Friday, August 19, 2016

The hardest stage of parenting

Great day so far. It's 8:30 a.m., I haven't showered, wearing the hubby's PJs. My alarm clock this morning was the 2 yr old slipping in spilled soda and crying nonstop for 20 mins because she's a drama queen. This after a middle-of-the-night bedroom shuffle because the 5 yr old wet his bed (we were doing so well!), and right before the 7 yr old peed her pants in the hall closet.

I remember when I was pregnant with Hannah, and I felt like we were at a really good place. Both kids were potty trained, and accidents were few and far between. The kids loved each other and played really well together. I could get so much done each day, because they'd just entertain themselves. We had a great routine, I was getting enough sleep, and the stars seemed to have aligned for us.

Then one day Richard was like, "Oh man. We have to sleep train again. We have to wean. We have to potty train again. I thought those days were behind us!" And I was like, oh yeah. That's true. This has been a nice break, but we can handle anything, right?

I think there's sound justification for having all your kids before you're 30. By the time you're 30, you're just tired. And kids give you a million more things to do.

Anyway, we survived. Sleep training Hannah was an adventure, but we got through it. And a few months ago I felt like we had once again entered that magical place where things work out. Our children have finally figured out how to get themselves breakfast! I get to sleep in for an extra 20 mins every day now! It's glorious. They've also learned how to make their own sandwiches, and can handle nachos with some guidance. And now that Hannah is 2, they all get along and play together and entertain each other most of the day, so I can get a lot done around the house. It's amazing. When we go to the park, everyone can do everything pretty much by themselves and I actually get to sit. When we go to the store, everyone stays by or in the cart so it's not a total nightmare. They're to the point where they can ALL behave like functioning human beings, and it's made my life a lot less stressful, I'll tell you what.

Enter: The Next Hard Part

So. Reuben has always had bladder issues. My theory now is that the signal that his bladder is full doesn't get sent to his brain properly. A few years ago, right after potty training, he started doing this thing where he would just leak a little rather than stopping what he was doing to go potty. We treated it like a behavioral thing, getting mad at him for being negligent and whatnot. Eventually he figured it out, and that's not a problem anymore. At the time he was sleeping in the bedroom right next to the bathroom, and he would get up once or twice every night to go potty, and then either get back in bed or end up sleeping on the couch for the night. We moved him downstairs, and he started wetting the bed a bit. We figured it was because he was so far away from the bathroom, and eventually he got back into his habit of coming up to go potty and then sleeping the rest of the night on the couch. It was kind of an awkward system, but it worked. The bed stayed mostly dry.

Then, just a few months ago, he just started going full-force bedwetter. He was wetting the bed at least 4x/week. Again, we treated it like a behavioral problem and got mad at him, initiated reward systems, took away his favorite bedding because I was sick of washing it, etc. Everything we could think of. And nothing worked. The entire time we lived with my parents he slept on a mattress covered in plastic with no sheets, because he wet the bed every single night. It got really frustrating because it seemed like he just stopped caring. He knew it was wrong, he felt bad about it, and he hated getting punished for him. But he kept doing it.

My dad directed me to an interesting article that I can't find now, but basically Reuben has a fairly common condition where the signal from his bladder doesn't reach his brain to wake him up when his bladder is full. It's completely not his fault, and he can't control it. This combined with the fact that he is a VERY deep sleeper makes for lots of wet bed nights. But the important thing is that his parents' mindset has changed. Instead of being Enforcers, we are now Teammates. We have a common goal, and we work together on it.

Our method is to try to teach him to wake up from his deep sleep. We started waking him up twice a night to go potty, and he's stayed mostly dry every since. There have been a few nights where we were too late or too early getting him up, and missed the opportune moment, and he wet the bed anyway, so it's still been a process of patience. I'm not getting enough sleep. So we got him an alarm clock, and it gets set for 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. every night. We've been using it for about a week, and he's starting to wake up for the 6 a.m. alarm. There was even one night he woke up around 5:30, because HE HAD TO PEE! so that was a happy day. He still sleep straight through the 11 p.m. alarm. When I wake him up to go potty, he doesn't actually wake up. The first several weeks I had to carry him to the bathroom and pull his underwear down for him, and there were several nights where he just cried and moaned and tried to explain his dream world to me. He's improved since then, and most nights he walks to the bathroom himself and pulls down his own pants. But he's basically asleep the whole time, and when I wake him up at 6, when he's much more coherent, he always says "Mom! You only woke me up one time, not two!" He doesn't even remember it happening. So that's my concern - he is so deeply asleep that he can't feel the signals from his bladder. And that's why we're doing this - so he learns to wake up in the middle of the night when he needs to.

Things have been going really well. We finally took the plastic off his bed, and he's been dry for a couple weeks now. So maybe that's why last night upset me so much. I set his alarm, and I was up watching TV waiting for it to go off. It's pretty quiet, so it went off for a few minutes before I heard it. And when I went in to wake him up, he was soaked. It was fine, guys. It's just a thing that happens, and it's easy to deal with. But the plastic was off his bed. So it actually got in the mattress. I pulled out the plastic mattress cover we bought for Rachel and never used, put it on the floor with a sheet on top, and tucked him in there after getting him cleaned up. I figured I'd deal with the mattress in the morning. And honestly, it wasn't a bad thing, because now he was wide awake in the middle of the night for once. Also - I'm wondering if the alarm is having a subconscious conditioning effect, where when he hears it, he pees. I don't know if that's the case, or if the soda at dinner and the fact that he went potty 30 mins before bed instead of 5 mins before bed combined against him. But if the alarm is triggering it, that's a good thing, right?

