Thursday, 25 February 2010

The One Cuddle Regime

For those of you who read yesterday’s post about our recent bedtime woes, this is a quick update to report the success of the One Cuddle Regime.

Having warned Rosemary that there would be one cuddle and one cuddle only from each of us at bedtime, and having had lots of extra daytime cuddles, we started off the bedtime routine as usual, after a bath. We let it start a bit later, just in case Noble Savage’s point that she might not quite be ready for bed was right. Everything went fine with the routine. And she got her one cuddle from each of us.

She didn’t roll over and go straight to sleep, of course. She tried ‘Cuddle?’ once but was reminded of the rule and didn’t try again. She did try some other things, including the normal ones which we ‘allow’ – getting a drink, getting a teddy and going to the loo – and one biggie that I should have thought to include in the new rule – getting her covers put back on. Fortunately, Chris is good at thinking on his feet, and refused and stood his ground. The second time she ‘needed’ to do a wee, she was guided back to bed, with a firm ‘No, you just did one,’ and Chris sneakily put the covers on her without her noticing or asking, so he didn’t give in. She then tried out the old ‘Mummy! I need you!’ shout for a while. The rule there, though, is that she has to say what she needs us for, otherwise we will not come. So, I think she may well have been testing to see if that rule was still the same. I stood my ground.

And she went to sleep.

And neither Chris nor I shouted once. We managed to keep to firm but calm, though we both had moments where we wobbled a little.

So, all in all, I would say the One Cuddle Regime was a success, coupled with our remembering (thanks to your comments) about standing firm and keeping calm. I would hope that the next few nights will probably gradually get a bit better, until it’s back to normal by the start of next week.

Hoorah! Yay! And, thank you!

Oh, and if you didn’t read the comments on yesterday’s post and have a three-and-a-half-year-old, you might want to. Apparently, it is the age of the meltdown. Only by this point they’ve developed the ability to bargain, debate and, essentially, far more easily wrap their parents round their little fingers. You thought the Terrible Twos were bad? These half-way to four-year-olds could argue the clothes off a hostage negotiator.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Bedtime meltdown

Over the last few days, our little angel reasonably well-behaved daughter, has taken testing boundaries to to the outermost limits – somewhere approaching Alpha Centauri. And she is doing this at bedtime, a time that we had got pretty much sorted.

The usual evening routine, that has worked perfectly for a fair while, goes roughly like this:

  • We all eat dinner together at 5pm.
  • Rosemary brushes her teeth while I start getting Eleanor into her bedclothes and Chris walks the dog.
  • Rosemary gets her pyjamas on while I finish getting Eleanor into her bedclothes.
  • I read Rosemary and Eleanor one or two stories (basically until Eleanor starts crying very loudly).
  • I go through to our bedroom to feed Eleanor and put her to sleep, while Chris reads Rosemary a few more stories.
  • Rosemary lies down, gets her covers put on her, chatters to her teddies a bit, sometimes listens to Paolie’s (My Pal Scout) music, and falls asleep, usually within a few minutes – sometimes it takes maybe 15 minutes.

Every few nights, the girls have a bath after dinner, but the rest of the routine stays the same.

Quite often there will be a couple of attempts to put off sleep – going to the loo, asking for a drink, asking for a teddy to be brought up, but nothing more.

Until now.

Every part of the routine goes perfectly well, pretty much, with no arguments. Stories are read happily and peacefully. But when it comes time to actually go to sleep, all hell breaks loose, with every possible delaying tactic brought out, along with tears, stomping, leaving the room, running upstairs, downstairs, in her parents’ chamber, screaming, and threats.

Oh boy, the threats.

“I have to have the light on, otherwise I will scream and scream and scream.”

“You have to flatten my covers, otherwise I will not love you anymore.”

“I have to sleep in your room, otherwise I will hit you.”

