Les étoiles mauves

Quand je dis à mes plus jeunes que je les aime, j’essaie toujours de le faire de manière à ce qu’ils comprennent que je les aime beaucoup. Leur dire que je les aime gros comme toute la terre, c’est bien beau mais bien abstrait pour un petit pour qui le monde se limite à la maison et au jardin. Parfois je dis aux petits que je les aime gros comme une maison ou un camion de pompier. Puis en gradissant, la maison devient trop petite et je les aime gros comme une montagne. Puis on rigole, je les aime gros comme une montagne de camions de pompier et ainsi de suite.

Moyen bonhomme

Hier en couchant mon petit bonhomme — qui est en fait mon moyen bonhomme maintenant que j’ai un encore-plus-petit bonhomme — je lui ai dis que je l’aimais gros comme un camion de pompier mais c’était nettement insuffisant. Il a commencé à m’expliquer:

– Non, gros comme les étoiles mauves!

Les étoiles mauves?

– Oui, les étoiles mauves qui son très, très loin dans l’espace. Elles sont tellement loin que ça prend dix… euh, dix ANNÉES pour y arriver! Tu m’aimes gros comme une montagne aussi haute que les étoiles mauves!

C’est bien de se savoir aimé loin comme les étoiles mauves! Et il me le rend bien: la semaine dernière, il m’a annoncé que j’étais sa maman préférée. Compte tenu des options, j’étais touchée. Mais ce n’est pas tout. Il m’a aussi dis que j’étais aussi jolie que Taylor Swift. Alors là!

Taylor Swift

Teenagers: Learning from their mistakes pt 2

I concluded my previous post on teens and discipline by telling you about the essay as a discipline tool. You can find part 1 of Learning from their mistakes here.

Have you ever sent a child to her room to think about what she’d done? Do you really think, while she’s there, that she is pondering on the great wrong she’s done to you? If you do, I hate to burst your bubble. Your child is more likely reflecting on how great a victim she is. Assuming she is not reading, sleeping, surfing the Net or watching TV (but your children don’t have TV in their room, right?? If they do, we must have words). Let’s be honest: when we send a child to their room to “think”, what we are really saying is:

I’m really annoyed by your behaviour, please get out of my space while I regain my composure.


The result of sending a child to his room may not always be as intended but we are on to something with the idea of reflecting on one’s behaviour and understand where it failed. The problem with “go to your room” is that we are not nurturing our children’s budding moral development by shooing them off to “think” by themselves.

When it comes to teenagers, the development of a reliable sense of right and wrong is essential and time sensitive: a teenager in grade 10 (15-16) could be moving out to study in 2-3 years. If they are not learning self-control, impulse-management and developping a moral fiber, they can be in for a world of trouble. When I tell my teenagers to “go think about what you’ve done” I mean it in a way I may not have meant when they were little.

In Good Discipline, Great Teens, Dr. Ray Guarandi suggests using essays instead of lectures to teach discipline. I met Dr. Ray some years ago when I was on the organizing committee for a parenting conference where he was the speaker. His talks are like stand-up routines: we laughed so hard it hurt. But don’t get fooled by the funnies: while his delivery is hilarious, his approach to discipline is serious. After the conference, we went out for dinner with Dr. Ray and I asked him: “That strong discipline approach sounds great in theory but the parents I know who have discipline problems with their teenagers never had a backbone. Shouldn’t they change their approach gradually?”. His reply really left an image that inspires most of my parenting nowadays. He said: “Did you ever drink sour milk thinking it was fresh? When you realize you have a mouthfull of sour milk, do you spit it out gradually or all at once?” When there is something wrong with your children, whether its too much backtalk, too much computer or failing grades, you need to face it head on. Here is a quote from Good Discipline, Great Teens that encapsulates Dr. Ray’s approach:

Dear Dr. Ray, Any words for dealing with a fifteen-year-old who is verbally demeaning to his two younger sisters (…), sometimes abusively so?

Yes. Stop him.

He does give more pointed advice on ways to stop the bad behaviour. But he doesn’t buy the “teens will be teens” schtick. At all. Yes, teens will be teens and this may involve some attitude, back talk and abuse. But it doesn’t mean that you, as parent, have to take it, indulge it or bear it out. Being called over and over on their bad behaviour — and believe me, I have two teens, I cannot overstate how often “over and over” means — is how we imprint on their developping brain what is morally and socially acceptable (and what will get them sued, fired or dumped).

