We have been struggling lately with a couple of related issues: sleep and frustration/attitude. My husband and I are having a hard time staying calm with the children because we have just lost all of our patience. One of the reasons we currently have such a bad attitude is because we are not getting enough sleeping. Sound familiar?
The sleep struggle is about more than just us not sleeping enough, though. Sleep became an issue when our two older daughters started sharing a room. This, in and of itself, caused a ton of frustration.
For several weeks our entire evening was consumed with the struggle and frustration of getting the girls to sleep. For 2-3 hours, we would just get more and more frustrated until one of us lost our cool and then the girls would finally go to sleep.
My husband and I were going to bed later than usual because we needed at least a little bit of time to recover before we actually felt like sleeping. And of course, we have a baby that still wakes up during the night.
It was not fun. It felt like it would never end.
Every night it was the same thing. We tried everything we could think of just to get them to go to sleep. We tried rules. We tried punishments. We tried incentives and rewards. We tried being nice and understanding. We tried putting our foot down.
You can’t physically force your child to stay in their bed. You can’t force them to go to sleep. So what do you do? You can’t really punish or reward them in the moment either, which is the only thing that makes sense to a 2 year old.
We tried threatening to put her back in her crib. Didn’t work. She wanted to go back in the crib but hello, the baby is sleeping in there.
Seriously, they were getting us to our breaking point every night. We felt like we were getting really close to just breaking for good because nothing was fun anymore. Instead there was a lot of yelling happening. The girls were picking up on that and starting to do the same thing. Everybody was just in a terrible mood. If the girls didn’t have too horrible of a time getting to sleep, they were ok, but the lack of sleep was wearing us all down.
You know what kids are like when they’re overtired – alternately whining and crying about everything and completely wild and out of control. Every little thing is a huge ordeal. Could the same be said of me when I’m overtired? Let’s not even go there.
We were just trying to make it through each day.
I remember talking to my mom on the phone and she asked if we were still planning a trip in February. I said, “Mom, we’re just trying to make it through the day here. I can’t plan for the future.” In that moment, it felt true. I didn’t have anything left over to think about a month from now, let alone a week from now.
Of course I hate losing my cool with my kids, and then I feel bad about the way I talked to them or that I yelled at them. Those feelings don’t really help the situation either. I hesitate to use the word guilt because I feel like everyone talks about feeling guilty too much these days, but that’s what it was. Guilt is not usually all that helpful, at least for me. It’s just another negative emotion thrown on top of all the other ones.
When it started getting really bad I reached out to some friends. I knew I needed to step back a little and get some physical space and be able to talk about the problem. My husband and I left work early a couple Fridays so we could have a drink and spend some time together. I even took a bath one night while my husband was putting the girls to bed so I could clear my head.
I’m happy to report that the sleep situation is now much better. The girls still have a hard time going to sleep right away sometimes, and it’s painfully obvious when one of them didn’t actually nap at daycare. But evenings are nearly as frustrating as they were. Well, unless they’re tonight, when the girls were just non-stop talking in really loud voices, interrupting every time we tried to talk to them and making a huge mess. But all that was before bedtime. So yes, some of the frustration is still there, but for the most part it’s gone.
I’ve learned some things I can do when I need a break. I’ve finally been going to sleep a little closer to when I should be. So we’ve made it through the worst of it and hopefully we’re even a little bit wiser for it.