Friday, 8 August 2014

Who Needs Sleep?

I'd love to be writing this post saying that there has been a fundamental shift since I last wrote about bedtime but unfortunately I'm not.  That's not to say it's all doom and gloom because there have been some small shifts and we've managed some really nice daytime activities but the upshot is that Katie is still not getting enough sleep.

The start of the summer holidays has been pretty full on and I also wish I could be writing this post saying I'm enjoying the holidays thus far.  I wish I could write that the adjustment from school to being home was seamless and without drama and with lots of smiles and happiness and we're all skipping through the daisies singing "Tra la laaaa".  I wish I could write that I'm missing Katie intensely whilst she attends a week-long daily workshop all about Frozen this week. Just having one crazy bonkers child to manage this week is a blessing I am grabbing with both hands whilst simultaneously congratulating myself for knowing that I needed to book Katie into something for a week for my own sanity and probably hers.  I wish I could write that I felt like I was managing all the stresses of two crazy bonkers children and a house build and living in a very small house, but my nose would be twice the length of Pinocchio's if I did.

 It's all just a bit too full-on and everyone in the house is stressed.  TCM and I are stressed about Katie's behaviour whilst also managing the house move and the house build (yes I know we only have ourselves to blame!).  Poor wee Katie has been full of every emotion it's possible to fit into one small body.  Her behaviour is often aggressive and rude and her feelings seem to change like the wind - one minute fun and happy and then the next angry or very anxious.  Trying to keep up with what she is feeling and why is a full-time job let alone actually trying to help her with her emotions.

Pip in the meantime continues his X-Men morph from a quiet and calm baby into a totally off-the-chart hyper toddler.  He makes my brain hurt just watching his exploration of the world like a speeded up video clip, you know one of those nature programmes when they show 30 days in 30 seconds?  When I say he doesn't stop all day (except for the blessed nap time) I'm really not exaggerating, in fact I'm under-stating by a long way.  He's up and down and round and round and over and under and running everywhere in every direction at full speed.  I certainly can't keep up with him. He's funny with it, most of the time, well except the times that seem to be most of the day when he's melting down into full blown toddler tantrums, rather like Katie. You only have to breathe "Let's go and change your nappy" in his direction to be treated to a face-down drop to the floor with a piercing shriek! Changing his nappy requires a dummy and his blue bear before he'll even allow you to take his nappy off and even then it's questionable. He kicks and screams at the top of his lungs.  I can only imagine what my new neighbours are making of our little family at the moment.

I'm mentally exhausted! And that's just during the day.  Bedtime then looms.  As a friend pointed out we are now starting to anticipate bedtime from the moment we start dinner.  It's there waiting to pounce.  The feeling of dread as the battle commences again.  First the argument over staying up and the usual response that she isn't staying up until she starts to show she can go to bed nicely.  The the refusals to get into the bath or out of the bath and then into her PJs.  Then she is running away refusing the clean her teeth or brush her hair.  She's in our bedroom bouncing on the bed or running around naked.  Story-time is peppered with complaints that she wants to stay up. Then our entire evening is spent on edge listening to her padding up and down and getting in her bed and out of it again; going to the toilet...thump, thump, thump"  We sit there wondering what to do.  Shall we go up? Shall we ignore her?  We generally ignore her unless she comes downstairs or we suspect she's climbing onto the window ledge.  We are getting no down time because, by the time Katie falls asleep, it's generally around 10pm (and sometimes even 11pm) and not far off our bedtime. I'm now going to bed later and later just to get a bit of time before sleeping to wind down a bit.

For the first few days of the summer holidays I thought I would just lose it.  We ended up barely leaving the house because Katie's behaviour was just plain out of control.  TCM and I decided that we just needed to be home and deal with all the fall-outs in the safety of the house. Whilst stressful, this did help.  There was very little external stimulation.  Just me mostly and TCM occasionally and the children.  We made some loom bands and played a few games, erected a tent for Katie to use as her den and ate lots of ice-creams and lollies because it was just so darn hot and this house is like an oven - which really isn't helping the situation at all.  We sat in the tent when there was a blessed rain storm and watched the raindrops falling down the tent walls.  My instinct though was to stay home, to not add any external stimulus.  This helped a lot.  I did a bit of reading up on hyper-arousal and realised that Katie is responding externally and aggressively.  I realised I am also revisiting my own issues with hyper-arousal, but I withdraw.  My way of coping with aggression and violence and arguments is to withdraw.  That was my coping strategy of choice as child growing up in an aggressive household and it appears I'm still holding onto that way of dealing with the stress.  It's not helpful though because emotional withdrawal from Katie will probably only unsettle her more. I'm glad I realised it so I can work on that with my counsellor.

Bit by bit Katie started to unravel and calm down a bit and finally we were ready to go out again and met friends at Marwell which was wonderful but a trip to see The Lion King highlighted to me just how anxious Katie currently is and how difficult she is finding anything out of her normal experience. For two days prior to the theatre visit she worried whether she would like it and I started to get very nervous about taking her, particularly because the ticket prices were extortionate.  We watched clips of the show on You-Tube and talked about the animals.  On the actual day we set off nervously (Katie) and anxiously (Me).  We took it a step at a time.  By the time the lights went down she was doing pretty well and she even coped when the actors appeared literally right next to us in their costumes.  I excitedly talked to her about their costumes and how they were making themselves look like the animals and we guessed which animals they were.  She loved it!  She took it all in her stride so I was able to reflect with her about how worried she was but how much she enjoyed it.  This is an ongoing issue with Katie and one that we revisit constantly yet this overly anxious child was the first one to feed the exotic birds with their meal worms at Marwell showing no signs of fearfulness as she held the wriggly meal worms and threw them to the birds.

