Meeting: A meeting is a gathering of two or more people that has been convened for the purpose of achieving a common goal through verbal interaction, such as sharing information or reaching agreement.
Britmums Live 2013
Little people in my phone,
That’s normally where you stay,
But last weekend at Britmums Live,
You all came out to play.
Mums, bloggers, people,
Laughter, hugs and kisses.
Old friends introduced to new,
Hits and sometimes misses.
Groups who know each other well,
Who have been here before,
Gather together, smile and laugh,
Room for many more.
Am I too keen, am I too loud,
Do I appear too much?
Half finished conversations,
Rushing to coffee to lunch.
And then friends appear from no where,
Like you they feel the same.
Talk is easy, laughter lots,
No fear, no doubt, no shame.
Shyness, loudness, emotional things,
Personalities all so unique.
Strength in numbers, bonding slowly,
Not feeling such a freak.
We each are individual,
Brought together by one thing,
Over sharing, openness,
For another blogger…sing.
Leaving feeling emotional,
So many things to take in.
Leaving knowing I’ll be going again,
New friendships will begin.
Another week, another Wednesday and another instinctive quote from me! The quote I have chosen this week was actually stolen from Facebook this morning, (yes I do occasionally drop over to the dark side lol!) It isn’t so much a quote about instincts, but an important quote that encourages us to remember that parenting is different for each and everyone of us and our babies are all beautifully unique. Instincts and love are natural and powerful things which help us travel along the wonderful, yet challenging journey that is motherhood!
Release: 1. To set free from confinement, restraint, or bondage: released the prisoners. 2. To free from something that binds, fastens, or holds back; let go: released the balloons; released a flood of questions. 3. To dismiss, as from a job.
Before you read this post I would just like to start it by saying that it is not as polished as my posts normally are. It was written when I was very upset and from the heart. Apologies if there are errors!
As many of you who read my blog or follow me on Twitter will know, this weekend I went away, all myself. It was an amazing weekend, but this post is not about Britmums Live (that one is still yet to be written!) This post is about leaving your children, and that because of something terrifying which happened to my 12 year old daughter whilst I was away, it has got me thinking about releasing them. About how they cannot stay close beside us forever, and that one day they will be out there on their own, knowing that home is always a safe environment to which they can return.
I have left my children before, many a time. I think it’s a wonderful thing for them to know that they can be looked after and loved by many different people. (Obviously these people are family, or a very close friend and not complete and utter strangers!) This weekend, however, leaving my children was a bit different. My mum came up on Friday to look after the boys and my daughter whilst my husband was at work, and then on Saturday they tagged teamed it and supported each other. Finally, later on Saturday afternoon, my daughter wasn’t going to be a home at all. She had been invited to a sleepover for a school friend’s 12th birthday party and would be away from home herself, in a house I have never been to, with a parent I have only met briefly on a couple of occasions.
I imagine many of you out there with brand new babies or very young children are now sat reading this horrified, as I would’ve been many years ago. We are so used to our children being right by our sides, or on our hips, always close. We are used to being in control of who they see, what they eat, where they go. We forever scan rooms, pathways, parks, play areas for potential risks and danger…catching them when they fall, warning them not to stray too far, telling them where the danger is and how to avoid it. They trust that the world is a safe place, never aware of risks because we spend our lives as parents protecting them from them. However, as children grow up…we need to release them. We need to start helping them to make their own decisions, weigh up the risks and decide what to do and which path to take. They physically become further away from us…at pre-school, at primary school, secondary school. We cannot be around to protect them every single minute of every single day as we so desperately want to and we have to trust that they have listened to years of advice and draw on their experiences in life to make their own choices.
But this weekend my daughter had a choice made for her by another person. And it was the wrong choice. It wasn’t life changing or life threatening. It wasn’t hurtful or dangerous. But it wasn’t her choice, and if it had been it would not have been one she would have made. At the sleepover, whilst I was over a hundred miles away in London unable to help or protect, she was made to watch a film. A film intended to only be watched by persons of 15 years or older. A thriller that scared her more than anything has ever scared her before. I didn’t know this had happened until I awoke this morning to find a text from her on my phone. It had been sent at 4am and simply read…
I want it go home. I watched a scary movie it was a 15 and I can’t go to sleep. I feel sick because I am worried that someone is going to hurt me.
