What I Learned About Judgment When My Toddler Wouldn’t Sleep

(I first wrote this weeks ago in early December, but never got around to posting it.  Over the holidays Junia slept great.  Today, the first day my wife is back at school, Junia refused to nap.  That is somewhat ironic timing as I post this.)

For most of her young life, Junia has been a fantastic sleeper.  She would take rather long naps and sleep all night.

When we converted her crib to a toddler bed, she had a few wild days but she soon settled down to regular sleep.  Until recently.  Nearly every night has become a battle: we put her to bed and close her door, she gets out of bed.  Sometimes she says she needs to go on the potty, so we let her try.  She is recently potty-trained and though we have encouraged her to pee before bed sometimes she really does need to go again.  Other times it is a ploy to get out of bed for a few minutes.

There are nights when she gets out of bed 1-2 times, then there are nights when after the fifth time of getting out of bed we begin to lose our minds.

She likes to sleep with a few books, stuffed animals and toys.  We told her we would take them away.  That worked for one night.  The next night she got out of bed to give us a toy and did not mind when we took them.

This is not so much a post as to what to do about kids who fight sleep (there are many posts by people with more wisdom then I have).  This is a post on punishment and consequences (dun-dun-DUN!).

The other day she would not take a nap.  She said she was tired and that she wanted to take a nap, but she kept getting up.  After putting her blanket on twice I told her I was done.  The next hour would be quiet time and if she stayed awake she was just hurting herself.  I told her I would wake her up when it was time to wake up from the nap and if she didn’t go to sleep soon she would thus get a short nap.  Then I went downstairs and ignored her, listening to her play another 30 minutes.

Eventually she went to sleep.

The whole thing made me think about the difference between punishments from the outside and self-inflicted harm.

Emily and I threatened a variety of punishments – no TV the next day, no apple juice, taking away toys, etc.  Sure she was upset when she couldn’t watch an episode of Dora the next day, but it did not seem to be a huge deterrent (plus, if she is sleeping less, limiting such things ends up punishing Emily and I more then it does Junia).

When she wouldn’t take a nap I just told her she was only hurting herself.  Without a nap, or with a very short one, she acted tired the rest of the day.  The punishment is self-inflicted, she is hurting herself.

Of course, she is probably too young to digest this lesson.  But it is a good lesson for adults.

I grew up learning that if you are bad then God will punish you; if you do not believe the right things about Jesus you will be sent to hell for all eternity.  The more I think about it though, most of our bad choices (sins) hurt ourselves.  Before we even get to any punishment from a God, we punish ourselves by engaging in self-destructive behavior.

I think I always had the impression that God commanded certain things almost arbitrarily.  So some things were good and some were bad.  Now I have come to see that God wants what is best for us, and living as a disciple of Jesus truly leads to human flourishing.  To use one example, it is more satisfying to live generously rather than greedily.  Jesus does not call us to give just to take our stuff away, we are better humans for giving.  And being greedy may lead to some sort of judgment or punishment one day, but before we even talk about that we need to realize greed will destroy us.

Maybe we could put it this way – sin self-destructs.  If you choose the path of self-fulfillment above all else you will lose yourself.  But if you choose the path of living for others, you will find satisfaction.  Reminds me of Jesus’ words in Mark 8:35 – For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

Or on a toddler level – If you choose not to nap, you’re just going to be grumpy the rest of the day which won’t be fun for you or anyone around you.  The parents don’t need to even punish you, your lack of sleep and subsequent exhaustion is punishment itself.  We want what’s best for you, which is sleep.  Refusing to sleep hurts you.  Take a nap and enjoy life!

Culture of Pornography, Sexting and Trafficking (Recent Reads)

There are many times when being a parent terrifies me.  One example is when I think about the sort of world my daughter is going to grow up in.  Articles like this one make me sick, scared and angry: Children and the Culture of Pornography: “Boys will ask you everyday until you say yes.”  

There is a storm coming. I can feel it as I stand on a street corner in south London, thinking about my daughters. Lily and Rose are both 11 years old. One is crazy about dogs, the other loves owls.

They are at that tender age when the hormones have begun to stir, and they could be stomping around the room like furious teenagers one minute but snuggling up for a cuddle the next.

The girls are fast approaching 13, the age that Chevonea Kendall-Bryan was when she leaned out of one of the windows on the fourth floor of a block of flats on this street. A boy she knew was down here on the ground, but this was not Romeo and Juliet. Far from it.