Once things settled sufficiently during the day we turned our attention to bedtime. First we tried, unsuccessfully, to a) lay with her and then b) let her play on her Hudl or read with no time restrictions and c) homoeopathic remedies with no positive outcome. Laying with her highlighted how twitchy she is at bedtime.  We were left with the realisation that Katie either couldn't or wouldn't settle herself, yet she was totally able to settle herself only 3 weeks before so we erred on the side of wouldn't due to the changes we have been experiencing.  Katie does have a history of bedtime difficulties when there is any change - even a change in wind direction is a good enough excuse! The bottom line was that Katie wanted to stay up and until she decided she was going to go to sleep there was very little we could do about it.

With this knowledge we then decided to be tough and bring in a big consequence for not staying in her room after stories and lights out (no point telling her to sleep because if she can't/won't then she can't but I wanted her to just stay in her room). No sweets or sugary foods or drinks the next day.  I told Katie I was concerned that she was reacting badly to sugar and we needed to see if that would help her.  After two days of no sweets or ice-cream or ice-lollies or nice drinks she finally went to bed nicely and was asleep by 9.30pm.  Now this is still way too late in my opinion but at  least these were bedtimes without dramas. She managed two more days of staying in her room before it all went pear shaped again.  The night of TCM's birthday was just awful.  Katie was laughing and running around manically like someone had spiked her drink.  Totally off her head!  TCM went upstairs to try and manage the situation because I just needed a time-out at that point before I lost my temper but it got worse and worse.  In the end I went upstairs and just watched it all unfolding and asked the universe to send me the right words to calm it all down. I just didn't know what to do short of picking her up (again) and putting her back in bed. The trouble with that approach is that everyone gets angry.  It solves nothing.  Then all of a sudden I heard myself saying......

"Aaaaaaah Daddy?  I've just realised what all this behaviour is about tonight.  It's your birthday and Katie wants to spoil your birthday again".

It was like the wind had suddenly dropped and the sails fell silent and unmoving.  Katie stopped in her tracks and said "I'll go to bed now". And that was that.  She went to bed.  I tucked her in and she went to sleep.

Talk about hitting the nail on the head!  Food for thought indeed and highlights that our instinct that Katie is making a choice about bedtime is probably right on the money. So the no-sugar penalty is back in force.  TCM had another awful bedtime last night whilst I went to Reiki.  Rome wasn't built in a day - we will keep plugging away at it and also keep naming the emotions and actions that we are seeing to help Katie recognise that we can see and understand what she is feeling and doing in response and hopefully enable her to understand that as well.  We are also working towards using more Non-Violent Responses and I'll be writing more about that soon.

One thing that has been really lovely has been our butterfly project and I will be writing about this over the next week or so..... that has been surprisingly healing for me as well as Katie.  Here's a sneaky peak.....

Just to finish, here is a song that is running around in my head that is rather apt. It's by one of my favourite bands the Barenaked Ladies....


  1. wow your much closer to me than I knew! I know the frozen workshop your talking about :) its meant to be going super well, so im glad its given you a little break too!

    it sounds like your summer holidays have been stressful to say the lest so far, im not a mum, ive worked with children and im trained to work with them too yet I don't have any advice for you because your doing everything I would of suggested! I think your right that when Katie chooses to sleep she will. however has she does get nervous and anxious that could be a issue too, I know it was and is for me as a child! but as she managed lion king it seems like she does well on that.

    I hope it calms down for you soon, I really do!

    Catherine x

  2. Stick with it your doing great! It's tough when you have to battle bedtime & then have no evenings to relax before the next day. Lucky out hectic boys go to bed ok but they are early risers!

  3. Ah my love, I do feel for you. We've tried lots of different things over the years to beat the sleep issues.
    Things that have worked for us include relaxation before bed - we use the Nightlights books; at one time going to sleep in our bed worked - he felt closer to us, and our scent was right there (we did that for a LONG time); just not stressing over it (especially during school hols); letting him come downstairs for cuddles with no tv on etc - he soon gets bored and goes to bed; and ten minutes bouncing on the trampoline before bed. They don't always work, and certainly not all of the time, but having a box of tricks to try has helped.

    We usually find that sleep issues come because something has happened that's made Mini feel unsafe (transitions/change in routine). And usually it's a case of just wanting to be with us, rather than not wanting to go to bed. He needs those extra cuddles and security, and after a while, it settles down - hang in there, hope Katie starts to settle soon xx

    P.S Thanks for linking to #WASO x

  4. Hey lovely lady, it has been such a long time. You were just about to get pip when we last spoke I think. I have a lot of catching up to do. Summer holidays are so stressful. I can empathise with the 'dreading' of bedtime, activities etc. well in advance. Also the anxiety surrounding new situations. We still have that here too, four years on. They are calmer and more thought-through rather than aggressive and fearful though. Keep doing what you're doing. It's a slog but you'll make it. Failing that, of course, there's always gin! Much love x