But back to essays. Last December, my husband and I were confronted with a discipline problem involving two of our four oldest children. The offense involved going behind our backs to do something they knew they were not allowed to do. For a few weeks before they got busted, these two children were increasingly short-tempered, rude and difficult. I thought maybe they were overtired or reacting to the twins’ birth, whatever. In hindsight, I think that living a lie was eating away at their souls. When we confronted them, it was very important for us to convey that the material offense wasn’t nearly as big a deal as the lying. The way we approached this was to have a family meeting where we told them (again) about the family rule they had transgressed and why it was in place. We told the children that we knew that two of them had gone beyond our backs. The transgressors were grounded for at least two weeks (except for school and sports) and their computer priviledges were removed (the computer was the instrument of the transgression). Then we assigned them with two written projects. The projects had to be handed-in before the computer priviledges could be regained and the grounding lifted. Both children had to present a written apology with an explanation of what went through their heads when they decided to go behind our backs. They also had to write an essay (500 words for the youngest and 2000 for the oldest) on personal integrity, personal dignity and respect for parental authority. The oldest of the two also had to do a bit of research on why the family rule he-or-she had transgressed was important.

When they handed back their essays and apologies, I was taken aback with how much thought they had put into their work. Here are some exerpts, published with permission from their authors (as long as I keep them anonymous). On respect for parental authority the youngest of the two wrote:

You can see your parents like your boss at work. They tell you what to do and you must obey. But instead of paying you with money, they pay you with love. Another difference is that you will never get fired. In other words, they will always love you no matter what you do.

On personal integrity, the oldest of the two wrote (I really wish I could quote the entire essay, it’s that good):

Integrity. The first image that comes to mind is that of a brick wall. Solidly built, unshakeable and most of all, strong. Every component, every brick, is held together by mortar. Remove a brick and the wall isn’t complete. Remove the mortar and the wall doesn’t hold.

Personal human integrity isn’t all that different. Your values are the bricks, held together by honesty, your mortar. Without your values, your wall of integrity isn’t complete. Without honesty, your bricks will not hold together.

Giving them an essay topic allowed us to put the emphasis on the lesson we wanted the children to learn. The grounding and removal of priviledges were tools to make sure that the children had the time and leisure to work on their essays and also provided motivation for finishing the essays in a timely fashion. I am now thinking of using essays as a gateway for earning more priviledges. For instance, before allowing your child/teen to have a Facebook page, you could ask for a short essay (500 words is very manageable for a 10-12 year-old child) on data mining or online privacy protection or cyber-bullying. Making your teens do the research and writing will always beat a lecture, take it from me.

Teenagers: Learning from their mistakes pt 1

If I title a post on parenting teenagers “Learning from their mistakes” you may think that the post will be about getting teenagers to learn from their mistakes. But I’m not so delusional as to give you such hope: I have to assume that teenagers learn from their mistakes because I once was a teenager, I learned from my mistakes, and I am a relatively well adjusted adult. Beyond that, beats me. No, the title of this post refers to what I — the parent — am learning from disciplining my teens in the great adventure of parenting.

When my four oldest children were little, countless well-meaning strangers told me to enjoy them while they were young because once they hit the teenage years it would be all downhill from there. I was never afraid of the teenage years however. I had a happy teenage-hood. I remember getting along well with my parents and my siblings. I had no interest in drugs and alcohol and I had no major academic issues (I had no clue about anything mathematics or scientific but I did get my high school diploma. This suggests that I had enough of a clue to pass whatever it was I had to pass. But it’s still a mystery.) My experience chatting with other parents is that the amount of fear a parent feels toward their children’s upcoming teenage years is directly proportional to the amount of grief they gave their own parents as teenagers. Call it cosmic payback.

Now that we are more firmly rooted in teenage-dom with each passing year (we have two card-carrying teenagers with a third one coming up the pipe) I can say that parenting teenagers  — so far — has been an experience in mixed emotions. It’s in equal parts more fun, challenging and infuriating than parenting young children.

