December screwed with our five year old’s sleep – How we got things back on track

Our girls are now five and seven, and I think that’s a perfectly adequate stage of parenthood to hope that the long bleak nights of pre nightfall fear and requirement to grab any sleep you can from eight pm to be LONG behind us.

And we had our fair share. The Mouse was a catastrophe when it came to sleep – one of the reasons I never went back to work and also why I started blogging – to seek sanity in the insane world of being a sleep walking zombie day after day.

But time passed and eventually, after maybe two and a half years, she did learn how to sleep all night. We had tried everything by that stage mind you, and I always figured she just wasn’t a kid who needed that much sleep unlike her sister, and for the record, her Mother.

Friends on the other side of toddlerdom had warned me that sleep deprivation was never far away – in bouts of illness or in fits and starts over scary shapes in the wall, growing pains, routines being screwed up and so on.

So here we found ourselves this past six weeks – consequence of a festive melting pot of Elf on the shelf phobia, a two week viral infection, a bonkers Christmas bedtime routine (or lack of it) and a five year old child who has decided she can no longer fall asleep without Mummy holding her hand.

To add insult to injury, our festive evenings weren’t just lost in a frazzled game of up and down the stairs, with the word “Mummy” being well and truly worn out, we also found ourselves back in the land of 1 am. And 2 am. And 5a.m. All requiring the same crazy and frustrating routine of hand holding, the assurance of a 5 minute sleep check, before crawling out of the room on all fours and trying to make it back to bed without as much as a squeak or creak of a floorboard. Which, I discovered is still practically impossible. Her hearing is obviously even sharper than it was back then.

By week 6, last week, an hour long episode which ended in failure as my stair footsteps awakened the monster after an hour of sitting cold on the edge of her bed, I lost the plot.

This could not go on, and something had to give. There were tears (and that was just me), hard lines drawn and sobs which went on and on, in a desperate attempt to break this shit show of a cycle.

Thankfully, I have a hotline to a friend who is a trained sleep coach, and in the cold light of day, having dropped the Mouse off at school (in body but perhaps not in mind) I had a reassuring and grounding chat with someone who knew exactly what to say, and the advice to give.

We had been lost in an exhausted confusion of too hard, too soft, not knowing which way to turn and frankly flitting from one to the other depending on how much we had left to give.

Rhian, of Rested Mama, gave us various suggestions to try and over the course of a weekend we cracked it. Full of gentle and encouraging support, Wales answer to Super Nanny helped us to regained the trust we had lost and break the cycle.

Together with The Mouse, we wrote down her worries which ended up a list of five elf related fears, ranging from ‘I’m scared of the elf’ to ‘I’m scared of the elf’s friends’ to ‘I never want to see another elf ever again’. So we talked through the eviction of Snowglow, and we sent a letter through the fairy door to ensure the message was passed on that he was never welcome back here (all out of earshot of Tigs who would be heartbrken by this, obvs).

I also sprinkled her bedroom with holy water, just y’know, because anything is worth a try.

What really screamed out to me wasn’t just how we all felt so much better for a nights sleep, but knowing what we were all doing and sticking it took so much of the stress out of the situation – it put cuddles and smiles back on the menu and as a result, we also saw an entirely different little girl. One who was smiling and laughing, was helpful and giving so much love to us. She cuddled me and told me how much she loved me, thanked me for her lovely dinner and asked if she could help me clean up the kitchen. She even told me to have ‘a lovely time with your friends’ when I went out for the afternoon. I mean, where did the separation anxiety go?!

So with peace restored and smiles returned, it’s been a wake up call to realise where we were going wrong, and how we could help bring the household back to normal.

I guess the next phase of night wakings is only ever just around the corner when you are a parent. But knowing help is out there is a breath of fresh air and I can’t recommend Rhian enough for her support. Everyone needs a sleep consultant as a friend, but if you haven’t she’s there for you too 😉

x MMT

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