Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Super Eater, Super Sleeper

It dawns on me as I write this that perhaps I should not compare our kids. Hmm. I don't mean it like we are creating expectations for one based on the other. Just that it's interesting to see how they handle things differently.

For instance, Marcie is a super eater. She'll try anything. I'm not exaggerating here. Admittedly, she doesn't like everything, but just about. She always turns away lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes, for example. But if she sees anyone eating something, she wants it, too. This is so nice. Last night for dinner, I made Marcie and Casey pizza, and Jason and I had flounder. Marcie asked me for some of my flounder (by grunting at me) and then gobbled it up and asked for more. What not-even-two-year-old eats fish? Casey, on the other hand, is not adventurous with food. It's a battle just to get him to smell something new. Forget about tasting it. Of course, on the flip side of this, Casey doesn't eat constantly, isn't really a big fan of sweets (including cake), and we don't worry that he'll eat himself silly.

On the flip side of things, Casey is a super sleeper. He lays down at bed time (or nap time) and sings to himself or counts sheep or whatever. We just kiss him good-night, shut off the light, and walk about the door. He naps, even 4 1/2 for at least an hour a day. And lately, his nighttime sleep has been extending (I actually wake him up at 6:45am many mornings now, when he used to wake me up at 6:00am). Marcie, on the other hand, is not so good with the sleeping. She cat naps for like 30 minutes at a time. If we're lucky, she might nap for a solid hour in the afternoon. She screams when we put her down at bed, and she wakes up anywhere between once and four times during the night (and wakes us up right along with her). Then she's up between 5:45am and 6:15am for the day.

Last week -- or the week before-- I decided enough was enough-- it was time for Marcie to learn to put herself to sleep. So on Thursday night (I think it was Thursday), when I put her in bed, I told her she needed to put herself to sleep. That I loved her. That I was right outside her door. And that I'd be there in the morning. And good-night. I turn off the light, and I put up the gate in the doorway. And she began to cry. And cry. And scream. And cry. It started out with the loud wails. Then progressed into, "MOMMY! PO- PO!" (Po-po is essentially hold me in Cantonese.) Then she started yelling, "ALL DONE!" and finally began clapping her hands in between screams.

This all in the first five minutes after I put her down. After five minutes I walked into her bedroom, picked her up, put her in bed, told her I loved her, I would be there when she woke up, and covered her back up. Left the room and put the gate up. And repeated the scenario. I did this every 5 minutes for the first 1/2 hour. Then every 10 minutes for the next half hour. Then every 15 minutes (where I planned to hold it until she fell asleep). Thankfully, after the first 15 minutes of screaming and carrying on, she finally fell asleep.

The next night, it was the same. Except instead of taking an hour and a half, it only took maybe 45 minutes. And the next night we were out for the night. She cried and cried in the babysitter's arms for about an hour, until she fell asleep. (I guess we got our money's worth that evening!) Sunday, it was more like 20 minutes, and then for the past week, it's been between 10 and 15 minutes of crying. Over the weekend, the crying (whimpering, really) started when it was time to brush teeth now. Then, a couple nights ago, when I put her down I told her to put herself to sleep, and that I'd check on her in 10 minutes. Eight minutes later, she began crying out for me to hold her. At 10 minutes, I put her back in bed and told her I loved her. She asked me to lay down, and I told her no because she needed to learn to put herself to sleep. And when I checked on her 10 minutes later, she'd put herself to sleep! (As a side note to all of this, Casey actually has been able to sleep through all of Marcie's carrying on-- he really is a super sleeper.) And last night and tonight she went down with no tears at all. I'm banking on the theory that three nights in a row is a pattern. Yippee!

Now, I have very mixed feelings about this sleep-training. Some people call it Ferberizing, and I think I've written about it before. Others call it controlled crying because you don't leave the child in distress to cry for hours on end. I call it heart-wrenching and pretty sucky. And if I could survive on bouts of 3 hours of sleep for years on end and was confident I'd be home at bedtime to lay down with each child to help him or her fall asleep, I might consider not sleep-training. But the truth is that we all know how important sleep is. And I'd be doing a disservice to Marcie if I didn't help her learn how to put herself to sleep. I mean, if she wanted to eat chocolate kisses and only chocolate kisses, and she screamed and cried and carried on if I told her she had to eat something else, I surely wouldn't give in. Because it's bad for her teeth and bad for her growth. I think sleep is kind of like that.

On the other hand, I must admit, I've really been putting off this sleep training in many respects (though I've toyed with doing it off and on for a while) because she's adopted. If you haven't adopted a child who was older than newborn, this probably sounds crazy to you. But if you have adopted a child who's older than just-born, you probably know exactly what I mean. It's all connected to the issue of attachment. And in this sense, I may have fallen prey to the very thing I never want my kids to feel (though I imagine some day they might)-- that they behave in a particular way or feel a certain way simply because they are adopted. I don't want how they joined their family, our family, to be an excuse. For anything. And yet here I am, using it as an excuse myself.

Because a part of me worries that Marcie doesn't like sleeping alone at night (or any time, actually) because it's foreign to her. She feels safer surrounded by others-- just how it was when she lived in China. I know it's irrational because she probably doesn't even remember China anymore. But aren't fears irrational? Maybe she doesn't know why being alone in her bedroom causes her anxiety but it's because of this childhood experience she doesn't remember. Is that possible? As much as I cling to this fear, though, I also know deep in my gut and just as deeply in my heart that Marcie knows she is part of our family and always has been, since the day she was born. She has shown no difficulties with attachment, really. She seems to feel safe and secure and really appears to love being part of this little family of ours. I have no reason to believe the bedtime blues are anything but typical toddler behavior (except the Internet reading I've done on the subject of attachment, or lack thereof, which can display in just one area of a child's life sometimes).

In the end, though, I know she needs to sleep. I need to sleep. And Marcie understands when we tell her we love her, and we'll be there when she wakes up in the morning. So it'll be okay, right?


Jodie said...

I agree with you 100%! I couldn't believe when I read this post that we're in the same boat with Julia right now. She's almost 19 months and lately(for about the last month or so) she has been crying at bedtime and waking several times during the night. I always went in to soothe her, but now realize that this is causing her to wake more often, sometimes 4-5 times a night and no one was happy without their sleep! It's REALLY hard hearing her cry and scream, but I'm confident that this is typical toddler separation anxiety. Julia doesn't show any signs of attachment problems. Our girls have been home with us long enough to understand that we will be there for them in the morning when they wake up. For me, I kept thinking if I don't nip this in the bud now, I'm really going to have problems when she's 2 or 3 and in a big girl bed!

It's so exciting to see your paperchase timeline on the right! Congrats on the I 171!!

(Up the Hill)

Momma and ZZ said...

Thank you so much for sharing about your daughter's sleep. It's exactly what I am going through and I am really beginning to think I am the one with orphanage issues, she really seems fine. My daughter also constantly asks me why, but isn't saying "okay mommy" when I explain things : )