It’s more fun because teenagers have a sense of humour. They are quirky, they love a good joke and their malleable brain seems to have an infinite capacity to memorize skits and one-liners. It’s easy to laugh with them (and sometimes at them…). Their sense of humour if often dark and off-kilter and if you don’t take yourself too seriously — because they can give it as well as they take it — you can be in for a good time. I also find that my teenagers are keen observers of human nature without the politically correct varnish that develops with age. A varnish is not always a bad thing but sometimes I wish I still had the ability to call a spade a spade the way my teens do.

Having fun with gourds
Teenagers like to make funny faces

It’s more challenging  because the stakes are higher. Higher stakes mean that you are under pressure to make the right discipline call at the right time. What do I mean by that? When raising young children, you often make discipline calls that are either bone-headed or counter-productive. Have you ever spanked a child in anger? Hit a child for hitting a sibling? Flew off the handle after catching a liar? Great. Now your child is learning that hitting is a good way to blow off steam, hitting is a good response to injury and that his lying skills need improvement. The consequences of those bad discipline calls are mild. Unless you repeat them regularly over several years, they won’t make your child into violent liar.  If the balance of your parenting is loving and forgiving you’ll get another kick at the can in a few days. But teenagers can make mistakes that will hunt them for the rest of their lives: get pregnant, flunk high school and crash a car full of friends. Even if your concerns are of a lesser order of magnitude — as mine are, thank God — you still need to be on the ball and ready to roll. Your teen is flunking high school math because he couldn’t be bothered? Sure you can take his iPod away for a week. He still flunked math. And closed the door to every paycheque-friendly faculty, like engineering, medicine, business, dentistry, you name it! I don’t want my teens to learn a life-lesson from flunking math and science out of sheer laziness: I want them to succeed. If they decide to get an English major, it won’t be because nobody else would let them in. Get it? Stakes, higher.

It’s more frustrating because teens push your buttons at a more adult level and really bring you face to face with your shortcomings as a parent. When you lose your “composure” at a 3 year-old, they still come to you for comfort. When you fly off the handle and start ranting at a teenager (two big teenage no-nos, don’t ask me how I know), they think you’re a loser. (Now, if you have done your job right up to this point, your teenagers will know better than to tell you to your face — although my son has been known to exhibit a death wish in that regard: the kid has no filter.) What really rounds-up the challenging and frustrating parts is the well-documented fact that teens really think that they have reached the apogee of knowledge and good judgement. Now, if you reach the apogee of knowledge and good judgement at 15, and the only way from an apogee is down, you can imagine where, in a teen’s mind, the parent is situated on the apogee-to-perigee-continuum: it takes 15 years to get to the top, and it’s all downhill from there, and you are say, almost 40, it means that you’ve been on a downward trajectory from knowledge and good judgement for, like… (40 – 15 = uh…)  25-ish years, rounded-up to the nearest brain fart.

Teenagers challenge, push buttons and seek out limits. Sometimes, you will blow it as a parent and they will let you know. But sometimes you will be right… and they will still challenge, push buttons and explain to you why you are wrong, wrong, wrong. The high-wire number is to know when to stand firm and when to go hat in hand apologize for your mistakes. The first thing I learned from parenting teens is to take a step back and take a deep breath. Unless your child is at the police station right now it never hurts to put a little time between you and an issue (and even then, spending the night in prison might not be an entirely bad thing…). The second lesson I learned, which flows from the first one, is to lower your voice, ideally to the point where you are not saying any words. It never hurts to hear a teenager’s grievance. Sometimes they may be right! Just don’t confuse listening with arguing or agreeing. For instance, we have a strict, unbending and controversial no-sleepover rule. This is not popular with my oldest daughter. Listening to her grievance and why we are wrong, wrong, wrong will not make me agree with her. Nor will I argue for the zillionth time why this is so. But it doesn’t hurt to sit down and hear her out. Again.

In part 2 of this post,I will tell you about a discipline tool I took too long to get out of the toolbox: the essay.

“Comment vous faites?”

Il y a quelque jours, je suis tombée par hasard sur le blog d’une autre maman de 8 enfants (Little Catholic Bubble). Sa publication How to raise eight children without even trying m’a rappelé à quel point on me posait cette question souvent: “Comment faites-vous” et ses variations “Je ne sais pas comment vous faites…” et “Je survie à peine avec mes deux, je ne peux pas imaginer en avoir 8”.