I imagined my daughter, my only just turned 12 daughter, my daughter who is still very much a child, sat terrified all alone. Alone in a house she had never been to before. Alone in a room with some other 12 year olds she didn’t know, and only a few she did. Alone and terrified that someone was coming to get her, to hurt her. She is, as I have described in previous posts, sometimes a handful, sometimes verbally challenging and rule bending, but she is my little girl. She isn’t wise beyond her years, she isn’t ‘street-wise’ and ahead of the game, she hasn’t even begun to go through puberty herself. She is my baby and someone has made a decision that has rocked her safe and secure world.
It’s been a difficult day since then. Obviously I have wanted to race around there and pick her up immediately whilst shouting very loudly at the parent who allowed this to happen whilst she was in her care, but I’m not entirely sure my daughter would appreciate that! So she is still there now, shopping with them on the high street, not fearing the film in the safety of daylight. I’m not sure bedtime or the middle of the night will be so fearless for her later.
And me. Well I have spent the day thinking once again about parenting. I said to my mum on Friday that my instincts were uncomfortable about the sleepover, that I knew something would happen even though I wasn’t sure what. I’d met the girl whose birthday it was, and her mother, and many of the other children that would also be there and thought I was just being over-protective, being a parent who didn’t want to let their child have the independence they so desperately need at this age. What happened to her has made me think about the future and how in a few years time I will not always know where she is, or who she is with or what she is doing. It has made me realised that soon many decisions will be solely hers and I will have no control over that. That one day she will move out and be released into the big wide world…where someone might come along and make bad choices for her, hurt her, terrify her.
It was only a film I hear some of you cry, it’s not like someone really did come and hurt her and you are absolutely right. That film still terrified her and she cannot un-see what she saw, she cannot forget what she heard, and I’m angry that she didn’t get a choice in the matter. Whether or not she watched that film was not someone else’s choice to make, it shouldn’t have been their decision to let my daughter watch a film totally unsuitable for her, not least because she is three years younger than the film’s rating. I’m upset because it made me realise that she’s slowly being released already…slowly having to learn to make decisions herself and learn to be brave enough to walk away from the wrong ones. I know she won’t always make the right choices, or take the best path in life, hell I’ve made some shite choices in my time, but I hope I’ve brought her up to think things through, to make informed decisions…and more importantly than anything…to trust her instincts.
Sleep: Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterised by reduced or absent consciousness, relatively suspended sensory activity, and inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles. It is distinguished from wakefulness by a decreased ability to react to stimuli, and is more easily reversible than being in hibernation or a coma. Sleep is a heightened anabolic state, accentuating the growth and rejuvenation of the immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems.
Ok, so this maybe a slightly ranty post and I’d just like to start by saying it is not written out of any bitterness that my children don’t sleep. Because they do. We have no bedtime battles and only one or two 10 minute night feeds with the baby. No…this post is written out of frustration, out of repeatedly seeing post and tweets and hearing conversations about babies and sleep and the ever elusive ‘self-soothing.’ Out of hearing the question ‘Is he good?’ repeatedly asked about babies…as if any baby could be bad! Out of suddenly, whether or not your baby sleeps through has somehow become the mark of being a good mum. It always seems to be one of the first questions asked of any mum, and it drives me nuts! Why does whether or not my baby sleeps matter? They are a baby of course they probably don’t sleep through (and if they do you are very lucky!) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I’m 36 and I don’t sleep through!
Sleep training is a hugely profitable business. It feeds off a mother’s desperate need for some shut-eye, for them to feel part of the ‘my baby sleeps through the night gang’ and not a complete failure as a mother. Obviously if your child doesn’t sleep you are in no way a failure, but certain books and ‘experts’ and unwanted opinions can sure make you feel that way. The very phrase ‘sleep training’ sends shivers down my spine. Are our children dogs that need training or robots that need programming? Um no, no they most certainly are are not. How about we talk about ‘sleep encouragement’ instead? I do believe that it is our role as parents to set up good associations with sleep, to encourage our children in to good sleep patterns and help them to go to bed happy, but you do not need to enforce a strict routine that may go against all of your babies natural instincts to achieve this. You do not need to use horrible techniques like CIO or CC which only serve to make everyone distressed. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should all be attachment parents either, some babies don’t want to co-sleep even if you would like them to, and some mums just aren’t comfortable with it, which is ok. I just wish we were more well informed, and that people would be more honest about how their babies sleep. I have recently read feeds on Twitter and Facebook encouraging CIO with babies less than three months old, with one even suggesting feeding solids to a 5 week old baby to try and get them to sleep, all of which understandably terrified me. The people who wrote these posts all said these techniques had worked for them, and that now their babies miraculously sleep through. *sighs* I find this hard to believe, and if it is true, then at what cost?
