I was reading on a spirited child discussion board the other day about how many of these children wake up early no matter what time they go to bed. Caroline is this way. No matter what time she falls asleep, she is awake almost every morning between 6:00 and 6:30. Keeping her up later does not make a bit of difference. In fact, it makes it worse. Once in a great while she will sleep until 7:30 or even 8:00 and I seriously feel like I’ve had a vacation. (A few mothers also mentioned the not knowing if they are going to get Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde each morning. Um, yes, I get that too.)
Spirited Children and Falling Asleep
Some moms were mentioning that they also experience the “might fall asleep in ten minutes, might be awake for two hours” problem that we also have. I cannot count on her to fall asleep within a particular amount of time no matter how tired or not tired she is. We’ve tried every trick in the book. It doesn’t matter.
Right now she is so tired (probably overtired because it took her forever to fall asleep last night) and she’s still awake after being in bed an hour. And she isn’t just in there quiet. She’s talking to herself, her animals/dolls, and whatever she’s reading. Telling her to not talk doesn’t work because I honestly don’t even think she realizes she’s doing it 90% of the time.
Spirited Children and Bedtimes
By the end of the day, I just want her to go. to. sleep. My patience is at the end by the time we get her in bed. I’m tired of the constant chatter, I’m tired of being on, I usually still have work to do in the evening, and I just want some time to myself. I cannot begin to unwind and decompress until she is asleep.
David is fortunate in that he can sit down and just start working as soon as she is in bed, even if she isn’t asleep. I cannot do it. So when she is awake until 9:00 or later, I stay up later because I need at least three hours in the evening to recover and unwind. So then I stay up too late which makes it impossible to get up before her because skipping sleep doesn’t work. So I don’t get enough sleep and then I have to get up when she wakes up and start all over again.
We’ve analyzed this every which way and the simple answer is: There is no solution. And it frustrates me to no end that we can’t find a way to make this work better. I’m frustrated and tired of it.
I suppose some people will think I’m just selfish. Being a mother means having children around. Duh. I know that.
I’m just trying to figure out how my personality and her personality are both going to survive the next fourteen and a half years.
I don’t know what the answer is when it comes to raising a spirited child. I’m just venting this evening about something that’s been driving me nuts for a long time. I hate ending the evening on a negative note. I feel like a terrible mother when I’m short with her in the evening when it is time to go to bed or something happens to necessitate her getting out of bed. I know I need to keep praying that God will give me the ability to suffer long when the evenings drag on.
So what makes you feel like a bad mother?
If you came here via an online search, please note I have an entire page devoted to
Raising Highly-Sensitive and Spirited Children.
I also have a follow-up post to this one:
Getting Spirited Children to Sleep and Related Challenges.
I feel ya, that is all that I have for you though – it is nicer when they get older so they can get up and deal with their own stuff. Kyle is 8 and he gets up at 6ish and plays on the computer until I get up around 7. So I guess I do have something for you – this too shall pass. I would not feel bad about wanting your down time – when J gets home (that is around 8:30P) I am like “okay I am off duty for an hour” or whatever.
AFA what makes me feel like a bad mother – huh – where do I start – hehe – no really, mostly yelling and growling, yeah, that is my bad mom thing.
Sallie, my oldest is my spirited, strong-willed child, and I spent the first 5 years of his life worrying that it was my mothering at fault. I eventually learned that was not the case (from child #2 and #3, who have completely different personalities).
After years of struggling with sleep, he now goes quietly to his room at night, reads a book, and sleeps the whole night, waking at a reasonable hour. I never would have believed it. He just had to grow through those years, despite my best efforts to help things along.
Sallie @ a quiet simple life
Amie and Meredith – Thanks!
Meredith – I’m thankful that I came to see that this was not about me and my lack of mothering skills. I wish I could have known it from day one or year one, but I am thankful to know it now. I’m a fixer and a problem solver so to not be able to “fix” this “problem” but have to wait it out (as you alluded to) is challenging for me.
