Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Simple Equation

My daughter’s new sleep schedule can be equated to a misaligned tire.  The car is motoring along and you're still getting to your destination but the drive is much harder and everything more difficult to navigate because one part of the car just isn't in sync .  My husband and I are more blurry eyed than usual, handling stresses of our own in the past month and now dealing with the fatigue and lack of "me" time with this new routine.

She seems to get tired later now.  A whole hour later.  I've tried to push the time back little by little like every book and pediatrician says.  We watch her show, read an extra book and still I'm met with incessant screaming when I put her to bed.  Between getting her calm and going through the routine again, my dream of sitting on the couch or popping in a Zumba tape at 9 p.m. is no more.

Morning wake up times of 6:30 a.m, followed by a cuddle and falling back to sleep in my bed for another hour have changed as well.  Now it’s a 5:45a.m. wake up followed by jumping around my bed with the request to "bounce."  Instruction to settle down and bribery with cereal have resulted in Cookie Crisp under my pillow and fingers up Daddy's nose to stifle snoring.  Covering her bedroom window with a blanket to block the sunrise and prevent all this hasn't worked either.

I look at everything that doesn't seem right with my child as a problem to solve. If she is hungry I feed her.  Wet, I change her.  Bored, I play with her.  Because solving a problem essentially means never having to deal with it again or at least knowing how to solve it quickly and efficiently the second time. 

As a professional you brand yourself as a problem solver.  You're to boast about it with colorful examples in interviews as a marketable quality.  Problem solvers always come out on top.  You solve a problem, it goes away.  You've done something right.  Membership was low so you created a marketing campaign that increased participants by 5%.  Problem solved.  Everyone is happy and you get a promotion. 

When you solve a problem and it comes back the same or in a different way, you try another approach.  The marketing campaign only yielded 2%, so you re-assess, decide to try another form of marketing and the new one increases participants by 10%.  Hooray! Problem solved, drinks are on you. 

When the problem comes back the third time in the same or in a different way and you are at a complete loss of tactic, you face the inevitable:  failure.  You question your ability to problem solve and frustration ensues. 

The method of problem solving seems so easy.  But like all equations sometimes you can’t see all of the variables.  The tooth that isn't yet pushing through the gum, the constipation in my daughter's stomach, the fear of some stuffed animal she dreamt about last night, or her growth spurt that is simply making her a little crazy and something she can't yet communicate.  All possible elements in the formula for disruptive sleep.

I'm reminded of all of those times in math class when the test problems seemed too difficult to solve.  I'd be sitting there, straining my eyes to see something I was missing.  I’d get anxious, mad and feel like giving up.  My hand sore from erasing wrong answers over and over again until the bell rang.

I did terribly in math my whole life spending lots of time in extra help tutoring.  My mother told me just to "get through it" and she and my father applauded when I came home with a 70 because I passed.  It was over.  But I was mad and felt stupid.  I couldn't understand why other people would be able to figure problems out and why I struggled. If every problem was caused by something, why could I not see the reason and be able to solve it?  What I failed to appreciate at that time was that despite falling below average, I still got 70% right.  The majority.

I can get my daughter to sleep without crying mostly every night.  I can snuggle with her in bed in the morning and have her wake up an hour later almost every morning.  But it’s this new problem, representing such a small percentage of my problem solving failure that keeps me diligently working.  Trying new methods, asking other parents for advice, and repeatedly getting more and more frustrated at the lack of results.  Forgetting that for most parents, a problem with a toddler just ends up a cold case.

My daughter runs to me with her broken crayon this morning.  The tip has fallen off and pieces are missing.  "Mommy fix it," she says.  I look at it and know there is nothing that can be done.  I tear off the paper to expose more crayon.  "There you go," I say and hand it back to her.  She looks a little confused but says, "Thank you Mommy," and runs away.  She spends the next few minutes trying to figure out how to comfortably make circles with this crayon in her book the same way she did before. Eleven sharpened colors remain in the box.

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