Aug 09

Dreaming of 5 am…..


When you ‘complain’ that your child is not sleeping, most people assume that your child maybe has a hard time falling asleep. Or maybe your child is awake earlier than you would like. Sometimes, it is a much bigger issue.

Like most parents, we stumbled through that phase in infancy when our children were awake every 2 hours – sometimes even more often. It was completely exhausting. For us, this phase went on a little longer than most. It went on for YEARS. It is STILL going on. Parents of ‘typical’ children cannot fathom some of the struggles that parents of ETL children face on a daily basis. There are always the parents who attempt to sympathize  – letting you know little Johnny was up at 5 AM. Continue reading

Jul 12

Sleep. Please, sleep.

I know you all have heard about that book: Go the F*ck to Sleep. It’s been on the bestseller lists for weeks, obviously because it strikes a chord. Who among parents, even those who don’t parent behaviorally-challenged children, hasn’t had an issue getting their children to sleep?

We adopted Little J at 15 months and NEVER ONCE has the child napped, and until we started giving him melatonin with his pediatric psychiatrist’s blessings at age 4, NEVER ONCE did he fall asleep at night before 11 p.m., and not without yelling (not crying, but just plain yelling – the speech-delayed equivalent of Hey! Anyone out there! Hey! Let me out of here!) for at least 2 hours in his crib. I think I’ve blanked out what happened once he could climb out of the crib and was loose in his room, it was that difficult to get him to stay there…and before you retroactively suggest that we should have just let him stay up, the rest of the family (me, Dad, and brother) all are early risers…as is Little J, by the way, so that would have been a terrible suggestion.

One good thing came out of it: I believe that my other son, 4 years older than Little J, can now sleep through anything because of having a room next to Little J’s for so many years.

I KNOW FOR A FACT that those of us parenting Easy to Love children have MUCH BIGGER issues with sleep than other parents. I know it. ETL parents have kids who won’t sleep, who have funky sleep patterns, who have medication issues that impact sleep in multiple ways, who do odd things in the middle of the nights, and who have done EVERYTHING to try to solve this problem. EVERYTHING. But yet we are still plagued with incredibly stupid, obvious advice from everyone we know – from doctors to friends to family members to online forums. And I’m here to tell you that the advice from online forums, even those that profess to be for parents of kids like ours, is probably the most annoying. At least it’s been for me.

Our current problem is that at least once a week, Little J gets up in the night and watches TV or plays Wii. He is very sneaky about it – he very quietly comes downstairs (his bedroom is on the 2nd floor and my husband and I have a bedroom on the 1st floor, immediately under his in an old, creaky house), goes into the living room, shuts the door, turns the volume on the TV to 0, and turns on the set. He’ll do this for a couple of hours at a time – he generally only stops when we wake up (the waking-witching hour of 3 a.m. strikes both my husband and I many nights) and catch him doing it. He is absolutely not allowed to do this. He has been punished for it. He has lost things, including TV privileges for days at a time. It doesn’t matter. He does it anyway.

It’s not that he has insomnia or a sleep problem, really. Here’s what I think happens: he wakes up momentarily as all of us do in the night, and instead of closing his eyes and going back to sleep he thinks – hey! I’ll go watch TV! It’s an impulse. It’s a very poor decision. And there seems to be absolutely nothing we can do to stop it, save giving him medication specifically for sleep, but we’ve actually tried a couple of different prescription sleep meds and all that happened was he was enormously grouchy in the morning…and he still got up in the night. It doesn’t have much to do with sleep – it has a lot more to do with his lack of executive function.

I have cast the net wide to try to solve this problem, believe me, and it’s just led to more frustration. Because people online don’t know me in person and know that my husband and I lead very boring, fairly structured home lives and have an older child who we quickly got on a perfect sleep schedule due to our superior parenting techniques (ha ha – I know better than that!), and because they can’t see my facial expression when they’re “talking” and therefore see my complete disdain for what they’re saying, it’s easy for people to say stupid things that cause my temper to boil when getting into discussions on how to fix my ETL child. A conversation with a doctor/therapist/psychiatrist/friend that might go like this:

ME: Little J gets up in the middle of the night and watches TV. It’s driving us crazy.
THEM: And I suppose he’s comfortable in his bed, there’s no TV in his room, he can go to the bathroom by himself, you have a nighttime routine…
ME: Of course. (Faint sneer. Who do you think you’re talking to?)
THEM: Hmm. Maybe something you’ll have to live with for a while.
ME: Sigh.

Can turn into this in an online forum:

ME: Little J gets up in the middle of the night and watches TV. It’s driving us crazy.
HELPFUL PERSON #1: Take the TV out of his room.
ME: There is no TV in his room. He goes to the family room and watches TV with the volume off. He shuts the door so we won’t know he’s doing it.
HELPFUL PERSON #2: Do you have a bedtime routine? He needs a bedtime routine.
ME: Yes. We’ve done the same routine every night since he was 2.
HELPFUL PERSON #3: My son did the same thing. We had to take the TV out of his room.
HELPFUL PERSON #4: Maybe he’s hungry. Give him a snack before he goes to bed.
ME: He’s not eating. He’s just watching TV.
HELPFUL PERSON #5: Put out bowls of healthy snacks so he can help himself.
HELPFUL PERSON #6: Take the TV out of his room.
HELPFUL PERSON #7: Maybe his stimulant dose is too high.
ME: We just lowered it, but that’s something to think of.
HELPFUL PERSON #8: He needs a bedtime routine. Have you tried doing the same thing every night? Brush teeth, story, etc.
HELPFUL PERSON #9: What about a noise machine? Have you tried melatonin?
Me: Yes, he has a noise machine. Yes, he takes melatonin. And before you all ask, we’ve tried sleep aids and they make him really grumpy in the morning.
HELPFUL PERSON #10: My doctor told me kids shouldn’t have TVs in their room.

Conclusion: this is something we’ll have to live with for a while. And meanwhile, we’ll be hiding the remote.