There are so many toddler milestones to look back upon, the first night away is always a particularly difficult card to be dealt for both parent and toddler. Here is our experience, well at least what went down over the weekend…
E is a completely different kettle of fish to J in so many ways, as with all children, they are all different. E has a completely different character to her brother, whilst she comes across as outgoing, full of beans and running with all cylinders fired at all times, it’s actually as if her bark doesn’t quite match her bite. In other words, without getting too metaphorical, E comes across as ‘in your face’ and full of confidence but she is actually fairly nervous and can become upset about the tiniest of things.
J has always been on the quiet side, other than when he is fueled by sugar that is. He tends to take things in his stride and whilst he can find some situations completely overwhelming, he is always fairly good at giving things a go. Whereas E is the complete opposite, she is unlikely to try anything new and will refuse outright to budge upon her decisions. This is the biggest and most striking difference between our children, other than their gender and age.
J was about three months old when he first stayed overnight at my folks house. Back then we only had the one and I guess with two adults, one child is fairly easy to take care of. Don’t get me wrong, I am under no illusion that having one child is easy at all, it can be utter chaos believe me I’ve been there… What I mean is that, given that the adults caring for one child have the opportunity to hand said child back the following day, it’s not rocket science and in reality it’s only twenty-four hours if that. This precious time allows the parents of said child to recover and catch up on the lack of sleep every few weeks or so.
We were lucky, J seemed to settle really well for my folks and before long it became a regular occurence. We would pack his overnight bag and drop him off every other Friday, relishing the idea of having some time together and getting a full nights sleep with the added possibility of waking feeling human the following day. It was fantastic and I am so grateful to my folks for giving us that time. Sadly it came to an end for a while following their house move and after having E it didn’t seem right asking them to look after two kids. Not only that but E wasn’t exactly easy, what am I saying? She was an utter nightmare!
When E was born she suffered with benign sleep myoclonus, a condition which appeared very similar to epilepsy in that she seemed to fit and suffer with convulsions. We were beside ourselves with worry and barely slept for the first few months as we watched her like a hawk throughout the night. We got ourselves a sleep monitoring mat and even that didn’t settle our nerves, probably due to the fact that it often beeped for no apparent reason, other than to keep us on our toes of course. Anyhow, she seemed to grow out of it and we thought things would become a little more plain sailing. How wrong we were! At this point E began suffering with acid reflux, we found it a struggle to obtain the correct formula for her and were at our wits end with her endless vomiting following a feed. After a few months things seemed to get easier as we found a suitable formula and whilst she was still sick every now and then, it was few and far between. Still, she suffered with terrible wind and sleep was becoming a thing of the past for all of us.
Once E was twelve months or so we made the decision to cut her milk intake and replace it with other forms of calcium through solid foods. This seemed to solve the problem completely, that was until E discovered that she could make herself sick as and when she fancied. Her vomiting was no longer related to acid reflux, it was now part and parcel of her newly found toddler tantrums. Every bed time without fail, E would make herself sick, we would then have to clean up the mess and once again she had added an extra twenty minutes or so onto her bedtime routine. It wasn’t as if we were ever leaving her in her room to find sleep, we would rock her to sleep every night ensuring that only once she was asleep did we attempt to put her down.
My parents offered to babysit at our house for us a few times but even then they struggled, I clearly remember one night phoning my Mum just to check that all was well, she assured me not to worry and that E had not been sick and was sound asleep. When we returned home nothing could have been further from the truth, our lounge carpets were still wet from where my poor Mother had scrubbed and cleaned the mess, E was wide awake sat on the sofa in her second pair of pyjamas and my Mum was now wearing clothes I recognised from own wardrobe. My parents wanted us to enjoy our time out and so decided to skip the information regarding E being as bright as a button and my lounge carpets having being given a spruce up. It was really nice of them, but in the long run it meant that we felt we could no longer go out at all. We resigned ourselves to the fact that staying in would now be our new going out. It’s not even as if we went out often or even for a long time for that matter, I am literally talking about once every four or five months for a concert or a meal to celebrate a special ocassion, usually returning within two or three hours at the most.
I dreaded asking my parents to look after our kids, probably just as much as they dreaded me asking them! Poor J was desperate to spend time with his Grandparents but E seemed to be just too much hassle, that was until around the time that she turned two years old and somehow the sick stopped. I am not entirely sure why or even when exactly it all came to an end.
It was at this point that my parents seemed to offer to babysit again and we became more relaxed about the idea of going out to watch a show or just for a meal with friends. It still wasn’t perfect, far from it as E still has massive sleep issues, by that I mean she simply will not go to sleep for anyone but us, actually sometimes she won’t sleep for us either. My parents have become accustomed to E keeping them company until we return home, we too have stopped being so bothered by it and have learnt to let go a little more.
My parents recently moved into their new house and finally had the extra room to accommodate two little monsters (our little monsters to be precise). I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had of filled the extra room with a gym and never offered to babysit again considering how difficult our kids can be. I was therefore over the moon when we were asked whether the children would like to stay overnight at the weekend. I was elated and also utterly terrified at the concept of leaving them both overnight with my parents. I was certain that J would be fine, I had no doubt in my mind that he would settle and be good for his Grandparents, E on the other hand I wasn’t entirely sure about. I was honest with my folks and explained that E doesn’t sleep very well and is still a pain to actually get to sleep in the first place. Whilst I was confidently assured by my parents that it would all be fine, I was fairly sure that they might think differently the following morning, and unfortunately I was right.
I was completely beside myself about the notion of my little girl sleeping overnight somewhere else. It was a first for her and for us too, a milestone for us all. Unlike J who was only three months old when he first stayed overnight with my folks, E is almost three years old and there are some huge differences because of that.
J, as expected had been a dream, he ate the food that my folks gave to him yes really! He also slept fairly well, other than waking at 6am, which is actually pretty early for him. I think it was most likely excitement as J tells me that he loved every moment and has been asking me ever since when he can go back. On the flip side, E didn’t go to sleep until almost midnight, she had been in tears a few times and had then woken several times during the night. My parents must have been completely shattered and I have an awful feeling that due to this, they may not be so willing to do it again.
I think if it is ever going to work then E needs to become more familiar with the new surroundings and routines, learn to become comfortable without her parents for a night and more than anything, keep giving it a go every now and then. It’s not that I am desperate to go out, don’t get me wrong but I worry that if we give up now, we are giving up at the first hurdle and all that.
Anyhow, this is a long enough post as it is and I realise that I have probably waffled way too much. It’s just, these things are important to me, as I believe that parents need to have that time together to rekindle the magic and to catch up on well needed rest, we all need a break now and then. On that note, I’ll give you a break and get myself to bed to catch up on that much-needed rest, but there’s no rest for the wicked right?