It has been escalating since we got back from Scotland (and there were a few issues there, too). She has been getting worse every night. And we have been getting worse every night. Meaning we are shouting and screaming, too. We’ve both slammed doors. We’ve both threatened things that we’re not able to go through with. (Last night, I threatened that if she didn’t stop misbehaving, I would go downstairs, walk out the front door and go away somewhere for the night. Duh! It made her cry. Didn’t stop her misbehaving. And, of course, I didn’t do it. Because how would that even be possible.) We’ve all three of us ended up with sore throats from shouting and screaming. And she pretty much hasn’t gone to sleep until she’s completely exhausted herself with crying and screaming.

We know the shouting and screaming and so on is almost certainly making it worse, but we’re seriously at a loss of what else to do. Threats, bribes, calm explanations in the morning, nothing seems to be working. This morning, I talked to her about it and she said she didn’t know why she was doing it, but agreed that it was making it worse for her and that she wouldn’t do it tonight. We talked about it later in the afternoon, and she agreed that she would go to bed nicely. While I was reading her stories tonight, she agreed that she would go to bed nicely.

But then she didn’t.

Some of the behaviour seems to be creeping into late afternoon now, too, mostly when she’s tired out, I think. The rest of the day, she’s pretty lovely, creative, bright, friendly, affectionate, inquisitive. She’s not perfectly behaved, of course, and she’s experimenting with bargaining and the like, but to nowhere near the level that we’re seeing at bedtime suddenly.

So, I’m throwing this out to the parenting panel… Does anyone (oh, please, please, please) have any advice? And is the perfectly normal behaviour (while knowing it is wouldn’t actually provide a solution, I think it might make us feel a little better, somehow). Have you been through it? How long did it last? What worked?

Edited to add:

I just had a sudden realisation... Over the last few weeks, we have gradually accepted a new rule that Rosemary made. That she would get a cuddle everytime anyone left her bedroom. It's such an innocuous thing a cuddle, that we happily and unquestioningly agreed to it. And gradually there have been more reasons for us to come into her room. It's not sudden at all. She's been building up her cuddle quota! No wonder she's finding more and more reasons to delay. Cuddles are such lovely things! So, the plan is to let her know tomorrow that she will get one cuddle from each of us when we say goodnight (me, when I take Eleanor through; Chris when he finishes the stories) and that will be it. If she needs help to go to the toilet, or needs a drink, we will help with those things, but she won't get any more cuddles. And, in the meantime, she can have as many as she wants during the day.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Routines and holidays - do they go together?

We're currently staying with Grandma and Grandpa for half-term. This is wonderful for everyone - Rosemary and Eleanor get played with and doted on for a whole week, and Chris and I get to relax more than we can do pretty much any other time. Oh yes, and Grandma and Grandpa get to spend lots of quality time with their granddaughters who live such a long way away.

But... Yes, there has to be a but... Try as we all do, we can't seem to keep the routines going. Saturday night, Rosemary didn't get to sleep until midnight and Eleanor was up loads in the night (though the latter was more down to the 4-month growth spurt). Sunday night, Rosemary almost fell asleep at the dinner table and missed pudding, while Eleanor slept pretty much as normal. Tonight, Eleanor fell asleep about half an hour before (a slightly later) dinner, woke up when it was served, then again about an hour later. Rosemary only got to sleep at 9 o'clock (usually 6.30-7).

We've been trying to keep dinner and bedtime routines as close as possible to normal, but the daytime activities can throw it all off. Rosemary's two late nights both followed a (pretty short) nap in the car in the afternoon. Eleanor's sleep was off when she had to wait until later than usual for her 4 pm feed, or had to have a slightly earlier one.

We need our routine these days (when not on holiday, I mean). Without it, there is no way that we could manage anything remotely close to a full working week. I could maybe scrape by with 10 hours and Chris might be able to manage 20. But we need to do 30 each, and evenings are where we find that time.

I'm curious to know whether anyone ever manages to keep up a routine while on holiday. Or do you just go with the flow and accept that late nights will happen? And how quickly do you get back into the routine afterwards?

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Do you listen to/for children?

This morning, Rosemary told a man in the Co-op five times, 'I'm on my way to ballet' and in the end I had to say, 'She's talking to you'. Then she was standing in the aisle when an older man wanted to get past and he said, 'Are you in the way again?' Why he couldn't say, 'Excuse me' I really don't know. Don't children deserve a bit of politeness, too? In fact, how are they supposed to learn it themselves if adults don't model it to them? 

