My 2, almost 3 year old, fractured her wrist in two places climbing out of her crib a few weeks ago. About six hours before that occurred, we had made the decision to put her in a toddler bed.

My eldest child transferred into his toddler bed without missing a beat, but not so much with this one. She has found her freedom and she isn’t giving it up. In not so great parenting moments, I have threatened to not let her watch her beloved “Daniel Tiger” television show, bargained with her and pleaded with her. She doesn’t care.

Last night was an all time low. I carried her back to bed for what felt like the twentieth time and may very well have been, and she finally stayed and went to sleep at 9:30 pm, two and half hours past her bedtime. But then she woke up a few hours later and found her way into our bed and refused to leave. We would sleepily carry her back to her room, but I’d roll over to see she returned. She was asking questions, “What time is it?” “Do I have school tomorrow?” and I found myself answering because she was asking with such clarity.

I’m a wreck this morning and she seems genuinely surprised as to why she is feeling so tired. I already know the witching hour will start earlier than usual today, and we will be in survival mode until bedtime. I already can feel my anxiety growing around whether or not she will sleep tonight.

I have learned enough now about consciousness and conscious parenting to pause and ask what is this really about for me? When I slow my system down by taking deep slow breaths, I can feel my emotions start to surface. I feel fear. Both of my children didn’t sleep for one year plus and I know sleep deprivation intimately, and the post-traumatic stress I believe I suffer because of it. There is a reason certain countries use sleep deprivation as a torture device. It is no joke.

When I’m sleep deprived I feel more sensitive and vulnerable. Vulnerability is sometimes cool because I enter a sort of numb surrender. I’m simply too tired to put my defenses and walls up as easily as I sometimes do. However, more often I’m overly sensitive and that feeling is not as welcomed. I tend to think of anything that is bothering me, and it feels magnified by about fifty percent. I have learned not to make big decisions when I’m tired. I know to practice heightened self-care and to make my world a little smaller and safer until I am more rested. I used to push through and be hard on others and myself. I would pick fights when what I was truly silently screaming from the inside,

“Help me. I’m tired and scared and everything feels so heightened. Why won’t my child / children sleep? How am I going to get work done, laundry done, life done?”

I would be in a complete state of overwhelm.

Whether overwhelm is caused by exhaustion, stress or something else, try and make the conscious choice to slow down and create space. Feel into what your needs are and how you can support yourself or reach out for support. Sometimes just writing about it as I am now brings ease and a bit of humor to the insanity, call a friend and voice it, ask for a hug, breathe, take a bath, exercise, drink water. You can experiment with what works for you. It doesn’t have to be big – what’s more important is the intention behind it. Choose to be loving to yourself in the moments of overwhelm and feeling out of control, and everything can shift almost instantly.

I’m still exhausted, and I still dread bedtime tonight, but I also know that as my energy calms and relaxes, those around me can resonate to that vibration and maybe, just maybe, the rest of the day will be better than expected. I’ll let you know.

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