Friday, December 7, 2012

Children Who Don't Want To Sleep

It'll happen on at least a few occasions that your child won't want to sleep or can't. They are very affected by changes in the way you put them to sleep and by the environments they're in. Although resilient, the slightest change to a child's sleep routine can have a fairly substantial impact on how they will sleep on any given night. What I find works best for our children is consistency.

Ewa, our oldest one, has gone through many restless nights over the past year and a half. For example, when she moved from a cradle to a crib in her own room. And then again when she started to realize that we were leaving the room at night.

More recently, she has moved into a single bed. With the freedom to wake up and leave the room whenever she pleases, she has found herself walking aimlessly down the hallway in the middle of the night.

Here's a story that explains what I've been going through.

I awoke again, sleepy and half-aware of what time it was. I pressed the only button I knew at this hour and the bright glow of the iPad lit up to show me the ungodly hour of 2:46AM.

Throwing the covers off, I could hear her small feet pattering on the floor, softly approaching. I quickly found my barrings and moved to meet Ewa in the hallway.

She was slightly startled to see me already out of bed. My intentions were to keep peace in the room I had just left; the room with an easily disturbed baby silently sleeping at this particular moment.

I picked Ewa up gently and we walked wide-eyed back toward the end of the hallway where her door stood earily open, black, and hauntingly inviting.

As I lay her back down and cover her gently, it occured to me that this might not be as easy as I was expecting. After all, we had just made the big move. It was her first night sleeping in her "big girl" bed.

I slowly crept away, hoping not to alert her, but it seemed that before I had even taken my first step toward the exit, I had been doomed.

"Dadda!?!?" she exclaimed, all teary-eyed.

I froze in place. I thought that if I held my tongue, her worrisome voice would instead turn into a soft rythmic pattern of breathing that would indicate her sleep cycle had begun once again.

"Mamma!?!?" she called this time.

I sat down next to the door, waiting hopefully for eventual silence, but she was awake. There had to be a way to get her back to sleep...

As I sat there, patiently intercepting all of her attempts at escape, I thought mainly of sleep but also of how to discipline such incredibly persistent behaviour. I wondered whether to spank, yell, hold her to her bed, or to give up altogether. Defeat was creeping up on me.

I was innevitably angry, it's what had fuelled my determination at such an early hour. I continued to work in silence, not risking too much confrontation. Such an act would innevitably escalate the situation and I'd likely find myself up all night.

As I pressed on with our little routine of her getting out of bed and walking to the door and then me picking her up—kicking and screaming—and tucking her in once more, I realised that she was finally tiring.

I put her in bed and tucked her in once more only to find that, although the crying hadn't stopped, she had decided not to leave the bed this time.

She slowly quieted down, only making the odd request for a bottle. I continued my silent discipline, only moving my feet on the floor and opening and closing the bedroom door in an effort to get her used to the sounds. I wanted to leave the room without disturbing her yet again.

A few minutes later, I was sneakily opening the door and walking back to bed.

She was asleep and I was about to find myself in the same state...finally.

~ Ken ~

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Managing Stress Before Your Baby Arrives

If you know me, you know that we're expecting another baby in a few weeks. This, of course, is great news (it was planned) and I'm really looking forward to new experiences and the unique dynamic that will form between my little girl Ewa and her new baby sister/brother.

Now about that heart all started after a very stressful weekend of tax preparation (gone wrong) and job application deadline hell. When your wife's pregnant and you're stressed, she's likely double stressed. This is something that I learned the hard way and would like to share with you so that you can consider the implications before you begin to mismanage your stress levels at such an inopportune time.

I went to work following my busy weekend and was working away pleasantly. Then I heard the phone ring. I answered and was happy to hear Basia, my wife, on the line. But the news wasn't good. "So....I have to go to the hospital," she said. My heart sank and a million thoughts went through my mind. I asked her why and she explained, "I'm having contractions."


~ Heart Attack Initiated ~

I thought, "HO-LY crap! It's WAY too early for the baby to be born."

I began to worry.

Soon after that first phone call, I received another. This time it was my mom, "You better get to the hospital, the contractions are 3 minutes apart."

"OH MY GOD!" I thought. I'm still downtown and there's no way I'm getting up there on time to see this through. I jumped on the subway as fast as humanly possible.

As I sat there on the subway, I was filled with a range of emotion, mostly excitement and happiness. The thought of just telling everyone - anyone - on that subway that I was about to be a father again did cross my mind.

You begin to see (above) that I went from worried to happy in about 15 minutes. These are the emotions that you too will go through when you get the news that your baby's on the way. It's scary, exciting, and new...even if it's the second child.