We don’t discuss these issues much with other people in real life because we have learned it is rarely helpful. We recently shared some of our struggles with raising Caroline with some people and were told that we should have six kids and then we would be too busy to worry about it. And the other idea that was implied is that we are older and first time parents and therefore are overwhelmed because of those factors. I just bite my tongue and smile. 🙄
Um. Wow. My daughter talks and plays for sometimes an hour before she goes to sleep for her naps. Being tired does not seem to make a difference in how long she plays either. And it isn’t like there are toys in her crib either! Usually just a blanket and a stuffed animal, and she usually tosses the stuffed animal out. So she has nothing to play with and I hear her in there “talking” and laughing and having a grand old time! And then she sleeps for a half hour! And that was her nap for the day! Oh dear…
Today I felt like a bad mother…though I really shouldn’t have. I had a cranky little girl and I was trying to get enough housework done so that the house didn’t look so terrible. Not a spring-cleaning marathon! Just the dishes done and the floor swept. But my little one was very clingy and every step I took she was hanging on to my leg. Not a fun day.
I don’t think you mentioned it, but does she still nap? I just ask because we’ve found those nighttime issues to be a sign to stop or limit napping (like only 2-3 naps a week instead of everyday).
Hang in there!
Sallie @ a quiet simple life
Tammy – I’m sure the heat contributed to our less than stellar day.
Jen – We had to give up naps a loooooong time ago. If she napped, she slept for three hours and then was up until all hours. And you can’t wake her up and say “That’s enough.” Doesn’t work. 😯
Wow, she is on the low side for sleep requirements.
I think you’re doing the right thing. Tell her she has to stay in bed, let her read books, and tell her you can’t force her to go to sleep (since no one can force anyone to go to sleep).
I can’t believe someone said you should have six kids because then you wouldn’t notice! 🙂
Evan wouldn’t let me put him down yesterday because he’s teething. And he’s been waking up an hour early every morning for the last couple of weeks. I don’t know if this is a new pattern that I have to adapt to or if its his usual “sleep well, oops, maybe not, sleep well, hmmm, waking up early again, sleep well…” thing. I did a lot of praying yesterday, and I woke up this morning already feeling weary of this day.
You’re not alone. If that makes you feel any better….
While my daughter was very verbal, she was always a good sleeper. She didn’t give up her naps until she went to kindergarten!
She and I have laughed about what the difference in children will do to the way you see yourself as a Mom. I thought I was a great Mom and could not understand why other women had issues… then I had Christopher.
Oh, my… 😯
I can offer you some comfort as this too shall pass. As she grows older, there will be more opportunities for her to channel that energy and verbal gifting into something constructive (and easier for Mom).
As a mother of five, I have first hand experience that each child is different and some of them sleep longer and more soundly than others (even if the parenting methods are pretty much the same). Our fourth child (age 3) has always been a very challenging child, especially in regards to sleeping. He doesn’t go to sleep (or get up sometimes, for that matter!) without much fuss. And he sleeps very restlessly. We did see some huge improvement when we moved him to his twin bed (bottom of a bunk bed actually) – I think because he had more room to flop around and the bed is less likely to squeak than the toddler bed was. Other things we have done (with him and with others) that were helpful – the kids have CD players in their rooms and we usually play music when they’re going to bed – either some calming music (which puts them to sleep) or some kind of story (which they have to concentrate on to follow – and obviously not one that has a book to go along with it!). Another thing – we do not have any kind of lights in their room (no night light) so they can not see to play (or interact with each other, in our situation since we have two in one room and three in the other). Consistently requiring that they stay in bed has helped in our situation, even if they don’t fall asleep right away they are still in bed for the night and I’m “off duty”. Hoping for some peaceful sleep for Caroline and for you!
I feel like a bad mom because I need such frequent breaks from my children. As an extreme introvert, I find that the noise and bustle of my boys exhausts me and sometimes even causes physical pain (i.e. stomach ache, racing heart). I feel like a good mom, though, because I do let them yell and chatter and even throw balls in the house because they are boys and they have ENERGY 🙂 I just wish I did not feel like running away so much of the time.
My youngest (age 2) does not go to sleep until about 10 pm and I do not want to cut the nap yet. I stay up late also because I need that unwind time (as well as to finish washing the dishes). The thing that saves my sanity is that my husband often gets up with the younger ones. On weekends I would say he gets up with them eighty percent of the time (around 6:30, 7:00 on a good day). I go back to sleep or just lie in bed thinking.
