Start as you mean to go on?

Laurence worked in London last week so it was my first time being alone with our two children for that length of time. I worried about it a little bit beforehand but then I got our diary all booked, worked out a game plan for staying on top of the house and keeping in touch, and got on with it. And it was surprisingly OK.

The thing is, just under a year ago, when Ophelia was a newborn and Talitha was two and a half, the thought of having to do bedtime on my own filled me with dread. I reached out to my local La Leche League group and friends with more than one child because whenever he worked late or was away, I felt like I was drowning. Despite knowing better, it felt like a forever situation at the time.

Everything does. Just recently, I told a friend that Ophelia has now reached the stage where she won’t nap when we’re out and about, not even in the sling, but that when we’re home, she’ll sleep for 1-2 hours per nap. She reminded me that it wasn’t long ago that Ophelia was having 15-30 minute naps and waking up tired, which I was struggling with. How quickly that changed and I hadn’t even noticed. At the time, though, it felt like it might always be that way.

You’d think I’d have learned this lesson the first time around with Talitha, that everything changes quickly, that it makes sense to just get through today. With Talitha I believed the phrase repeated to me again and again: “Start as you mean to go on.” The trouble was, I didn’t know how I meant to go on. I worried that she would be in our bed forever. I couldn’t know that she would choose to sleep in her own bed at two and that I’d miss her. That phrase is pretty meaningless when I consider how quickly children change.

The challenge this week was getting Ophelia to settle for the bit of the evening before I go to bed. She is tired by Talitha’s bedtime but she still needs a lot of body contact to sleep. This usually isn’t a problem when two of us are around so rather than put in the effort we did with Talitha to settle her in her cot several times before turning in for the night, we’ve just passed her back and forth.

On my own and in need of some baby-free time, I settled her multiple times and eventually put her in bed with Talitha, checking on them frequently. It was at times frustrating. We made it to the weekend without despair, though, and that was mostly because I wasn’t agonising over what I felt she “should” be doing, which is what I did with Talitha. It just was what it was and wouldn’t be forever.

There is power in accepting a situation, in living in today, in knowing things will change and allowing myself to be surprised when they do. A “problem” becomes a problem when I forget that.


17 Comments

    • January 26, 2015 / 10:38 pm

      You know what? I think a puppy might well be as much work! Ha!

  1. January 26, 2015 / 6:58 pm

    Hard times do always feel like they are going to last forever then you just forget, then I usually get broody again, haha! So glad it went well, Matt is going away for a week in June, I think it is not having that evening that makes it harder, a few hours to myself has become an necessity since becoming a parent. Usually my two go to bed okay but they have nights when it’s a total disaster X

    • January 26, 2015 / 10:39 pm

      Good luck for June. Hopefully it’ll be a blissful week. 🙂

  2. Alice
    January 26, 2015 / 7:02 pm

    Great post. I make a point of reminding myself daily that the difficult times don’t last. I know this is true because I can hardly remember any bad times from my eldest’s babyhood despite feeling like I was constantly struggling at the time.

    • January 26, 2015 / 10:38 pm

      That’s really interesting. I think we already look back at Talitha’s infancy with rose-tinted glasses even though it wasn’t long ago and she was a challenging baby.

  3. January 26, 2015 / 8:43 pm

    I remember the fear of putting both the boys to bed on my own and the feeling of being superhuman when I first managed it (getting ready for the fear of settling 3 on my own one day now). Archie has started wanting to come into our bed at night now, something we have never really done and I am worrying about what we will do when the baby arrives, but maybe it is just a phase, maybe he will want his own bed by then, or maybe we will just make it work. x
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    • January 26, 2015 / 10:43 pm

      Superhuman definitely describes it. I feel like that some days when I get us all out of the house and somewhere on time! Sounds like you’ll find your way with the bedsharing. Talitha has been in and out at various point since Ophelia’s been here but mostly she’d rather sleep in her own bed because she thinks her baby sister makes too much noise!

