Messages to my dear friend, Monica, as we share our experiences of being a mother, the things we learn from our little girls, everyday and the lessons we learn from life itself.
A Blog-dialogue across continents, countries and oceans of time and space...
(We last met in 2000 A.D, in India.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sleep problems?? No Problemo

A lot of parents who have a child with Special Needs will sigh or smile knowingly when I say that sleep is often the unavoidable casualty in the battle for survival. Often one of the first things to be affected, sleep (or the lack of it) is a 'safety valve' on the tightly lidded and often incomprehensibly dangerous pressure-cooker called EMOTIONS. I've had more than my fair share of nights with little or no sleep, being bone tired  but wide awake. In all honesty, not all of them are my daughter's fault- maybe I've programmed myself differently now.....my subconscious hovering in the REM state, placing myself perpetually 'on call' instead of plunging into a sweet, restful, dreamless state. As is often the case, a number of factors are responsible for turning me into the 3hr snooze-a-night insomniac. I go to bed like everyone else, drifting off once the kids are settled and asleep. Then, as if a faulty switch has been flipped, it all short-circuits and KAPOWWW!!... 'blinnnk' ...darkness engulfs my senses and a deep sense of confusion, anger, stress and the 'weepies'...assails my natural good-natured smiley disposition. On most nights, I sleep less than five hours.....Welcome to ZOMBIE LAND!!

Shivangi is very temperamental in her sleeping habits. If something sets her off, she will keep at it like a scratched LP that loops over and over the same groove....  up n down stairs- wee willie winkie.....
Shivangi sleeping in HER OWN bed is a miracle, especially if she stays in her own bed all night. It usually comes with a price- she will only settle after a huge tantrum, protestations of " I HATE my room"... until she realises Mummy is not going to try to talk her into sleeping in her own bed. She cries, bangs doors and generally tries to provoke a response. I guess its always a bit of a shock to her when I do not.

As anyone with kids will tell you, kids are great at playing the game 'DIVIDE AND RULE'. If she can get Dad on he side she will. She doesn't give up easily and plays to her strengths- looking for a chink in our collective armour... So we both stick together, and that confuses (and angers) her. After about ten minutes of shouting, and/or crying, pacing, mumbled grumbles and a little peeking into our room (I have to leave her to it, as 'resistance is futile'.) When she's convinced we are asleep, she sits down on the stairs near the landing and ignores her soft-toy sleep-buddy- a toy dinosaur she calls 'Rooster'. She can look into our room and thinks we are either asleep, or ignoring her; none of which is true. In truth, we converse in low-decibel whispers, our monosyllables attempting to reassure each other. soon, as if on an unspoken signal, one of us gives the other's hand a squeeze and gets up, walking towards her where she sits hugging her knees, sniffling on the landing... trying not to let her see our naked love and affection for our troubled little girl. I stay quiet. She glances up. I say nothing and, presently, she returns her gaze to the floor and contemplates her toes....

If I get it right and I let her calm down she is again willing to listen. Then it is safe to  ive her a hug like I've always wanted to. Needed to. I walk with her into her room and tell her a 'cooked-up' story...! I sometimes start feeling sleepy myself too! It's just that when she is in one of her moods, she will not listen to reason... Best thing I've done is sat/stood with her silently as she swore, ranted and cried at me, until, finally, she calmed down. Its as quick to end as milk bubbling over if left to boil unattended- a few drops of water sprinkled ,over it, an it calms down.!!

Its now early in the morning, and all three of them are asleep.... :) ALL , as Aamir Khan says, in the film '3 Idiots', IZZ WELL! So here are my top tried-and-tested tips!

I understand that no good ever comes from forcing oneself to sleep when you're not able to, just as it is sometimes really hard to keep those peepers open in the first place!!  So, I have come up with a few strategies for sleep based on my life's experiences, things I do to deal with my own insomnia and all that I have read, heard or been told.

My husband works in the day, everyday, all day. Mealtime in the evening is crucial for us- we sit together and eat as a family- something I recollect from my childhood, and loved doing. As a mum who works part-time night shifts I am, admittedly, a bit of an owl. (Not the OWL of Wise Old Owl fame, but rather the one that goes 'toowit',  'toohoo' and can't sleep much!Lol). I usually wake up very early at daybreak and wait for my husband to wake up. We chat as he eats breakfast downstairs before heading to work. It is a very quiet and peaceful time of the day (all pun intended), because the kids are still asleep in their beds. Afterwards, I get ready to make their 'Good Mornings' really good!! Since its the holidays; the last week in particular, I am trying to ease their bodies and minds into a gradual routine to get them both ready by, say, nine AM even on holidays.

Anyone with a child with or without Special Needs will agree, 'ROUTINE' is the key! I often chant in my head, Routine...routine....routine...1 There is something to be said for good old-fashioned 'fauji' training when the mind is exhausted- habit takes over...!

Time is extremely imperative, as is giving time to the kids- whether it is time to eat, play, read, run, scream or simply talk. The day you have a kid, start preparing fora lifetime of joyous changes. Just when you think things couldn't possibly get any better, or worse, the innocence of a child can blow you away. Their little babbles, their wobbly steps, every word they learn to speak/ every smile they crack, every scribble they make is forever etched in your memory and heart. So, get into the habit of giving them your undivided attention for a few hours everyday. Letting them help with household duties is also a good thing. It teaches them a lot about being self-reliant and independent. Survivors in an unforgiving world. It makes them wise,  accountable for their actions, and boosts their self-esteem to know that you trust them.

Make time to play WITH them, talk less and LISTEN more, and teach them about responsibility by being on your own best behaviour whether at home, or outside. If I yell/swear out loud when caught in a stressful situation (S once poured the entire contents of my rice jar into the drain, whilst I was having a shower, and also scattered a lot of them on the floor- rendering them useless.) I calm down and apologise to them and request the culprit to help me clear the mess up.

Sometimes its easy, a smile, a hug and a lot of jollying-them-along and we sail through breakfast as if it were a simple game of peek-a-Boo! And on other days its more harrowing than going for an interview. At such times, I prioritize, and do some damage-control. If Shivangi does not finish her breakfast and the school bus is there, I calmly tell her that she can have an extra snack in the evening.
I rely on the time their Dad is at home, and we share the responsibility of being old eagle-eyes, watching over Shiv. Her sister Rani and I make time by reading together, spending time alone and doing things that interest her- like crafts, or drawing, and we also involve Shivangi. I will be trying to make the next week is fun-filled and that the girls settle into their school routine from the 4th of September...

In all my experience as a mother, I hope the next few days of refurbishing the kids' two rooms and personalising them will make the kids feel right 'at home' in there! Especially Shivangi! Therein lies my sanity, creativity and love for them both.... Fingers Crossed!