I also find that some mums only listen to/for their own children, while others pay attention to any children who talk to them. Personally, I prefer the latter and hope that I tend toward it myself, though I admit I can sometimes find myself ignoring children, including my own, if I'm engrossed in a conversation.

So, what about you? Do you listen to other people's children or just your own? Do you get down on the ground and join in with the children's play when on playdates? If a child talks to you in a shop or on a train, do you respond, ignore them or initiate a conversation or game?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Happy Birthday Papa

Today has been a day of looking after the girls – taking Rosemary to nursery school, pushing Eleanor round town while doing the shopping, cleaning the kitchen and making dinner (and pudding), going to breast-feeding group, having a coffee in Costa with Eleanor, picking Rosemary up from nursery school, having friends round for a playdate, having dinner, giving the girls a bath, reading bedtime stories, and breast-feeding. With a bit of time at the computer doing some work after the girls were asleep.

What would it have been like if you were still with us? Probably quite similar, during the day, though I probably would have squeezed in a pint with you in the Vic. Or maybe just brought the girls round to visit you for tea and cake, like we did 3 years ago, though there was only one girl then. The evening would probably have included a family meal, a few beers and we might have talked you into playing a game. But it would have been one of the ones that you secretly liked, like Trivial Pursuits or Articulate.

Or maybe we’d be throwing you a big surprise party, like we did on your 60th. Gathering together many of your friends, old and new to meet up in one of your favourite drinking holes. Perhaps we would have organised it more in advance this time so that relatives could have come from afar to wish you well.

Whatever it would be, you would have wanted to spend it with all your girls – including the newest one, who you never got to meet.

Know this. You will always live on in our hearts and in our heads. You will always be loved. And, though she never got to meet you, Eleanor will know you as much as it is in my power for her to do so.

Happy 65th Birthday, Papa.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Anyone for dessert?

I was wondering recently whether to introduce puddings on a regular basis. At the moment, they are definitely treats and few and far between. I recall reading in some parenting book or magazine that it’s good to have a (reasonably healthy) pudding and to offer it without any conditions – so, no withholding pudding if dinner is not eaten – because it provides a wider variety of nutrients and the opportunity to get more food into the child if they don’t eat much of their dinner.

But we’re not really pudding people. Well, that’s not entirely true. If I go to restaurant, you won’t catch me refusing to see the dessert menu and more often than not you’ll hear me asking for it the second my plate is whisked from the table. I rarely go without dessert when out. And I will always have one (or more) for special occasions. On a daily basis, though, desserts, puddings and chocolate tend to be reserved for the evening and are usually a special grown-up treat, rather than a regular thing.

We did end up going through a stage where Rosemary was expecting ice cream at the end of every meal. Where she would ask how many spoonfuls of dinner she would have to eat in order to get ice cream. So we stopped giving ice cream, in the hope that she would just eat her dinner, with no expectations of treats of any kind (it mostly worked, though her desires for ice cream do surface on occasion). We definitely don’t want to go back to that.

What I’m thinking about are fruit-based puddings, like apple crumble, fruit pie, fruit jelly (made with fruit juice and agar agar flakes) and even just fruit salad. I’d have to tone down the amount of sugar I put in my crumbles, though. And maybe some other puddings that could count as reasonably healthy, though I can’t think of any that wouldn’t have to have fruit in to be considered healthy!

I am talking home-made here, too, not defrosting a Sara Lee gateau (which would be no good for me, anyway, as they all have gelatine in), though I do realise that home-made doesn’t always equate directly to healthier. So, it would add some extra work in for us. A lot of puddings would be things that Rosemary could help make, though, which is usually fun and has a whole bunch of other benefits, too.

Is this a good idea or a really stupid one? Do you have regular puddings or are they reserved for special occasions? Does pudding come with the proviso that the main course must be finished? And, in fact, do you have other courses, too? A salad starter, for example, or cheese board or something? Would it just lead to us all becoming obesity statistics? And can you recommend any reasonably easy and healthy puddings?