Chevonea had been pressurised into performing a sex act on him, and he had shared a phone clip of her doing so with all his mates. She threatened to jump from the window if he did not delete it. Then she slipped and fell 60 feet to the ground, dying from massive brain injuries.

Her mother says she will now campaign against what is happening to young girls in our society. They are certainly under extreme pressure, having to cope with a world more brutal, more demanding and far more overtly sexual than anything their parents knew.

Read the rest.

On a slightly similar topic, the Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event of the year, it is also the biggest event for human trafficking in the United States.  Just yesterday five victims of trafficking were rescued in the French Quarter.  This is something we ought not forget as we watch the big game on Sunday.  Beneath the surface of this most popular of American games is a darkness.

On Cloth Diapering

When my wife, Emily, told me she wanted to use cloth diapers rather than disposable ones on our yet unborn baby, I was skeptical.  Never having changed a diaper in my life, I was a bit nervous about the whole thing.  Though I had no experience changing diapers, I assumed that using disposable diapers was much easier then cloth.  Disposable diapers were…disposable!  You take them off and throw them away (along with whatever has been deposited inside of them).  With cloth diapers not only would I have to clean the baby, but I’d have to clean and save the diaper!

Emily knows me well.  Her primary argument was not about how cloth diapers are better for the environment (though they are).  It was about how much money we would save.  Disposable diapers are expensive and babies go through a lot of them.  Reusable cloth diapers only have to be purchased once and then the only costs are detergent and your water bill.

So I gave in.  Why not give it a try?

Fifteen months later I can say I am glad we did it.  Not just for the money we saved (though Emily calculated how much we spent compared to how much she estimated we would have spent on disposables and we did save at least a thousand dollars), but also…okay, mostly for the money we saved.  I also like producing less trash.  We used disposables for the first month or so and I was amazed how much additional trash I was putting on the curb each week!

I’m not going to lie: cloth diapers are hard work.  We purchased enough to last for a couple of days.  So every other evening after we put Junia to bed we would have to put a load of diapers in the washing machine.  One cycle on cold, another cycle (with an extra rinse!) on hot and then into the dryer (or on the washline, before I cut it down by accident with the hedge trimmer, which is another story).  On a good day if we started the diapers in the evening we’d finish the process by lunchtime the next day.  On a bad day we might end up with a naked baby on the changing table and all the diapers sitting in the dryer in the basement!

Emily and I are blessed to have the sort of jobs that make cloth diapering a bit easier: she teaches at a Cyber School, so she works from home, and I work in campus ministry so my schedule is flexible enough to allow me to stay home during the day and go to campus in late afternoons.  If both persons in a couple have to go back to work shortly after the baby is born cloth diapering is probably more difficult, though I imagine if they really wanted to do it, it could be done.  But if one person plans to stay home with the baby full-time, or if the jobs are flexible enough, I would highly recommend cloth-diapering (have I mentioned how much money you will save?).

Cloth diapering does not need to be all or nothing.  Some people who cloth diaper do so regardless of where they go or how long they are there.  When my wife and I have been out of town with the baby for a few days, we go disposable.  I am sure cloth diapering could be done in such situations: you’d just have to find a place to wash them…and not mind carrying a bunch of dirty diapers with you.

Carrying dirty diapers was my biggest hang up.  If I am taking Junia somewhere and it is likely she’ll need a diaper change, I’ll put a disposable on her.  My reason is simply that I don’t want to carry dirty or wet diapers with me.  I like to bring home less stuff then I take with me and shoving a dirty diaper (in its own bag, of course) into the diaper bag is a hassle.  Emily often gives me a hard time…mostly asking, “what’s the big deal?”  I have to admit that the more used to cloth diapering I have gotten the more comfortable I have become with doing it while out.  Now I am willing to cloth diaper if one change will be needed (but there’s no way I’m carrying TWO dirty diapers around with me…wait, I did that yesterday!).

So if you’re soon going to be having a baby, I encourage you to look into cloth diapering.  There are not cloth diaper stores on every corner, but if you want to do it you can find the resources you need.  Do some research, discover if it is for you.

(Did I mention you’ll save money?)

I also heard kids who cloth diaper potty-train faster because cloth diapers do not soak up the pee as well and are thus more uncomfortable.  I am not sure if that’s true, but I’ll let you know!