Once upon a time there was a maiden princess. She was spirited and animated and greatly full of life, but oh, did she also love to sleep.
Until one dark day when her parents, not knowing the magical powers it possessed, took away her pacifier.
As soon as the pacifier’s sleep spell was broken, the princess was turned into a tiny monster each naptime and bedtime. She would scream and cry and get out of bed until exhaustion finally got the best of her and sleep returned her to her normal state.
“Set a clear bedtime routine,” a kind villager said. “Try positive incentives,” suggested another. “Don’t engage with her,” added the town wiseman, Google.
Her parents did all these things, and then some more, yet still the tiny monster would return each day.
And they all lived happily ever after as long as there was coffee in the castle.
I’m thinking about a career in realistic children’s books.
But really, I’ve been thinking about our house’s sleep battles a lot over the past week. This was really the first “toddler-y” thing we had to deal with in our parenting, and in trying to figure out how to best deal with it, I reached out to my village (and Google, as any millennial mom would) for advice.
It’s frustrating when the things that work for other people don’t work for you. When you watch people skim across the tricky phases while you’re still wading through the muck of the deep end. And, I think this is true in a larger margin than just parenting even though I tend to have toddlers on the brain most frequently. In any walk of life, you get advice from those who have gone before you, and I guess I have realized recently (in a fairly non-cynical analysis), that you can’t fully trust anyone else’s advice.
Why? Sure, thanks for asking.
First, we are raising different human beings (see also: we are married to, roommates with, children of, etc. different people). Your kid is not the same as my kid. I will be in awe of your kid who sits quietly in your designated “time-out chair” just as you might be impressed when Lily responds to correction when her book time is threatened. Trying to perfectly replicate another mom’s solution to a problem hardly ever works because, news flash, her kid is different than mine.
We are also annoyed by different things. My kids are covered with food after every single meal. For whatever reason, keeping kids and/or clothes clean during meals is not a bridge I care about dying on. Just come and find me later in the evening though while I’m trying to coerce Lily to wear matching pajamas. I know it doesn’t matter. But still, here I am fighting the unwinnable battle for no other reason than because it annoys me when clothes don’t match. As people, we’re just agitated by different things, and I think, tend to offer solutions about things that might not necessarily be a problem to someone else.
Similarly, we have different breaking points. What sends me over the edge with my kids or my tipping point with Jake might be no big deal to any other person. Our thresholds vary. Some people can maneuver around a screaming toddler with ease and patience (see: Jake). You could suggest that I try reasoning with my kids because that is what works for you, but I know that is what will push me to my breaking point real fast. Instead? You’ll probably find me taking a timeout in the bathroom.
Finally, our life stages don’t line up perfectly. You welcomed your second child when your first was five; I had two kids under two. You got married in your thirties while Jake and I had just stepped into the twenties. The same phases hit us at different times and in different ways and will certainly affect us differently. Me telling you that the best thing Jake and I did for our marriage early on was to take a year off before we started our respective careers doesn’t make any sense if you already have careers.
But it certainly does take a village, doesn’t it?
I don’t know how how anyone could navigate through life without the advice of others. Parents and mentors and marriage counselors and pastors and teachers and friends–these are the people who go before us and make us feel like we can do whatever it is that comes next.
I need their advice and their wisdom even if it’s frustrating sometimes when their life circumstances or breaking points are different from my own. It’s when I understand who I am (another essay entirely) and who my tiny tribe is that I can begin to use my sieve to sift through their advice. Some of it will work for us, and some of it won’t, but it’s still worth seeking it out. Plus, you’re bound to find some hidden nuggets of gold because everyone’s got some tucked away in their pockets.
Two of my favorite never-failing pieces of advice? Love people well and always have coffee in the house.
(Of course, if you don’t like coffee, then you probably can’t trust anything I have to say.)