C’est une erreur commune (une que j’ai fait moi-même lorsque j’avais mes deux plus vieux qui n’ont que 14 mois de différence): on projette la vie avec plusieurs enfants à partir de notre expérience vécue. Or, notre expérience vécue est limitée. À moins d’avoir une grossesse multiple de haut calibre, nos enfants naissent un par un puis grandissent, commencent l’école, deviennent plus autonomes et commencent à aider dans la maison. J’ai de très bons souvenirs de la petite enfance de mes 4 plus vieux. Cependant, je me souviens aussi d’avoir eu l’impression de sortir d’un long tunnel lorsqu’ils ont commencé l’école. Lorsque les mamans de très jeunes enfants me disent “Je ne peux pas imaginer en avoir d’autres!” je leur réponds toujours “moi non plus lorsque j’étais à ce stade.” On les a un à la fois, pendant que les autres grandissent. (Ce qui est assez ironique, maintenant que je viens d’en avoir deux d’un coup…). Je remarquais justement il y a quelques semaines que j’avais à nouveau 4 enfants de 5 ans et moins. Pourtant, je vis cette réalité de manière fort différente que lorsque mes quatre plus vieux avaient 5 ans et moins. Je suis plus mature comme mère et mes enfants sont plus vieux. J’ai des gardiens intégrés pour m’aider avec les petits. J’ai aussi beaucoup appris de mes erreurs!

La logistique d’une famille de 10 personnes est un numéro de jonglerie. Cependant, il semble que les gens soient fascinés par la lessive et l’épicerie.

La lessive d’une famille de 10 personnes est une tâche quotidienne qu’il est préférable de garder sous contrôle. Tout d’abord, j’ai un mari qui comprend l’importance de la lessive. Ça peut paraître ordinaire mais ça veut dire que la lessive est un travail d’équipe.  Notre arme secrète contre la lessive est la régularité (non, ce n’est pas un post sur la fonction intestinale). À 19:00 tapante, lorsque le prix de l’hydro-électricité baisse, allez hop! la première brassée démarre puis on la met au séchage avant de se coucher. Le lendemain matin, la lessive propre va dans un panier. Si j’ai le temps, je préfère la plier directement en la sortant de la sécheuse. Sinon, les vêtements sont propres et secs dans un panier et je les plierai (peut-être) plus tard. Faire la lessive quotidiennement ne veut pas dire que tout est lavé quotidiennement: un soir, c’est les jeans, le lendemain les couleurs, le lendemains les serviettes, le lendemain les blancs et ainsi de suite. Un système de roulement quotidien de la lessive me permet de ne pas me retrouver avec 10 brassées  la fin de semaine et, plus important encore, de ne pas me retrouver sans un seul morceau de linge propre dans la maison.

La brassée quotidienne n’est pas seulement une manière efficace de faire les choses au niveau logistique, c’est aussi un manière de préserver le bon fonctionnement de notre puis et de notre fosse septique qui n’ont pas besoin du stress d’un marathon de lavage la fin de semaine. Mais ce n’est pas la fin du bon sens économique: laver les vêtements régulièrement m’évite d’avoir à acheter une semaine complète de vêtements pour tout le monde. Puisque les vêtements préférés des enfants sont lavés aux 3-4 jours, ils n’ont pas tous besoin d’une garde-robe complète pouvant leur durer une semaine.

La lessive illustre bien la logistique générale d’une famille de 10: en faisant un peu de travail régulièrement, on évite d’avoir à faire tout le travail d’un coup.

L’épicerie, c’est tout à fait le contraire: le faire le moins souvent possible. Rentrer chez Superstore pour quelqu’un dans ma situation c’est un billet qui coûte au moins $150, autrement dit, je ne m’en sors jamais pour moins de $150 alors j’essaie d’y aller le moins souvent possible. Une fois par semaine je fais un menu — incluant les lunchs des enfants — et une liste d’épicerie. J’utilise également un tableau blanc dans la cuisine sur lequel je peux prendre note des choses à acheter lorsque j’y pense.

