I get letters. No, seriously, by blogging about my own thoughts and experiences as an attachment parent for over a decade now, I get email from people seeking a sympathetic ear and some advice about a parenting dilemma they have. Sometimes I post these here on the blog asking for your input and other times I just jump in and answer them myself.
The wrinkle? I don’t have a degree in child development and the last few years of parenting have been dramatically different to all the previous as I’ve shifted into my role as half-time single dad.
Am I “doing it right?” Darned if I know. Sometimes I do something incredibly stupid and watch as the fireworks burst over my family, but the vast majority of the time I think I’m the stable, organized parent who enforces rules and gives the children the structure they need to thrive.
But sometimes it’s just hard to figure out the right solution. For as long as I can remember, we had issues where the kids would half-heartedly eat dinner, then when bedtime rolled around complain that they were starving and needed a snack before they could fall asleep.
We’ve gone around and around on that one. Sometimes we just supplied snacks, other times we insisted that after dinner there was no food available until breakfast, and one memorable evening my son and I stayed up for hours as I “broke him” of the need to have a snack before going to sleep. A month later he was having a few pretzels because I subsequently realized that it’s really not that big a deal.
And that’s one of the great challenges of parenting: differentiating between “fix it” problems that have to be addressed lest they get worse, and those that are just “roll with it” problems that will fix themselves as the child gets older, they get out of a growth spurt, whatever.
That’s why when I got the following email from a blog reader, I felt I had the expertise to actually give a shot at the answer:
“Hi, i am the very happy mommy to a 2 year old and 3 1/2 year old who share a room. i am not interested in CIO method of sleep. i am however, starting to wonder what to do about my 2 year old. My 3.5 yr old has slept through the night since she was 9months old. My 2 year old still religiously wakes up every nite at 1:30ish a.m. and now calls bottle out. he is hungry, a big kid, not that interested in dinner (although sometimes eats big dinner and no effect on waking at 1:30a.m) my question is, should i (which i am willing to do if there is light at the end of the tunnel, maybe at age 3ish?) continue to give him the nutrition he asks for in the night, he does not cry, merely calls out for me & milk, or should i try to “wean” him off this behavior? i am at a loss. i am willing to awake for him and meet his needs, no problem, but if it is better for him to be weaned off, the i’ll do that as well. my pedi is a ferber guy, so he is no help & i don’t really have AP friends with older kids to ask. Thank you in advance for any tips or support!”
One thing I’ve done as I answer more email is try to encourage people to find local resources to assist, local resources who can see the children and have a better sense of the interpersonal dynamic that defines the family too. And, of course, as an author, I’m an idealist too. Here’s my answer:
“Thanks for your note. Sorry your pediatrician is no help, but I understand. I would suggest that you try to wean him off of this nighttime behavior. Perhaps you can have a small bowl of pretzels or some other non-sugary food by his bed and tell him that’s all he gets if he wakes up. Over time, put less and less in the bowl and then hopefully he’ll learn to sleep through that late night hunger. Good luck, let me know how it goes!”
So how’d I do, dear reader?
(and yes, this evening when my children went to sleep later than normal after my daughter got home post-bedtime after winning (!!) a volleyball tournament, I supplied each of them with a very small bowl of pretzels rather than argue about their late night nibbles)