When I had just one child, it was very hard. His personality and mine are opposite in many ways. He is a ’10’ on the extrovert scale and I am a ’10’ on the introvert scale. I was the only one he had to bounce his very social self off of. In those days, my husband and I would trade off days getting up with him. One of us would have his care all day Sat. and the other all day Sun. so that each of us could feel free one day a week.
I agree that the sleep problem will ease as she gets older (although that is small comfort now). When mine learn to read to themselves, many things get easier. Thanks for sharing about a subject to which many of us can relate.
Wow that sounds just like what MY mom used to say I don’t believe I ever slept , can you use ear plugs or listen to the TV or music with ear phones? My mom would go out side so she couldn’t hear me I never felt that my mom was the least bit bad I just could not sleep for some reason and remember at 2 feeling annoyed that they would peek in and tell me to be quiet after a few hours I didn’t really realize they could hear me , I was in my own world. Maybe some schedualed down time each afternoon would help her sort her thoughts and give you a break I started this with my girls because they never napped after about 12 months. They could play or look at books but they had to stay in their (safe) bedroom for an hour or two every afternoon or momma was cranky. And yes this took some training , but it was worth it . The great thing is that both of mine stopped waking every morning at 6:00 the same autumn they started school and it has been a fight to get them up ever since. Hmmmm this stuff will be really funny in 10 years or so.
Sallie, I know it is rough! Well, I don’t know EXACTLY how rough it is, because my firstborn was fairly obedient at that age (though he is overall more difficult than some of my other children), but he is such that he awakens with dawn every morning no matter what time he went to bed. He is eight now, so this is no big deal, but I remember being so exhausted and wishing I could just sleep in once to catch up a bit.
All I can say is that likely around age 5 you’ll find that it doesn’t matter as much as it did. The children become more trustworthy. They can wake up (at 5am, in my son’s case), and do some chores, make their beds, read, etc. until we get up at a more reasonable time. I made sure our son had a desk in his room filled with craft materials around age 6, and that gave him more to do, also. Now that he shares a room with our 1-year-old, it’s a little more complicated, but he has learned how to leave the room without waking his brother, and go to the living room and do quiet activities there.
When he was 3, though, I remember being frustrated, especially because we had a newborn, and whenever she slept, it seemed like he was up, and I was so tired. But it really does pass. Or, at least, it did for us, and has for the vast majority of people we’ve met.
Hang in there.
Michelle in HI
Wow, I can totally relate to this. My 3.5 yo son is both spirited and super high energy. I have had to pull him from almost all structured activities because he just didn’t want to sit and do the craft/music/gymnastic move, etc that all of the other kids were doing. I kept feeling like I was doing something wrong because my kid was the only one who didn’t want to listen and follow directions and was running around like crazy. Until a friend came to visit, and pointed it out to me, I didn’t even realize how extreme my son was compared to other kids – I just thought it was all me. Many people thought I was exaggerating when I said my son need 2 hours of hard physical play every day to keep emotionally even.
The waking up at 6 am no matter is dead on. We recently moved back to th mainland and he’s doing 10 pm to 8 am now because of the time zone shift which I actually prefer to 8 to 6 because my husband can take over more parenting in the evening and I can still get a break in the morning. It’s crazy though. He needs naps, but getting him to lie down for one is torture. I try to do my errands in the afternoon at the let him sleep in the car a little on the way back.
Whew. It really is rough and people just don’t understand (like you we are having an only child). I’ve just try to remind myself that many of his problems will be assets later in life. Although I wish he were more obedient at times and more willing to so “sit down learning” I actually appreciate the fact that he is independent minded and does not seem overly eager to please people. I hope this will innoculate him against peer pressure and bad influences later. He’s already doing 1.5 mile hikes so I know his energy level will also be an asset as he grows. Despite everything he is mostly a happy child, bounces back from stress easily, and has never been physically aggressive with us or other kids. In the meantime though its a heck of a lot of work.
Alva Lee Harley
We had two children: one girl, one boy, one compliant, one strong-willed, one brunette, one blond. We were the same parents with the same expectations but what worked for one didn’t work for the other. Our daughter was the poster child for obedient children. Our son threw rolls in restaurants. If you had six kids, they would each be different. And the sad part is, you would, at some point, feel like a failure with each one.