Côté logistique, je crois que le supermarché est un de ces domaines pour lequel avoir plus d’enfants rend les choses plus simples. Je suis toujours frappée, lorsque je vais à l’épicerie le soir après avoir couché les petits, de voir autant de gens accompagnés de très jeunes enfants souvent (choc!) en état de crise. Vous pouvez être certains que ce ne sont pas des mères de 8 enfants. En faits, les gens qui amènent de très jeunes enfants à l’épicerie à l’heure du dodo (vous pouvez substituer l’heure de la sieste ou l’heure du repas) ont sans aucun doute 1 ou 2 enfants et se demandent comment je fais pour en avoir 8. Voici un indice: je ne les amène pas faire des course lorsqu’ils sont fatigués ou lorsqu’ils ont faim!

Avec les jumeaux, il n'y a pas beaucoup de place pour la nourriture. Je dois donc y aller avec quelqu'un pour m'aider: un chariot pour les petits, un chariot pour la bouffe.

Ensuite je planifie ma sortie à l’épicerie de manière à pouvoir le faire sans très jeunes enfants. Si j’oublie certaines choses, j’essaie de me débrouiller sans. Je laisse le Costco aux bons soins de mon mari qui va le faire une fois par semaine pendant que les plus vieux son au jiu-jitsu.

Et voilà comment un peu d’organisation et de discipline fait toute la différence. Je ne suis pas une personne naturellement organisée mais à partir de 4 enfants, il s’agit d’une question de survie!

Light Blogging – Ralentissement

Ralentissement forcé causé par un méchant streptocoque et 5 jours de misère fièvreuse. Fatigue oblige: il fallait que ça arrive. Mais grâce au miracle de la médecine moderne (les antibiotiques) et une bonne dose de chouchoutage par ma maman chérie, je me remets d’aplomb.

Light blogging ahead due to a mean streptococcus and 5 days of febrile misery. Fatigue does take its toll. But thanks to the miracle of modern medicine (antibiotics) and a strong dose of mothering from my own very best mother, I am getting back on my feet.

And furthermore: Why Young Children Protest Bedtime

To add to my previous post: this link from Psychology Today. This is the question I’ve been asking since my first lousy sleeper:

But clearly something is missing in this explanation from the experts. Why do infants and young children choose to challenge their parents’ will on this particular issue?  They don’t protest against toys, or sunlight, or hugs (well, usually not). Why do they protest going to bed, when sleep is clearly good for them and they need it?

Thanks to my friend Sue for posting this on her Facebook page. Tonight, I will cuddle-up with my little hunter-gatherer baby and make sure the monsters don’t get at him.

Related Posts:

The sleep book review edition

The sleep book review edition

I have written several posts about my sleep struggles. Well, not technically my sleep struggles — my sleep would be awesome if I could get any — but my struggles with getting my baby boy to sleep. Or more precisely, to fall asleep and stay asleep. You can find my sleep deprived rants  intelligent analysis here (in French), here and here (in French).

This is not a new issue for me. My interest — some would call it an obsession — with good sleep goes back to my oldest child. Or, more precisely, was caused by my oldest child but didn’t gel until I had my second child. See, my firstborn was sleeping 8 hours at night by 3 weeks and 12 hours by 6 weeks. Uninterrupted. And she also had long naps during the day. It’s hilarious when I think about it: this child would go down for the night at 8 pm and sleep until 8 am. Then she would go back down for her morning nap at 9 am and sleep until 11. Then she’d be down around 1 pm until 3 pm and would often have an evening nap around 5 pm for an hour or so. Then she’d be down for the night at 8 pm. This “sleep routine” was well established by her 2-month mark. What’s hilarious is that I — 22 year-old omniscient me — thought (a) this was normal, and (b) I was doing something right that other struggling parents were obviously not doing.

(As an aside I would like to add this word of warning to young parents with easy babies. I have eaten back every single critical word I ever said about other parents. Even those I said in my head. If you have easy, manageable children take this advice — especially if you are hoping to have more — offer a word of deepest gratitude to God and Shut Up. If you don’t, the aforementioned God will “bless” you with babies/children exhibiting every single trait you ever criticized in other people’s kids and you will be plagued by an ever-present urge to call them and grovel at their feet begging for forgiveness. Take it from me.)

