New Year, New Challenges

In Mind, Body & Spirit, Pushing Forward by Amy Blanchard

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to wish everyone a Happy New Beginning! I hope this year is filled with fun and good times for all.

As for my family and I, we’re in for a fun year as well. Heck, it’s almost a guarantee when you’ve got a 3 -year old running around. She always has something new to discover and many toddler curiosities to explore and ask us about.

We do have three new challenges in particular to tackle this year: enrollment in organized daycare, sleeping through the night/achieving a better bedtime routine, and potty training loom straight ahead of us, waiting to be tested and, ultimately, mastered.

These challenges wait for us to tackle them, just as they exist for any other parent of a young toddler out there. Facing them has little, if anything, to do with my physical disability, I know. But that’s part of what I like to stress in my articles – I’m a simple, normal parent just like so many others in the world.

Daycare is going to be our first test. Currently Ella stays with my mom during my husband and my workdays. But starting this month she will spend a couple days a week involved in an organized daycare program – complete with teachers, kids her own age, and creative daily activities and lessons.

I know that sending Ella to daycare will help her immensely with both her social skills and her already quick and creative mind. As it stands, with her Nana as her daycare provider, she rarely gets to spend much time with other children her age. She only sees her close friends and cousins every once in awhile.

Therefore, when she does see others her age, she is not well practiced in understanding all the rules of sharing and fair play. She knows that her toys are her toys, and that’s it. Ella really needs regular involvement in a group of children she can learn to successfully interact with and befriend.

At the time of this writing I am busily researching various facilities recommended to me by coworkers and friends. I have my first visit to a center early next week – a center that seems to offer all the wonderful care and creative learning that my husband and I wish for Ella to receive.

I will also call a second location for which I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews. I received a packet of information from this other location, and it seems like it would be a great choice as well. I just need to see if the price is manageable for us. Hopefully, between the two, either my visit will reinforce our already positive view of the first program and we can go forward with enrollment, or I will get an acceptable answer for my tuition questions from the second place and I can set up an appointment to visit there.

A better bedtime routine, including encouraging Ella’s ability to sleep through the night in her own bed, is our next big task. Ella’s been sleeping in her “big girl bed” for at least a couple months now. We started her off there by sitting beside her until she fell asleep.

I intended this routine to last maybe a week or so, with either my husband or I scooting increasingly further and further away from her side. However, here it is all this time later, and we’re still having to sit right next to her until her breathing slows and her thoughts float away to dreamland.

I know my husband and I are to blame for not setting up a strict plan of action to wean her off of our ritual. But I also fault our progress on account of her being sick on and off as of late. Wanting to make her as comfortable as possible, and not fuss anymore than she needs to during these times, have kept my husband or I seated firmly by her side.

We have, on occasion, tried to tuck her in and leave her to fall asleep on her own. But every single time, even if she promises she won’t (I don’t think she understands what it means to promise, actually) she scurries out of bed within minutes, sometimes seconds, of our leaving her room. One time we even closed her door behind her, intending to let her “cry it out” alone in her room.

But after maybe 20 minutes or so of listening to her screams, I just couldn’t take it anymore and went to tuck her back in and comfort her until she fell soundly asleep.

An added problem that she’s developed since moving to her bed is that she now regularly wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to either sleep in our bed, or have one of us “sleep around” her in her own bed. Neither situation is what we want for any of us.

Every night I tell her that, if she wakes up when it’s still dark out, all she has to do is grab a hold of her teddy and he will help her fall right back to sleep. The first night I told her this – miracle of all miracles! – she spent the whole night in her bed with nary a peep heard from her.

I was amazed and so proud that she listened to and heeded my advice – and that it worked! But, of course, that was it. It was just a fluke, I guess.

I do realize that she won’t be a high school student still needing our help at bedtime or crawling between us in the middle of the night. But just when will she decide she can fall asleep on her own?

I really don’t know how I’m going to handle this problem. But I think we do need to address it head on. Any advice from readers would certainly be appreciated.

Lastly, there’s potty training.

I personally feel that this challenge will be my biggest one of the three simply because I myself do not use the toilet as most others do. Because of my spina bifida, I have catheterized myself my whole life. I can feel when I have to go, but lack the muscle control to go on my own. How am I to teach my daughter what to do when I have never been able to do it myself?

About a month or so ago, after yet another particularly big struggle with her to change her diaper, I decided right then and there that she was going to learn to use the potty. I put her in her big girl panties and decided on a schedule of taking her to the bathroom every 20 minutes.

Well, this trial lasted for only about half the day. We went through about 8 or so pairs of panties and not one successful trip to the potty. So frustrating!

As I write this, Christmas has not yet happened, but when it does, Ella will get some reward stickers in her stocking and Potty Time Elmo for a gift. I hope that both of these items will help get her used to the idea of using the toilet.

I do know that I need to not push the issue and that she’ll more or less tell me when she’s truly ready to train. My nieces and nephews, for instance, trained quite quickly at about 3 1/2 years old.

As long as I can keep from being too swayed by pressure from other adults, then I think she and I and her daddy will be successful when we finally do decide it’s time.

Well, that about wraps up what we’ll be up to in the coming months and year.

And, no, these challenges we’re about to face, along with so many more I’m not even aware of yet, have very little to do with my being a disabled parent. It just goes to show you what a normal family we are.

I have the same parenting issues to confront as every other parent out there. And, like any other parent before me, I will help my daughter through all her new obstacles and challenges to the very best of my ability.

I may not be able to walk extremely well, but I have a huge heart full of love for Ella and a strong mind and will ready to encourage her own strengths and abilities toward success.