On the train home, I looked up the implications of premature birth. I realized that the circumstances were really not in my favour. This baby needed to hang on a little while longer.

If you've had kids of your own or you've looked into it, you'll know that premature birth isn't totally uncommon. But it can be very difficult on the child. Lung development, brain development, and a range of other very important physical growths happen in the last few weeks of pregnancy.

At the end of the day, our baby could be in big trouble if it's not developed enough. Not to mention the fact that we'd be stuck in the hospital until it comes to full-term - now about a month away.

On the way home I had my phone on full-blaring-speaker mode so that I wouldn't miss even the slightest ring with an update. I didn't care if my phone woke up every single sleeping person on that train; I was about to be a father again!

Mass texting out to the family ensued. I had coordinated a full alert labour movement, for lack of a better term. Everyone was ready to come by and support us in this, but by the time I got home, the crisis had subsided. The contractions were starting to fade, as they should. And I began to recover from my heart attack. Thank the world for small favours.

A week later, I'm sitting here thinking, in retrospect, that the onset of labour may or may not have been attributed to that stressful weekend. But at the end of the day, I would have been blaming myself if things had have gone wrong; if my new baby was born too early.

Now, I've got a story to tell and some advice to give: keep your cool, no matter what. Be smart, lenient and generally offer God-like forgiveness to the mother of your child. Keep calm. Stay cool. And eliminate as much stress as possible from your life as you and your wife get closer to the day where you expect to have your brand new bundle of joy. It's more stressful to have a premature baby prone to sickness and ailments than it is to deal with the yearly tax season.

All the best on your discovering moments...I hope you've enjoyed reading about mine.

~ Ken ~

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Kiss Worth Missing

Thanks for stopping in for a read, despite my lack of writing over the past few months. I've neglected you, my readers, in favour of spending time with my family. I hope you understand and can pick up where you left off. Your support and interest is important to me and is what keeps me going, so keep on reading!

My daughter Ewa is now over a year old. 15 months old to be exact. Her and I have been through a lot since the last time I wrote. I might try to recap some of the things her and I have been through over the last year, but I'll try that out another day. For now I'm going to focus on the inspiration that got me back to the keyboard today.

So, what inspired me? If I describe it in an emotion, the emotion is sadness. Now, it's not as bad as it might sound at first. Really what I'm talking about here is the feeling you get when someone you've been close to shy's away. Here's where my story begins…

My wife's sister recently had a baby. As a supportive sibling, you want to help your brothers and sisters out as much as possible, so Basia decided to go help her sister for two weeks around the time the baby was to be born. The support and love they share is incredible! I understand the importance of being close to family, so we booked a flight and I sent her and my little Ewa on their way…for two weeks. The longest I had ever been away from Ewa since she was born.

It was tough. Two weeks without your family is liberating, but it's also very lonely. I expected that. I missed my girls. But what I didn't expect was what happened when they came home.

When I picked them up from the airport, it was late in the evening and Ewa had been sleeping. She was tired and sleepy-eyed when I first saw her. She acted shy and timid, which I was not surprised by at that time of night. I got a smile from her. But what I didn't get was a hug, a kiss, or even a snuggle from my little Ewa who is usually quite liberal with all of the above. I let it be and kissed her gently, expecting to see her back to normal the next day.

The following day, I got home from work, walked through the door and said 'hello!' Two weeks before, my little girl would have looked up from her toys, smiled from ear to ear, and then walked over to give me a great big hug.

Instead, she got up, hesitated, looked at mom, and then sat back down. I was heartbroken.

Months earlier, before she even started crawling, I looked forward to the day I would get home and watch her crawl over to the door to greet me after work. When that day finally came, I had one more thing to look forward to at the end of every business day. It was great! But now, that moment I had looked forward to for weeks didn't come. It made me sad.

I'm a sensitive kinda guy, by nature, but the feeling that your daughter is too shy to come give you a hug is something that even the toughest dad would likely feel bad about.

That's when I realized that, for Ewa, when she's away, it's as if I was away. For her, it makes no difference whether I'm gone or she's gone. What matters is that we're not together.

For the two weeks that she had been visiting family and traveling around, time apart really made it's mark on her. She came back an older, different child than the one I knew. To anyone else, she would seem the same; if anything, perhaps a little bigger, taller, or smarter. For me, however, she came back infinitely different. Our dynamic had changed.

I realized that, as a dad, time away from your kids might seem manageable, but in reality, it's not the time away that's hard, it's the getting back to normal that's challenging.

So, to you parents (or prospective parents) out there who are thinking it would be great to get away from it all and go on vacation, keep in mind that it's not the distance or the time that makes being away so difficult, it's the time it takes to get things back on track when you get home.