When my second child came along a year later he was immediately different. For one, he did not like being left alone in a bassinet. When at age 3 weeks he did  not sleep through the night, I wondered “What is wrong with that child?” (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha *cough* *wheeze*). By 7 months of age, he was still waking-up to nurse every hour. I was fried and I read Ferber’s Solve your Child’s Sleep Problems. We ferberized our son and it worked, more or less, like the book said it would.

But the Ferber method was not only difficult for me as a parent, it just didn’t work with my next dreadful sleeper (in the person of my fourth child). She was nearly a year old when we started implementing the 5-10-15 method (also know as gradual extinction) and she cried, and cried, and cried, and cried…. for 10 hours a night, for a full month. Oh, she would occasionally stop for 30 minutes and rest a little. But otherwise, she cried. And we gave-up.  Eventually I weaned her and she stopped waking-up to nurse. But that premature weaning weighted heavily on me. I wanted to understand why some of my children were such lousy sleepers and what I could do to help them before getting to a point of desperation where I had to let my babies cry their hearts out. I didn’t want to have to choose between nursing or sleep. I was thinking in terms of the ecosystem of the family. It didn’t make sense to me that the need for rest, comfort and sustenance in mother and baby should be mutually exclusive. Yet, in my case they were.

I read Tracy Hogg’s Secrets of the Baby Whisperer but her antiquated approach to breastfeeding turned me off and made me wonder what else in her approach might not be, let’s say, based on sound science. If you want to learn more about her E.A.Z.Y. method start by reading the Amazon.ca comments section. You will notice that the reviews split between 5 stars and 1 star: very little middle ground reviews. My warning would be that if your child does not respond well to being put on a schedule (some do, some don’t), you can ruin several months of your baby’s babyhood trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. This doesn’t make for good memories.

When my sixth child was born, I quickly noticed that she was showing the tell tale signs of being a lousy sleeper: brown hair and brown eyes (yes, this is how it goes in my family: brown eyes = lousy sleeper, blue eyes = self-soothing baby. It splits evenly between the 8 and even alternates.) Someone recommended Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block and by far this book has been one of the most helpful I have read. It comes with some mild words of warning, most notably that the book is infuriatingly repetitive. It could have been published as a pamphlet. Also, I would like to see some scientific evidence related to that “calming reflex” and that “fourth trimester”: because something seems to work doesn’t mean that it has to be “trademarked” into some pseudo-medical concept. Finally, I would take the claim that his method solves colic with a boulder-sized grain of salt. That being said, his time-tested method of swaddling, white noise and rythmic motions will result in a calmer, more settled infant. This book — and a few Aiden & Anais swaddling blankets — is my go-to baby shower gift. It is better read before the baby comes along. Despite what the book claims, I would set the best-before date on this method at 6 weeks meaning that after 6 weeks, it may not help you as much as it would have before. My 3 year-old was swaddled well into her 5th month and my twins at 3 months will still moro-reflex-themselves silly if left unswaddled.

My 3-year-old is showing how to be the "Happiest Baby on the Block": swaddled and sucking.

All this being said, Happiest Baby on the Block says little about sleep problems and what to do when they occur past the 4th month. Someone gave me Marc Weissbluth Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child and I bought Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Twins (essentially the same book with more emphasis on scheduled awakenings). If you want to learn more about the science of sleep and its importance, this is the book for you. In a nutshell, his approach to sleep is that “sleep begets sleep” and that a well-rested child will naturally sleep better at night and during the day. It can be a dry read if you are as severely sleep-deprived as I am but the summary at the end of each chapter is enough to get you going. While Weissbluth’s method is not a straight-up Cry-it-Out approach, it can get to that if you let it.

All these books have helped me better understand my babies’ sleep. Each book describes at length how its method will help your baby sleep better. Each book has testimonies from parents whose children used to wake-up every 10 minutes and went-on on sleep 12 hours!! In a row!! Without waking-up!! Ever again!! But none of the books  has a decent troubleshooting section.  For instance, Weissbluth claims that if you put your baby to bed drowsy but awake at the right time (ei, before he gets overtired and cranky) he will quietly settle into sleep. When I put my son in bed drowsy but awake after the first signs of drowsyness, he wakes right up and freaks out. Now what? That doesn’t seem to exist in Weissbluth’s method: I must have missed the signs of drowsyness and waited too long. So I try again with shorter intervals of wakefulness. Still no success. Now what? Troubleshooting may suggest that the method in question is not a slam-dunk, and this may not be on any parenting book author’s wish list. But it would be nice to understand why some kids just don’t get it.

