Before I was a mother, I fell completely for the idyllic picture television commercials provide of parents rocking infants for pleasure. Once I had my own baby, however, I learned the true Hollywood story. New parents rock babies because they are sleep deprived and teetering on the boundaries of sanity.
Google the word “exhausted” and you will very likely find a photo of a tear-faced, screaming toddler and a parent ready to take a hostage.
One night, when my eldest daughter was two, I boarded a red-eye flight from Seattle to DC believing that – being night time – she would sleep peacefully. Unfortunately, the plane departed later than scheduled and, having passed her routine bedtime, she spent the first hour kicking and crying instead. When a man on the flight hollered at me “Shut that baby up,” I glared back at him and asked – in a tone that made Dirty Harry’s “Make my day” delivery sound like Doris Day – “She’s two, what’s your excuse?”
Thank goodness airport security searched passengers for “all possible weapons” before boarding.
I would like to say that episode was sufficient for elevating the status of sleep on my personal list of priorities. The truth, however, is that it took the birth of my second daughter – and a short visit to a mental hospital – for me to truly get the message that sleep matters much.
Desiring to spare my daughters the pains of my own steep learning curve, I mandated “no electronics – only reading” – after 7:pm when they started grade school. Since the Harry Potter series had yet to be written, this actually served well for getting them to sleep on time. So while fellow parents debated means to get their children to rise and shine each morning, my girls simply woke on their own.
The discrepancy between my personal education in sleep deprivation and knowledge levels of fellow parents revealed itself most glaringly during their high school years and climaxed with an event called Grad Night. Popular in schools throughout the US, parent organized Grad Night celebrations aim to provide an alternative option to private parties and reduce death and injuries caused by underage drinking and driving. Grad Nights are typically all-night events and students are mandated to remain on campus till morning.
At my daughters’ school, I learned, students not only drove themselves to the event, they also drove themselves home.
Despite years of popularity and concern for teen safety, no one had ever made anyone aware that not sleeping for 24 hours impairs the functionality of the brain almost as much as two shots of alcohol. Fortunately God, in all her wisdom, spared my daughter the embarrassment of “mom” enlightening everyone by screaming from the school rooftop and graced me simply with the invitation to serve as Grad Night Chair. The year was 2005 and students have been required to be dropped off, and picked-up, from Grad-Night every year since.
Editors Note: Huge hugs to all the Sleep Coaches and Consultants educating individuals and families on the importance of sleep from the rooftops of Parenting 2.0. Special thanks to Michelle Winters who attended our P20 Talks 2013 Washington DC event and graciously lent her company logo to this month’s post.
While driving my daughters to school one morning, I shared a story of their aunt (my big sis), age ten, sleep walking. “With her eyes completely closed, she went to the record player in our living room and started drinking off the arm as if it was a faucet” I explained. “What’s a record player?” asked my youngest, age seven.
Lament though many adults do the ever-expanding presence of technology in children’s lives, unless you are embracing the wisdom of third party experts to educate your children about digital safety, you too are sleepwalking. Permit Parenting 2.0 to provide your wake up call!
Wake up point number one: Fire yourself. “Allowing children to roam free on technology today is no more appropriate than permitting them to roam free on freeways” Tshaka Armstrong, founder of Digital Shepherds accurately stated at Parenting 2.0’s first P20 Talks Conference. Unless digital safety is your full-time passion, however, stop pretending to be an expert. Doing so merely passes on a false sense of security and endangers your entire household. While you may believe your child is playing an innocent computer game, hackers may be stealing his social security number – yes his – and accessing also passwords to your banking information. Heed this call to embrace humility and seek the wisdom of third party educators like Tshaka and others.
Wake up point number two: The danger in the mirror. Over ninety percent of child molesters are friends and family – not strangers that track your child down via a computer screen. Stop saying “It won’t happen to my children” or if it did “they would tell me.” Statistics prove otherwise. One out of three females, one out of six males in the US will be molested before the age of 18. Naive parents – not strangers – are at fault. Wake up and protect your child. Add Jill Starishevsky’s book “My Body Belongs to Me” to your parental tool chest when s/he is two – yes two not twelve! Saying no to adults takes practice – empower and protect your toddler! If your child says uncle Jimmy or Grandpa touched him in a way that made him uncomfortable – believe him!
Wake up point number three: Use technology to bond with your child. Yes bond. Parents who prevent children from accessing technology leave them just as vulnerable to danger as parents who fail to educate their children about child abuse. While there are mountains of scientific information to support that less technology is most assuredly best for brain development in small children, technology can provide a powerful bonding opportunity with your school-age child. Embrace the philosophy of Edutainment as espoused by Digital Safety expert Kristy Bjorkland Davis. Use technology to have fun and connect with your child not simply restrict or scare them. Very often, children know more than parents thanks to exchanges with friends. Rather than being threatened by this, set the example of life-long learning and permit them to teach you a few things. And then -like everything else you do as a parent – use their moves and the advice of experts to stay one step ahead of them.
Thank you to all the Parenting 2.0 Humanitarians who served as Thought Leaders for P20 Talks 2012 Digital Safety Panel: Tshaka Armstrong, Robin Sax, Kristine Bjorkland Davidson, Melissa Pazen, and Etel Leit.