Before we take a wee break for the holidays, we wanted to share the logic behind our favorite question (arguably three questions), which, conveniently, is especially helpful around said holidays.
Interestingly, a reader addressed today’s topic in response to our last post and provided a perfect illustration. Lee started a series on “dressing like an adult,” a topic we’re both passionate about and excited to continue. However, this admirably self-aware reader shared with us why dressing up each day is not a priority for her. She explained that she home-schools her four children, her husband travels often for work, and long, intense workouts are a necessity for maintaining her zen. Because of her lengthy exercise routine and hectic schedule, it makes the most sense for her to wear her workout gear the entire day. I’m sure this fabulously fit friend isn’t the only one to use Lululemon as her mom uniform, and look great doing it.
Years ago I had a conversation with a friend and my favorite question was born. This friend had endured years of her child’s resistance to falling asleep at night and was desperate for change. After my own struggle with my first baby’s sleep problems, and discovering the book that changed my life, my empathy was real and I shared some of my new knowledge.
I asked her if she’d tried putting this child to bed super early. Like 6:30 early. Her eyes widened. That’s really early! I reassured her with several testimonials from among my own friends and family who’d experimented with early bedtime and whose children did not wake any earlier than before. That was not her concern, but the fact that it was right after dinner, making for an arduous evening with young children, perhaps beyond her endurance level (her husband was also often traveling for work). Her pattern was to take a break after dinner and before bedtime to essentially summon her courage. What do you hate so much about bedtime, I pried. I joked with her about how my husband and I maintained the world’s shortest bedtime routine. Bath time, she shuddered. I HATE bath time. So why do you do it every night? Why not less frequently? Or at a different time of day? She stared at me. I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it before.
My friend was loathing her way through bath time every single night and never asking herself why or if it was really necessary. She even commented that it was probably counter-productive as her children ended the bath more excited than when they began it (many parents of course love bath time and many children are calmed by it). How many of us do things regularly because our parents did it that way or because it’s documented on everyone else’s Instagrams? I’m not implying that we’re all sheep, but that most of us are subconsciously falling in line with cultural norms. I credit that conversation with the initiation of my best parenting exercise. I now ask myself the following question at least weekly:
What makes the most sense….
A routine or tradition or parenting strategy or outfit can make perfect sense for your best friend right now, but not for you. Or it may have made perfect sense for you for the last five years, but you’ve moved to a new phase and new needs. Sometimes the answer to my question is stay the course, even though it’s not the path of least resistance. In fact, I must emphasize that the question is NOT “Is this the easiest for me right now?”
If you’re wondering, the short of the long is that my friend cut bath time to only a couple times a week, changed the 8:30 pm bedtime to 6:30, and within a week saw positive (permanent!) changes in both her child’s sleep habits and her own sanity. Now, I don’t say this to pat myself on the back for my brilliant advice or to declare that there’s a one-size-fits-all sleep training method. In fact, I don’t want to hear about how you put your kid to bed late and why it’s better than what I do. There are limitless perfect solutions depending on the individual family and circumstances! The point is you can make (sometimes drastic) changes for the better by asking yourself this little question and making little adjustments.
Be self-aware and confident like our reader who will not be changing how she dresses. Absorb the solutions that work for you and toss the rest! Simplify by prioritizing the things YOU value most! Reevaluate! Maybe this sounds like a New Year’s resolution pep talk, but I find a pre-holiday assessment goes a long way.
Cheers and see you in 2017!