“Moving target” problem solving

Those who read my recent “confessions and observations” post know that Lily’s been fighting hard against the afternoon nap at home lately, and that last weekend, I thought I had this licked by virtue of a Supernanny-endorsed ploy (wherein I stay near her crib but appear to “shut down,” so I’m not responding to her various pleas and tactics).

This weekend? No dice.

I tried the same thing, and Lily was calmer but wide awake, kicking at the crib, making no effort to sleep. She even started throwing things from the crib, sometimes down onto me, until nothing was left, and then reached for various things to yank them back in. The little stinker was beating me at my own game, essentially saying, “No matter what you do, I’m not sleeping. So there.”

After growing convinced that my previously successful efforts were know ineffective, I urged Lily to try to sleep, without success, and then left, which led her to wailing. Joe stepped in, calmed her down, and told her she needed to lie down and try to sleep if I was going to return. I did, but she was immediately up to her old tricks, so I left, and after a couple minutes of crying, she fell asleep.

Today was similar, in that it wasn’t until we both gave up and left her alone in her crib that she screamed for a short time and konked out. I HATE this method – I lie in agony on our bed in the next room while Lily screams “I want Mommy!” – but we don’t seem to have much choice. Lily still needs an afternoon nap. If she doesn’t get one, things take an ugly turn late in the day; and when she does have one, she’s happy and refreshed upon waking (who isn’t better for a nap, after all?). 

I dread this battle that looms overhead on every weekend day now. It haunts the entire morning, no matter how pleasantly spent. But this nap period is so restorative and important to all three of us that Joe and I will do whatever we have to to make it happen.

After two years of mommydom, you’d think I’d finally absorb the idea that oftentimes, parenting problem-solving has a moving target quality. What works one day won’t work the next. I’ve experienced this over and over again, and yet each time I stumble upon a (temporary) solution to a problem, I get my hopes up. Silly, silly me.

We’re also now having battles over baths, too. Once Lily’s in the water, she usually calms down and has a grand time. But she’ll emphatically fight and kick against the whole thing beforehand.

Earlier today, I said to Joe, “Remember when we said it was naptime, and Lily sleepily curled up against you and went upstairs without a fight? And when she got really excited at the prospect of a bath?” And Joe said, “Yes, but we also had to feed her every bite of food, and she’d throw a huge tantrum whenever we left a place.”

Which is true, of course. There’s never a time when it’s all easy. And staying nimble in your parenting is something that’s easier said than done.

3 thoughts on ““Moving target” problem solving

  1. Erik Kuszynski says:

    The problem with kids is that they spend all day, every day, trying to figure out how to get the better of their parents.
    Parents, on the other hand, have to do things like work, clean, pay bills, cut lawns, and prepare meals. We’re left with precious little time to figure out how to get the better of them. What children lack in life experience they make up for with all the time tenacity.

  2. Matt Welch says:

    I know the pain of screaming at naptime. We had the same thing with Jacob. What worked for us was just toughing it out. When we’d try one thing, and then another, and then another none of them worked (especially if we did the all during one nap).

    We eventually were told by our pediatrician to just let him cry. So we’d give him a kiss, put him down, say good night, and then leave the room and not come back until he had slept. You know he’s not in any physical distress, so you just have to wait. We had to wait out crying bouts 30 or 45 minutes in length at first. That is hard to do. You feel a very basic and powerful urge to go back in there and help him. We tried to distract ourselves with TV, but it is very hard to concentrate on even the dumbest of shows while fighting that urge.

    But we stuck with it and did it every single time. I think that consistency has something to do with it. Gradually he settled down and came to accept that when we put him down, that was nap time.

    We started out with this policy with Evan. He still cries sometimes when we put him down, but for about 30 seconds at most.

    Good luck to you, and have patience.

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