Recently I wrote about how I had failed my daughter. I had tried to put her to bed when she hadn’t had an opportunity to wind down from the day, and taken out my frustration on her when she wouldn’t settle immediately. I had shouted at her for not falling asleep because I was tired and needed a break. But she was wide awake and cried her apologies to me whilst I felt like the most evil mother in the world. I knew something had to change.
My step-son Z is, as we often find, polar opposite to Rose. He can be running around screaming and dancing then go up to bed, lie down, and fall fast asleep two minutes later. He doesn’t need to wind down, he doesn’t even really get tired. He just keeps going until he’s either told to go to sleep or naturally just falls to sleep on his own wherever he happens to be sitting. Whereas I was keeping Rose downstairs with Z and all going up to bed together, expecting her to fall asleep despite her brain being so obviously different, we decided that Z would stay downstairs and I would go up with Miss Rose early.
The change has made a huge difference.
We go upstairs and we read what Miss Rose calls “morning stories” together. Morning stories are the books we look at together during the day. They’re picture books, counting books, lift the flap books. Books she is an active part of, whereas bedtime books are the stories she lies down quietly in the dark listening to whilst I read them.
Giving her the wind down time sees her away from screens, away from noise and chaos, and simply sitting on her bed with me and looking at story books. It calms her. It gives her quiet and still and allows her brain to settle. It also will quite often give her alone time with me, something special and rare these days, as if possible I will leave Baby Boo downstairs with her daddy and brother. She’s still breastfeeding and in a bit of a clingy to mummy phase at times, but if I can leave her downstairs I do, because whilst Rose has never been angry with Boo for stealing my focus, it definitely does her good to have time alone with mummy.
The wind down with her morning stories, the quiet and calm, has reset her. Instead of the complaining and fussing she has a lovely time looking at the books, counting, practicing her letters, telling me what’s going on in the book. Then, without any complaint, she gets undressed, has a wee, brushes her teeth, and puts on her pyjamas. She lies down in bed in the dark, cuddles her Rainbow Dash toy, and listens as I read her a book or tell her a story I make up. Then she falls asleep.
That night when I lost my mind at her, so tired, so frustrated, and shouted at her for not falling asleep when I wanted to is a huge piece of shame for me. I know she needs time to settle because, just like me, her mind is racing. She gets stimulated and full of thoughts and emotions and it buzzes around her brain, whizzing and whirring, and without allowing it time to settle how could she possibly fall asleep? She’s not a little robot, I can’t programme her to fall asleep on command because it’s convenient to me. I need to respect who she is and what she needs. Reading her morning stories does that, and the evidence is clear in how happily and calmly she goes to bed afterwards.
If you’re struggling to get a child to fall asleep I’d recommend rethinking your process, I’d recommend morning stories. The impact it has had on Miss Rose and her bedtime, her brain being allowed to slow down for the night, is remarkable. She is so much happier about going to sleep, so much more relaxed. And in turn so am I.
I hated myself that night. The look of betrayal in her eyes as she sobbed whilst I shouted at her to go to sleep, the way she cried that she was sorry and the way her lips quivered as she clamped her eyes closed and desperately tried to fall asleep to please me. I was horrible to her that night. I wanted her to be a robot and ignored her humanity. And I deserved to hate myself.
But I’ve corrected it and it has worked. And I won’t make that mistake again.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!