I’m afraid that, because of our own insecurities as mothers, we tend to criticize others who don’t make the same decisions or produce the same results as we do. For example, our daughter attended a Christian college. Our son attended a large secular university. We were criticized on both counts. Women told us we were being too protective of our daughter and then others said our son would leave his faith. (Both kids are strong Christians as adults.)
Bottom line–trust your instincts, trust your God, do your best, pray a lot, laugh a lot, and wait. I know that’s not what you want to hear when you’re sleep-deprived, but you will be amazed someday as you look at your beautiful adult Caroline and think back on this time. As “they” say, the days are long, but the years fly by. Blessings to you all.
This is an old but very beautiful comment. Thank you.
Sallie @ a quiet simple life
Thank you for every comment! I cannot comment this afternoon, but will try to respond later this evening. Your comments and encouragement have been a true blessing to me and probably several other women. 😀
Well, while I don’t have children, I have had a Mother. I know as an adult that I didn’t think of my own Mom as a bad or good Mother, she was just Mom. I’m certain Caroline will see you as a great Mom when she’s grown, because you and Dave have given her attention and spent her formative years with her. You’re a pretty tightly knit threesome. As for the sleeping, or not sleeping, each age brings something different. God’s grace for you two is that He didn’t give you more than one, and knew exactly which one to give you…for He knew Caroline even as she was being formed in the innermost portions of your womb. May God grant you the grace, and peace you need right now….
And as for those who said: “you should have six kids and then you would be too busy to worry about it” to you….. This southern gal would love to slap them bald headed! I am SO tired of insensitive people. Can we just round them all up and put them someplace where they can all just be unkind to one another instead of to us? That doesn’t sound very Christ-like, does it? Lord, forgive me for being insensitive to insensitive people. 😆
You are just plain stingy! You need serious help!
Sallie @ a quiet simple life
“emma jene” – That’s funny. That is the best comment you can come up with after spending over an hour on my site through various anonymizing sites? I see you are using your iphone from home this evening. Isn’t that the same iphone that you use while at your job at Meijer and on spring break in North Carolina?
Sallie @ a quiet simple life
No thoughtful comment tonight after all. I just spent the past two hours editing some very Dilbert-like text for a client. My eyes glazed over more than
once twice three timestoo many times to count. 😯
On a happy note… Caroline was asleep by 8:00 with minimal jabbering.
Dilbert-like text? Oh my – I admire you, there’s no way I’m witty or pithy enough to tackle that kind of task. How did it come out?
Sallie- I felt as if you were writing my experiences down there!
My 2 1/2 yr old wakes up sometime between 5-6 each morning NO.MATTER. WHAT. He is constantly on teh go, always wanting something, and once he can talk more I think that will be non stop too!By bed time (well actually tea time) i have usually had enough. SOme days I feel so bad- as if I am taking an easy option or not caring enough- but I also was doing the staying up late thing…would go to bed at 11 and be …yep…tired! I also have a 5 yr old (who thankfully sleeps well) and a 3 month old-who sleeps ok but never during teh day. It feels like absolute mummy service 24/7 at times- and I hate that it feels that way. It makes me feel bad when I don’t enojoy them, or when I feel real relief when my m-i-l takes them for an afternoon.
But I know I loe them dearly and I just pray that I don’t do them any dis-service when I am not coping. But you are NOT alone in this.
I have struggled with sleepless and obstinate children (2) from infancy. My oldest is 4.5. They both sleep very, very well and respond to discipline, now. I have an answer for you, but it isn’t easy. Digestive problems and nutritional deficiencies both cause sleeplessness and the obstinate attitude you describe. And fixing any digestive problems and deficiencies will eliminate those. The first thing you can do is eliminate sugar – refined sugar in any and every form. Then white flour. Both cause massive deficiencies in the body. Then systematically remove all processed foods. They are full of chemicals that poison the brain and the body. This of course requires a lot of cooking. But let me tell you, the results are sooo worth it. My 4 yo is like a different child. I would have to discipline her ALL DAY LONG and she screamed and stiffened and it had no impact on her. As she got older, she continued to refuse discipline and I wondered how much longer this could continue before I wasn’t strong enough to subdue her. This NEVER happens any more. She’s still a sinner, but she accepts discipline without fighting. She screams sometimes, but she stops after a short while. Before she would scream for hours. And both girls finally sleep. We had night terrors, inexplicable wake-ups, unable to settle down, and early, early mornings. I finally realized I had acquired my own insomnia issues and it was no doubt in part related to not sleeping through the night myself in more than 3 yrs (slight exaggeration, but really slight).