I love this sweet boy so much. He woke up around 7:30 and just made a beeline right for me for snuggles. I feel like the most important thing through all of this is that he knows that we love him, and that we're on his team. We'll work through this together, even if it means waking him up twice a night until he outgrows it just so he stays dry the whole time. Whatever it takes, we'll get through it. I read another article last night that mentioned the need for consistent peeing throughout the day. Sometimes holding all that urine in throughout the day makes it come out full force at night. So the next move is to get him one of those watches that has an alarm on it so that he'll go potty consistently throughout the day. We'll see if that helps :)

So then. After dealing with middle-of-the-night mattress pee. After dealing with 7 a.m. toddler soda adventures. After breakfast and trying to figure out the plan for the day. I'm getting the baby dressed, who decided today is silly day and lay down backwards, with her head between my knees, waiting for her servant to attend to her wardrobe. Rachel comes running in, stands right in front of me, and says "Mom, I spilled water." She managed to magically "spill water" exactly between her legs.

Here's the thing. Peeing your pants is gross, but it's a thing kids do. I remember being a kid, and seeing kids who peed their pants up until like 5th grade. I remember wetting the bed when I was 7 or 8. I remember just a year ago, taking 8 and 9 yr old scouts to day camp, and there was one kid whose pants were soaked the entire day, despite countless trips to the restroom, and he didn't seem to mind. I get that it's a hard thing for kids to figure out. What I don't get is why she felt the need to lie to me about it. The other thing I don't get is that this is like the 4th time since we moved that this has happened. Is it the move? Is it the excitement of new kids in the neighborhood to play with? She hasn't had an accident for over a year, and then 4 in one month?

My problem is that I react to the wrong thing. I ALWAYS get mad at her for peeing her pants. You're way too old to be doing that, it's disgusting, why can't you drop what you're doing and run to the bathroom when you need to pee, go the first time you feel it, etc. I mean, when we're on road trips and she says she has to pee, I'll ask if she can hold it, and she'll hold it indefinitely for hours. But this morning, when she was hunting for a coat (because apparently 65 degrees is cold), she couldn't even make it down off the bucket she was standing on to run to the bathroom in time. Maybe I just don't get it. I'm not compassionate enough, or something.

But this lying thing...that's absolutely not okay. But every time I try to punish her for lying, she always thinks she's getting punished for peeing her pants because I react so poorly to that. We had a long chat about it today, and I think maybe she got the point. That's just always what I worry about - I yelled at her for two things, and she only internalized my anger for one of the things instead of both, or instead of the one I really should have been focusing on.

Anyway we got through it. She understands that she doesn't get any screen time today because she LIED, not because she peed her pants, and she agreed that that was an appropriate punishment. But THEN there was all this confusion and madness about can we play outside and can we wear our new jackets (never buying them cool clothes before school ever again) and can I go to my new friend's house and meanwhile all I wanted to do was clean up not one, but TWO pee messes, and by the way my sink smells bad because I haven't done dishes for two days.

In my conversation with Rachel I made her a promise. I told her I will never tell her a lie, and asked if she could do the same for me. But there's a lot more to it than that. I think the hardest part of being a human being is not understanding why we're feeling what we're feeling, and why we act the way we do because of those feelings. I had a good conversation with the kids just yesterday about that, because let me tell you I yelled A LOT yesterday and felt awful about it. I sat them down and told them that I was sorry, and that I shouldn't have yelled, and that I was going to try to not yell anymore. We talked about how sometimes you just get so angry that you yell. Just like sometimes you get so sad that you cry, or you get so happy that you laugh, and you just can't control it. Look, I'm 31 years old and I'm just NOW being able to recognize why I feel the way I do when I do. I have to sit for a while and consider my hormones and sleep patterns and goals for the day before I can come to a conclusion on anything. Why was I grumpy this morning? Was it because my kids were naughty? Was it because I was tired? Was I upset over how little I accomplished yesterday? The kids were running around outside, causing problems, and I was standing at the sink, rinsing out a rag to wipe up the carpet pee mess, trying to figure out why I was so grumpy.

And I figured it out, y'all. I am good at cleaning things, but I'm never confident about pee in soft materials. Please tell me I'm not alone. You spray the carpet with cleaner, you spray the mattress with cleaner, you add water to rinse it all down, and you wipe it up, but is that really successful? Did you get it all? Is your brand new house and brand new(ish) mattress just going to stink forever because you can't figure out the best method to remove urine? THAT'S why I was grumpy. I felt like I wasn't going to be able to properly clean stuff. It's not because the mess happened. It's not because kids are hard. It's just simply that I'm not good at something that absolutely has to be done.

I know that sounds totally mundane and weird. But that's why I was upset. So I sat my kids down and didn't tell them a lie. I told them I needed them to play downstairs, where they would be contained and out of my way, so that I could figure out how to clean up the messes that have been made.

And guess what? It worked. I have smart kids, and sometimes they have a smart mom. It's all about being a team, and figuring out how to work with your teammates. Sometimes I get so caught up in the moment of what needs to be done that I just push the kids aside, tell them to go do something else, and then get mad at them when they don't. If I can treat them as teammates, explain things to them properly, and ask them to help, things always work better. I've learned this like a hundred times throughout parenthood, but it still seems like I have to learn it every day.

Yesterday morning was rough. I gave the kids a job to do, and they sucked at it, so I yelled at them a lot. They got it done, but at the end of it all I felt like they would have done just as well, possibly better, if I had left out the yelling bit. I really felt awful about it (obviously, enough to bring it up twice in a somewhat unrelated blog post), and expressed that feeling to Richard when he called later. His comment was "We don't raise them, they raise us, right?" That statement never felt as true as it did right then. I learn so much more from these kids than they learn from me. And each day we work together to be a little better. And sometimes it works.

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