Some of the best advice on raising children I got from one of my good friends and mentors, Kelli. She is a mom to seven and has pretty much seen it all. Many times, in my daily parenting, I recall things she's told me, but today I was reminded of a time I lamented about a baby Elizabeth not going back to sleep when she got up at night.
I was telling Kelli about how she'd cry and then I'd get her up, nurse her and she'd be up for a couple hours, wanting to play.
She looked at me, expressionless and without pity. "Do you talk to her?" she asked.
"What? No! I mean, not really," I said. "Well...I mean...I talk to her on the changing table to get her to stop crying... and sometimes we sing a little bit... but it's not like I'm having full-on conversations with her."
She laughed. "If you want her to go back to sleep, don't talk to her. Don't smile, don't coo. Don't even make eye contact. Nurse her and then put her back to bed."
Well, I thought she was crazy until the next night it totally worked. I didn't face the problem again and I never had issues with Rachel or Caleb going back down after waking up in the middle of the night.
Ok, so what made me think about this conversation today? That same Elizabeth, four years later.
We have a pretty set routine in this household. After lunch, we read books and then the smaller two go down for naps. It's a crap shoot whether I rock Rachel or Caleb first, but Elizabeth normally goes in the other room and colors or listens to the books while I read. Today, she was bouncing off the walls.
As I was rocking an exhausted Rachel, she sat on the floor and rough-housed with her brother. And he laughed and crawled on top of her and she rolled him from this way to the next and ran away so he'd chase her. I warned her a couple times but decided to let her learn her own lesson and finished reading and put Rachel to bed.
When I came back down, I gathered my now-very-wound-up boy and attempted to rock and nurse him to go down for his nap. You can guess how enthusiastic he was about that. Up he shot from my lap and crawled in the other room, looking for his older sister, who had now gotten into a pretty intense game of My Little Pony.
Now I don't know if you know much about the My Little Pony castle, but it goes up and down when you press on it and Caleb LOVES to bounce his butt up and down while holding onto it. But today, Elizabeth's ponies were inside and she was done with him.
"Mom! Make him take a nap!!"
"Um, no Elizabeth," I said. "I told you to be quiet and leave him alone earlier. You riled him up, now you play with him."
"But I'm done playing with him! YOU do it!" said the 4-year-old drama queen.
"This is Mommy's quiet time honey. Let him play with you."
The next half hour was hilarious. She'd pull out a toy and he'd grab it. She'd turn around and he'd climb up over her back.
|Yummm...Candy Land game pieces...|
|No, No Caleb...you give those back. I am playing with that game.|
|Back to the Pony castle...|
|...and when Elizabeth gives up and goes in the other room, Caleb wins the game!|
Which reminded me of the other brilliant piece of advice Kelli gave me in that the more kids you have, the easier it can be on you because they need you less since they have each other.
Ah...life lessons. :)
(Editor's note: He did eventually go down for a nap. Right about the time Rachel was getting up...so I'm not really sure who the true victor was in this drama, but it was extremely entertaining to watch!)