What I would love to encourage is for mums to know that the words ‘baby’ and ‘sleep’ often don’t go together. That it’s normal for babies (especially breastfed ones) to wake during the night…until they are quite old. Developmentally night waking is a protection against SIDs, it is instinctive and meant to happen. If breastfeeding, the night feeds are the richest and help to produce more milk. I’m not going to go into the scientific reasons behind this or start talking to you about baby’s brains and their development because I am not an expert in any way shape or form. But I am a mum who trusts her instincts and will accept night wakings and try to look for a reason why it is happening and address it, not try to fix it, or ignore it in the hope of more sleep. Babies are not robots, some are naturally good sleepers and others need some encouragement. Never in my opinion does leaving them to cry or forcing them to sleep at certain times for certain periods of time induce a good association with sleep…for anyone.
My children have all slept very differently. My daughter was breastfed and never a great sleeper at first, and I wish I’d trusted my instincts more then and co-slept as I feel she would certainly have loved this, but twelve years ago 24 year old me, a me who was terrified of doing anything wrong and followed rules to the letter, wouldn’t go against the advice which was not to do it. Because I was led to believe that if I did do it my baby would die and it would be my fault. So we endured lots of nighttime cuddles with me forcing myself to stay awake so that she could sleep, until (as mentioned in a previous post) it was suggested I did controlled crying with her by the health visitor trying to help with my PND. I hated every second of it and vowed never, ever to do it again. My second child was much better. He liked sleep and would drop off anywhere, a cot, a car seat, a playmat. He still had nights when he didn’t sleep and needed someone there with him, but co-sleeping was never an option for him and these phases never lasted for long. Now, at his bedtime, if we’re not in the room when his tv programme finishes (yes, he’s allowed to watch TV before bed, it calms him down!) he will come and find us and tell us it’s his bedtime, always more than happy to go. And then there was my third baby. Ah and boy did he not sleep at all when he was born…co-sleeping was the only option. I still felt very nervous about it and this time, as I was not a single mum like I was with my daughter, I would make my husband sit at the end of the bed and watch us to make sure I didn’t roll onto my baby whilst I was asleep. Over time I became more relaxed about it and would co-sleep without him watching us. And now my son, even though he was held, rocked, cuddled and fed to sleep everyday for the first three months of his life at least, sleeps best on his own; in his cot.
What I have done with all three is practise the theory of trial and error, and once I’ve found something that works I’ve stuck with it. From birth night feeds were done in the dark with no noise, but I’ve never done a regular routine as such. My daughter had awful eczema and the advice then was not to bathe her regularly as it dried the skin. My children have all had muslins as comforters, the boys had dummies and my daughter her thumb. My youngest is one and is regularly fed to sleep, I’m pretty sure he won’t still be needing a bottle of milk to soothe him into a peaceful slumber when he’s 21 so I’m not worried. I’ve fed them all on demand and if that demand is at three o’clock in the morning then I will meet it. I’ve always used a verbal sleep cue and learnt to recognise the signs that they were sleepy. If they cried I would, and still do go to them, straight away and address their needs. Each of their natural times to sleep, including for naps, have been very different and it frustrates me that children are all expected to slot into this 7pm to 7am sleep time! It is simply not true!
Sleep deprivation and disrupted nights are tough, and it’s a part of parenthood that is hotly debated and treated differently in every family. But I’d like to end by reassuring any mums out there with a baby that doesn’t sleep that is it perfectly normal, and accepting it is a great first step as it takes the pressure off. It is also perfectly normal for babies who were previously ‘good’ sleepers to change. There is no need to analyse everything you do and then subsequently beat yourself up and feel guilty for ‘doing it wrong.’ Chances are, if you are responding to your baby and letting them show you their natural instincts and individual intricacies then you are not failing anyone. Don’t feel pressured into pressuring your baby to sleep through, they pretty much all get there eventually. You cannot spoil a baby with love, you cannot spoil a baby with cuddles and affection. You cannot get into bad habits that can never be broken. And one day, you will without doubt have that all elusive 8 hours uninterrupted sleep…I promise 😉