This is Amelia. She turns two-years-old in February 2021.
Now, before I launch into this blog, I am going to start out by saying that this little girl makes my world go round. I love the bones of her and I wouldn’t change her for the world.
I just wanted to say that outright because this is an unusual blog. I am basically going to use it to describe just how challenging Amelia is. In effect, list all the “bad” things about her, for want of a better word. Though as I’ve said, I wouldn’t change her for the world.
I will ALSO say, right off the bat, that I am not writing this blog in order to brag about Amelia or in any way “compete” with mothers. I hate all that “My baby walked before your baby” stuff! Bleurgh!
As a primary teacher, I know that all seeds – even those sewn from the same packet – will flourish and bloom when they are ready. So under no circumstances are you to read this and panic that your two-year-old toddler isn’t where Amelia is in terms of their development. OK? Great! Now we may continue…
So, this may feel like a strange opening to a blog but there is a very good reason for that.
Amelia is what we at Sleep Nanny call a “super-alert”. These little ones are notoriously challenging and most commonly struggle with sleep. Sounding familiar? Read on!
If you read my first blog, you’ll remember I made reference to a blog written by my own Sleep Nanny coach who wrote about ‘firework children’. If babies arrived labelled by the stork, this is what Amelia’s label would have said: “WARNING. HANDLE WITH CARE. EXPLOSIVE DEVICE INSIDE”.
“Yeah, yeah”, I hear you say, “She’s two! Give me a two-year-old who ISN’T a firework!” And you’d be absolutely right. They don’t call them the “terrible twos” for nothing. But Amelia? She left the womb in the terrible twos!
A textbook super-alert, Amelia has many qualities that are truly wonderful and they will be assets to her throughout her life. For a start, she’s hit most of her milestones early. Especially those around communication. At not yet two-years-old (at the time of writing this blog post), Amelia is speaking in four or five word sentences, counting and reading numbers to ten independently, loves naming colours, shapes and animals, loves singing and dancing, she is problem-solving and has developed dexterity in her fine-motor skills. She decided last week, quite out-of-the-blue, that she wanted to use a potty. And did so. Early milestones are typical in super-alerts.
She has a massive and incredibly likeable personality, she’s cheeky, funny, creative, very clever, always active, into absolutely everything and quite partial to a hat. Like butter wouldn’t melt, eh? Don’t be fooled!
THIS is Amelia.
Fiery, bossy, head-strong, stubborn, highly emotional, determined and she doesn’t miss a trick. In short, this girl is an absolute madam! My parents take great delight in telling me Amelia is the human embodiment of karmic retribution. My teacher friends and colleagues take great delight in pointing out that I can encourage obedience in any child…except my own!
If you are reading this, much of what I have said may well be ringing bells for you. Many of my little firework’s traits may be ones you recognise in your own. If you are reading this, you are likely to be a sleep deprived parent of an alert/ super-alert child.
And I am here to say, I feel for you! I’ve been there. I AM there! I’ve got your back.
I’d also like to reassure you that you are not a terrible parent for finding your child hard. It is ok to feel that you may be failing. You are more tired than you’ve ever been in your life and have the sole responsibility of keeping a very busy and highly demanding little person alive.
Yes, that could be said to any parent.
But do not underestimate the additional challenge that super-alert children can bring.
If you’re like me, you’ll be looking at your other mummy friends and feeling sub-par in comparison. Some mothers appear so calm and seem to breeze through life with their babies who don’t cry, eat whatever they’re given and sleep where they land. These are the mothers who always leave the house with their hair done and with a full face of makeup. How do they DO that?!
Chances are they don’t have a super-alert. DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO THEM.
Super-alert children are gifts blessed only to those truly capable. YOU are one of those capable parents! Your mum-friends should be comparing themselves to YOU.
YOU managed to get yourself and “Firework” out the door this morning.
OK, there may have been tears but only some of those were yours…
OK, you were at least an hour late…
OK, only one of you has eaten so far today and the other one of you is wearing odd shoes…but you made it out of the house!
By the way, YOU are probably the one who hasn’t eaten, wearing a milk-stained bra and wearing odd shoes because you are a fantastic parent, who puts the needs of their little firework above their own.
But self-care is important and you are not selfish or terrible for sometimes putting yourself first.
If you’ve ever travelled on an airplane, you’ll know that you are instructed to place your own oxygen mask before anyone else’s in the case of an emergency. That’s because you can’t help someone else if you’re unconscious!
Parenting is the same.
You can’t be the parent you want to be and one that your family deserves if you’re not looking after yourself. A mummy who is only 50% fed, washed, rested and cared for can only be a 50% parent. So to be the best parent you can be, start putting your needs first a bit more often.
You have officially been given permission! Hurrah!
So let’s start by forgiving ourselves.
Everything we learnt or thought we knew about parenting went out the window when we had our little fireworks. We have existed in a mode of survival, where you threw all of yourself at your little one, doing everything, ANYTHING you could to prevent them from crying.
Parents of fireworks, alerts, super-alerts (whatever name you prefer) know that PREVENTION is better than cure. Once your firework starts crying they will – not – stop. Send help! So you break every parenting “rule” out there because your baby is different. Your baby isn’t like other people’s babies who are just there and return every smile with pleasure.
And more often than not – not always, but nearly – these little ones who push their parents to the brink with their high energy demands…also…don’t…sleep!
Sleep! Remember that?
So stop listening to the well-intentioned people out there who tell you…
“Let her self-soothe. She’ll never learn if you don’t leave her to cry and sort it out for herself”
“You’re just encouraging it”
“You’re making a rod for your own back”
“Well, when you were a baby…”
“My baby has always slept through because we established her routines from day one”
“Switch him to formula. Breast-fed babies don’t sleep through the night”
“Babies shouldn’t be carried around all day.”
“He obviously just doesn’t need as much sleep as other babies”
I’m calling bulls*&t!
Those people are likely to have never been a parent to a firework. So stop listening to them immediately. It isn’t healthy and it isn’t helpful.
Now, we absolutely CAN shape our little ones into helpful sleeping habits and we absolutely CAN support them to sleep well in a gentle and responsive way. We do not need to resort to cry-it-out to get them to self-settle and sleep through.
I know because I have done it.
Super-alerts need a careful approach. They need understanding, extraordinary patience and they need us to be brave, hold strong and keep consistent. If you feel you’ve tried everything already and nothing is working, I am not in the least bit surprised. You need that extra support and understanding yourself because sleep training a super-alert is usually much harder.
Consistency and routine, in my experience, is even more important for children who are particularly sensitive to change and to their environment. So once you find what works, do not change it!
If you’re reading this now, and you are relating to what I have said, then chances are you haven’t quite found what works best for your little firework yet. You are doing your best (and smashing it, obviously) but for some reason, your little one doesn’t think sleep is a concept that applies to them. I am ready to help. I can help you to design a bespoke sleep plan that appropriately meets your little one’s needs and supports them in the way that best works for them.
Get in touch and let’s work to address this together.
Becky Sleep Nanny x