As for me, I've been working hard to re-kindle my relationship with Ewa. It takes time and extra effort. But it's getting better. Today she gave me a kiss.

~ Ken ~

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Discovering Family

Daniel Plouffe, my guest blogger for this week, is one of my oldest and closest friends. Dan had his baby girl, Evelyne, back in January, just shortly after we had Ewa. While the girls' names and the timing of their births were only coincidence, having him come and write this blog was not.

Dan now living in Ottawa, and myself in Toronto, it's been difficult to see eachother and seemingly more difficult to keep in touch. Not knowing just how the birth of Evelyne and all that has happened since her blessed arrival has impacted Dan's life, I decided that this entry would not only serve as a fresh perspective on being a discovering dad, but would also give me a glimpse into one of the most important parts of my good friend's life.

Thanks for being a part of this, Dan.

I always held my family close. Closer than anything in my life. Even while my two siblings and I were growing and figuring ourselves out, and while my parents’ generation seemed set in their ways, despite their ways. But it was not until after my daughter was born that I truly discovered what family was.

During my life I have gathered a few people around me that I consider family, so the definition is a bit nuanced. But now, it seems clearer who my family is, that it can be more than blood, while blood is still a stronger bond than most other social connections.

I have discovered love, loyalty, dedication, sacrifice, humility, understanding, and patience. Family, more than ever, has become not quite a shield, but somewhat of a fortress.

Family is everything.

It is something you build upon, build with, and build for. Those close to me, really close to me, have become more so. And I am thankful every day.

What I have discovered is that it is not so much that we are perfect, while striving for it, but that we are trying and aiming for that lofty goal.

Family, I have discovered, is trying.

In a lot of senses. Conflict, clashes, opinions, decisions, etc…

What bonds a family is the unfaultering ability to look past anything and stand with someone. Weaknesses, errors, foibles, all can be forgiven.

Family is Love.

But love is not always easy. Same with family. While some of the most passionate, ugly or deeply hurtful fights are with family, the uncanny ability to overcome difficulty between people can be found within family.

And they are the ones that really understand us. And can forgive us. And, hopefully, can be forgiven.

What I have been facing, with the birth of my beautiful daughter, is that I need not only to better myself, which is always something I strive for, but prepare myself for a person who could question everything I say and do, be different from what I expect, or even go beyond my expectations, highlighting my shortcomings.

Kind of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, potentially.

But I have found out I am not alone. I have a wonderful family, starting with the mother of my child, who is patient and supportive beyond all belief. My parents have been nothing short of spectacular. And my brother and sister. They amaze me, constantly.

It goes beyond that. Relatives and closest associates, though few, have surpassed my expectations, and I have discovered that I was not wrong in considering some born outside of my family tree to be considered as close as such.

As a father I have discovered that love is a silly word, but a deeply moving, and noble concept, the act of which makes life better. Trust and loyalty, as in eras past, are more valuable than any amount of money; and patience is the primary hobby any person should practice.

Family keeps going. While it was always there, like a house, you build upon it, but hopefully never forget that it all depends upon a solid foundation.

Follow Daniel Plouffe on Twitter.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Laughing It Up

Last Saturday, Ewa hit another one of the many milestones that are achieved while growing up. This one was probably my favourite thus far; laughing. At just over 3 months old she surprised me with the heartiest of laughs at the strangest of times.

After a wonderful day of exercise and outdoor activity at Bruce's Mill Conservation Area—where I happily ate the biggest homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie I've ever seen and drank syrup like water—Ewa and I found ourselves comfortably lying on the couch at home.

I'd talk, she'd smile, she'd squawk, and then cry a little; demanding I put her into a sitting position so that she could see all but 180 degrees of the same living room she's been observing for the past 3 months. Nonetheless, dady's little girl got what she wanted.

We were enjoying ourselves. Content with the way things were going and happy to be at home just hanging out. My neck was getting tired from the position I was in on the couch so I put my head back and rested it softly on the pillow that lay behind me. A second or two later, as I lifted my head back up to see what Ewa was up to and what she might be observing, I startled her slightly and triggered what would be one of the happiest moments we've shared to date; a laugh.

Fortunately, Basia and my iPhone were nearby. Both were ready to capture one of the happiest times…of my life at least. Here's what it was like:

It's been about a week now and I still haven't been able to get her to laugh like that again. I tried the same technique in a variety of ways, but I guess she just doesn't find it as funny as she did that day. Maybe it's because she's getting older? Maybe it's because she hasn't been in as good a mood? Who knows. I'm just looking forward to the next time she surprises me with another glimpse of her beautiful personality.