  4. January 26, 2015 / 8:58 pm

    This makes a lot of sense to me. We are right in the thick of the terrible twos with Bea and every day she racks up at least 3 or 4 biggish tantrums. It feels quite tough at the moment and I worry that I’m not enjoying our time together. But if I’m sensible I try to cast my mind back and it really was just the same with my other two kids and this phase doesn’t last forever. I do know that feeling of just getting through the day, but the changes creep up so imperceptibly and then you realise a new stage has started and it’s easier (or just different!). Hang in there x
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    • January 26, 2015 / 10:44 pm

      Thank you. I hear you there. Almost every time I say, “I’m sure Talitha wasn’t doing this by now” I can stop and remind myself that she was and it was just as hard and it did pass.

  5. January 27, 2015 / 2:47 pm

    Take a step back and remember that you have managed through the week and through something with grace that you weren’t sure you could do

    We struggle with getting Littlest to go to sleep without lots of body contact – part of me wishes he would get comfortable with going to bed on his own and then I remind myself that actually this is for a relatively small time and he wouldn’t want us if he didn’t need us
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    • January 27, 2015 / 9:32 pm

      That’s really true. I some times have to remind myself that at this age, a want is a need. It’s like that saying: “She’s not giving me a hard time. She’s having a hard time.”

  6. January 28, 2015 / 8:22 pm

    Ah it must be so lovely for them both to snuggle down together at night 🙂 I can’t imagine anything sweeter x

  7. February 1, 2015 / 8:33 am

    Sounds like you did a really good job, and its amazing to realise these things as they are happening!
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  8. February 1, 2015 / 10:25 am

    Solo bedtimes are such a challenge. I had to grit my teeth to a fair bit of screaming over the last 17 months trying to settle two very young children by myself, and it felt HORRIBLE.

    Thankfully they were quite rare for the first year of Violet’s life, and by the time they became more common Cherry’s comprehension had improved wildly.

    After bedtime stories I always offer her a choice. She can be in her bedroom by herself if she wants to play, bounce around, shout and sing. Or, she can be in bed with Violet and I but she has to lie quietly until V is asleep and then I will take her to her room for stories and cuddles.

    Most of the time she chooses to stay in bed with us. Solo bedtimes are the norm at the moment to the point where she will often choose to stay in bed and fall asleep next to Violet and me rather than go to her room for stories and cuddles with Noel.

    But more and more she is choosing to go and play quietly in her room and ‘read’ her books, and then I will go to her once Violet is settled. Once or twice I’ve found her asleep in her bed, too tired to wait for me! I always apologise to her in the morning for not making it in time. But it’s quite heartening to see that, at three years old, she’s able to entertain and settle herself in this way. She’s a very, very vocal child and I have no doubt if she wasn’t able to settle, she’d let me know!

    I wouldn’t object to them sharing a bed or settling together in bed but at this current stage Violet still needs lots of physical contact from me, and if she sees Cherry she just wants to play! (For the same reason we all currently rise at around 5.45am as the second Violet wakes up she calls for Cherry, early-bird Cherry appears, and they just want to play together)
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  9. February 1, 2015 / 5:35 pm

    This is so true – and definitely something that I think (in my experience anyway) comes easier with the second baby. My own approach second time around has been far more laid back – if baby needs to come downstairs for a cuddle in the evening, or sleep on me for her naps, or co-sleep in our bed, then so be it. This phase won’t last forever and its way easier to just accept it and live life rather than spend endless hours agonising over situation or what baby “should” be doing.

  10. February 9, 2015 / 1:29 pm

    I think the realisation that you don’t have to do what you previously thought you ‘should’ be doing is such a big one. I’m also the worst for being quite stubborn so I’ll often stick at something even if it’s not working because I said I would. I think you’ve done amazingly though, I struggle when Tom is away even for a night (which is rare!) x
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