You may continue to have problems due to deficiencies, even if she is eating no sugar, flour or processed foods. These will have to be made up with either EXACTLY the right food nutritionally or supplements. Or she may have a digestive problem such that even if she is getting the best food in the world, she cannot absorb the nutrients and so doesn’t get the benefit of it. You can look around for a chiropractor or naturopath doctor who is a specialist in nutrition. That is what we are doing.
I’m sorry I can’t give you an easy or very simple answer. But maybe you will see some improvement if you are very careful with her diet and that will encourage you to do more. Chamomile tea is excellent for children and I give it to mine all the time (good quality dried flowers – not the tea bags at the store) to help them calm down. I stopped 2 tantrums in seconds with it (2 children- same day). Ginger tea (from fresh ginger at the grocery store) is also excellent for helping digestion – serve it at every meal, if you can. My daughter will drink any tea if I squeeze lemon in it!
I’m sorry you are struggling with this little one you love so much. How good is our Heavenly Father, who loved us while we were rebels!! We are not very much like Him, are we? Our love is so faint and frail compared to His. The Lord will help you, Sallie. Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.
Love in Christ,
Sallie @ a quiet simple life
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I truly do appreciate it.
I do want to set the record straight because when I read your comment last night it really bothered me. It was NOTHING that you wrote that was wrong. The information you shared was very helpful and one of the reasons I appreciate the people who read and comment here. There is a wealth of information that gets shared.
One of my biggest concerns about blogging honestly, especially as it relates to Caroline, is that people will read things into what I write. We all bring our own experiences and convictions to what we read. My concern is that in sharing some of my struggles as a mom, that Caroline will be seen in a negative light that isn’t fair to her.
For example, you used the word obstinate. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word about her online or even in real life. But if people read it here and associate it with her… that’s an unfair label on her. Again, there was NOTHING wrong with what you wrote as you wrote about your own experiences. My concern is how that get translated into Caroline in the minds of readers if I don’t disclaim any and every comment made that might be taken to apply to her. The same would go with the idea that you needed to discipline your daughter all day. That has not been our experience. Caroline is truly a nice little girl. She is friendly, sensitive, likes other people, chatty, eager to please, smart, perceptive, interested in everything, etc. She is well behaved in public. She would be welcome in any play group as she is a nice little girl. I don’t usually talk about her overwhelming number of positive attributes because it just isn’t my style to wax eloquent about how fabulous my child is. 😆
Anyway, this discussion has given me further food for thought. I’ve always been convinced I needed to protect her privacy and have struggled to know how much to write honestly here. This post and discussion has been a good reminder to me of the downsides of the internet. People can only perceive so much and it is hard to present the whole picture. I’ll continue to think and pray about this.
As a Mother of 6 and Grandmother of 10 (so far :-)…..I am able to categorically relate to what you are saying about your darling daughter…..As Alva so eloquently said….even if you had 6 they would all be different…. I am just so gratified that you care enough about your amazing child that you are asking for opinions on how you can be the best Mother that you can be…..and we all want that. My meager suggestions are, since they seem to work with all of the children….some of the time…are…30 minutes of cuddling, reading, and prayer after bath time…..with a battery lit candle left behind to light the way for sweet dreams. We have a 9 year old grandson who talks non-stop after we leave the room and he explains that “his brain won’t turn off”….who can argue with that???? We read, pray, rub his back, leave the candle (only battery) and hug him with “soft words” and don’t insist that he be quiet….which is quite impossible for him anyway. If in any way the little darlings get the feeling that we are “rushing” them (as I have done so many times 🙂 it seems that the chatter goes on even longer….the important part is to do whatever routine that you do, all of the time….nevery vary…and eventually with this security, they know what the routine is and they relax.
So many things make me feel like a bad mom. Moth guilt seems to be part of the motherhood package!!!!