmly saying I love you, goodnight and then leaving the room.
- So how through these efforts have we not been able to settle our little one? Well moments before closing the lights and / or moments after shutting the lights off (differs on different nights), she would say “I have to go pee” again. What started off as a no-big deal (let’s go to the potty), has turned into over 3 months of repetitiveness, nervousness and anxiety. Hindsight is always 20-20 but when we are in the throes of it, we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
- We took her to her pediatrician doctor on a couple of occasions, had her bladder tested (including an ultrasound) and thankfully no signs of any health concerns. What her doctor did share (and her child psychologist) was that it’s related to her giftedness (emotional special needs) – sensory, nerve related and ultimately manifesting through that of anxiety and her level of intensity.
- While I incorporated much of my conscious parenting mindset and insight (and so grateful for the practices I am building upon daily), I had fallen short at bedtime. With multiple bouts of her needing to go potty before bedtime itself to during the middle of the night, my own levels of fear, anxiety, frustration and impatience seeped into the situation – causing my daughter to absorb my tense energy and exasperating her own. Most times I was able to stay centered and compassionate with good intentions to help her. Yet like anything, we all have a breaking point and our nerves can start to wear thin no matter how conscious we are, we are still human. The good news is that through those unconscious moments we are more readily able to recognize our own setbacks, collect ourselves and move forward with even more grace.
- So one particular night recently, my husband had asked our daughter (after we had just incurred over an hour and half meltdown) he asked “are you afraid to go to sleep”? What a simple question … one that I never thought to ask – why, because I assumed that our daughter would just tell us since she is so articulate in every other way. Well innocently enough she said “yes” and he proceeded to ask why.” Her response … “I’m afraid to go to sleep because I cannot see what is happening”. This authentic and sincere response caused every emotion in my body to flow outwardly and I poured out crying. The power of her message said it all. So my husband asked if she would like for us to sit at the side of her bed until she falls asleep. And of course, she said “yes”. Within 10 minutes (no talking) she was asleep – mind you she had been emotionally intense for over an hour and half. This was a turning moment in our lives …
- Rendered helpless up through the latter epiphany, my husband and I had reached out and were scheduled to meet with her psychologist the next day. We knew that whatever we were doing (which was more of myself and less of my husband) was NOT working. We shared the prior evening’s episode with her and she suggested we continue to provide the support she needed at bedtime (such as stay in the room with her) but wean off of it each night, setting the boundary around it. Basically we will take turns putting our daughter to bed and before we shut the light we tell her that once mommy or daddy sits down on the floor there is NO more talking. While she may (and has continued) to persist, it has decreased significantly but we just put our finger to our lips as a reminder to let her know we are not talking and to be quiet. If she has to go potty, we take her with no talking, and then bring her right back to bed.
- Even with my best intentions of staying conscious, mindful, present (and it doesn’t mean just with the body but mentally present) there was obviously a lack and fear exuding from me that my daughter was feeling. Indirectly, I was so affixed on my agenda (getting her to sleep) that she wasn’t getting what she needed most of me (just my full presence and silence).
- Creating this space for SILENCE and peacefulness has helped to be more PRESENT (non-resisting), and ACCEPTING the “as-is” moment. Not what it means for tomorrow (habits, etc) but in that moment that she most needs our support.
Our daughter continues to get up one time in the middle of the night but we carry the same mindset (as bedtime) with NO TALKING, staying in the room until she falls back asleep (which is now within minutes vs. hours) and we are all feeling better for it and the energy around bedtime has changed 180 degrees.
But here is the underlying reality .. no two nights will ever be the same even when we think we have it “figured out”. Tonight was one of those reminders (took a couple steps back on bedtime) but what came of it for me was an emotional breakthrough (detox / cleanse) where I got in touch with my fears and anxieties (really addressing them in my heart and not just my head) and allowing myself to feel them and not push them away.
The sun will rise again and so it is …