In the end, if my experience with 8 newborns has shown me anything it’s that some babies are able to fall asleep and stay asleep unassisted and others aren’t. Among those who are unable to fall or stay asleep unassisted you will find different degrees and variations of difficulty. For instance, my son can’t fall asleep on his own during the day but has no problem at night and overnight. It is possible to turn a good sleeper into a bad one through bad sleep hygiene (for instance if baby is constantly being woken-up or unable to nap adequately) and it is possible to turn a moderately bad sleeper into a moderately good one. Really lousy sleepers from hell and colicky babies are just that and your best bet is to aim at survival. That’s why Karp and Weissbluth are my favorite books: they propose to instill a good sleep hygiene through gentle repetition of time-tested routines. But if your child does not respond to the approach by sleeping like an angel, you can still keep those routines going without loosing your mind. Not so much with Ferber’s gradual extinction or Hogg’s Pick-up/Put down.

For my twins, I have adopted my own set of sleep principles. My approach has two pillars. The first one is survival: I need well-rested happy babies and this means that they must have naps during the day. At their age, we are still looking at 3 naps a day or more if they are very short. The second pillar is enjoyment: these are my twins. Having twins is a unique life experience and I’ll be damned if I waste it in a constant struggle with my flesh and blood. I have every intention to have wonderful — if blurry — memories of my twins’ infancy: raising twins is too tiring not to make the most out of every smile.

In order to give Lucas the rest he needs during the day, I have resorted to the swing, which I used to not-so-lovingly call the neglect-o-matic.  I only put Lucas in the swing for his naps. I nurse him, swaddle him and put him in the swing with white noise. He can sleep 2-3 hours like this. You may wonder, as I do, how the heck I will wean him from the swing. The truth is I have no clue. I’m trying to address this issue in steps and right now I am getting him in the habit of sleeping a couple hours in the morning and a couple hours in the afternoon and an hour or so in the evening. When his body is used to sleeping, I figure that being drowsy and falling asleep will come naturally and we can transition to sleep out of the swing. I’ll write a post when we get there. At night, he can usually fall asleep on his own in bed so I cultivate this ability like a delicate flower. I figure that he has the ability to fall asleep on his own and will eventually apply it to his daytime naps as well.

As far as night sleep goes, once again, the two pillars. Survival means that if Lucas needs to finish the night in bed with us, so be it. That’s what David did and our early morning cuddles are some of my fondest memories. Survival also means that I will  not spend a night awake listening to my baby cry. If I’m going to be awake, it will be drowsy with a nursing child. Ève is starting to sleep through the night (from 7:30 pm until 4-5ish) so the days when I’m up every hour with one or the other will be soon over. I know that to a parent of a singleton, waking-up to nurse every 3 hour sounds like a nightmare but to a parent of twins, it sounds like a trip to paradise: I haven’t slept 3 hours in a row since mid-August (I’m writing this in January).

In conclusion, Solve your Child’s Sleep Problems and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child are the best resources in terms of understanding the science, physiology and importance of sleep to overall health. However, if you are not willing to let your child “cry it out”, just skip that part of the book. To establish gentle sleep routines and help your child sleep better — undertanding that “better” is only relative to your baseline and may mean going from no sleep to 2 hours — Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and Happiest Baby on the Block are your best bet. They are a nice complement to each other. If you have no problems letting your child cry it out, save your money and don’t buy any books: both Weissbluth and Ferber agree that no harm will come to your child from crying it out assuming they are not hungry, sick or in pain. Just close the door and walk away.

I may be getting too old for this but I’m done pretending that I don’t care about my babies.

New Year camp out and a raclette birthday

Gone are the days when the children wanted to have McDonald’s as a birthday supper. Now they request raclette. Oh well, good fun with good friends around a good meal at home… it could be worst! And $40 of cheese may induce sticker shock but it’s a birthday on the cheap when compared to taking a bunch of kids to Cosmic Adventures!

On New Year’s Eve one of our older children decided to sleep outside. What an original way to welcome the New Year!