Feeling (Relatively) Empty

When I posted about Harrison’s “big boy” room, I mentioned that the lack of toys was purposeful. I also said I would talk about why that is. First, let me say why it isn’t:

  • It is not because he doesn’t have any toys. Ha! He has plenty, they’re just not in his room. We did not do a mass purging. Although, the idea of that sounds good to me. David’s closet is starting to look like a toy store.
  • It is not a punishment. We didn’t take all of Harrison’s toys away because he did something wrong. Believe me, I’ve thought about it. I don’t know who that would be punishing, though…
  • They are not in his closet. We actually did have a shelving unit in his closet at one point that housed many of his toys. That unit has since moved into the upstairs living space. That was part of Phase 1 in updating Harrison’s room.

So, why did we take pretty much all the toys out of Harrison’s room? Well, it was distracting. I know I said it wasn’t as a punishment. It wasn’t. It was to help Harrison. Let me backtrack two years ago. Harrison was 18-months, and was starting to get inconsistent with the naps. My child who typically went down for a nap (twice a day) without much issue, was starting to spend sometimes half of his nap “talking” and “walking”. He wasn’t upset (most of the time), he was just not interested in the sleep part as much. I would pick him up from his sitter, and sometimes 2-3xs/week find out that he “eventually fell asleep” or maybe didn’t sleep at all. There would be days I would just be getting up from my work to go retrieve him from his crib and he had finally fallen asleep. The good news was that this never effected his bedtime, other than him going to bed sooner for lack of nap.

Up until 6-months ago, Harrison was still regularly napping in the afternoons, even if it was only 45-minutes. 45-minutes is still a nice little break for a mom, though. And, often it was just what his body needed to re-energize (i.e., not be a grouch the rest of the afternoon until bed). He was fighting it, though, many days. We were dealing with tantrums and battles during nap time at home because he kept going into his closet to play, which resulted in making noise when little brother was napping. We tried putting things in his closet during nap and put a child safety cover on the closet door knob so Harrison wouldn’t access his toys. This led to more frustration on his part and climbing furniture to reach things on shelves. Clearly, it was now also a safety issue. We were all exhausted from “nap time” and it was hurting our relationship with Harrison.

I thought things had turned around when Harrison started going a full-day at school. Since this included nap time, I thought the other children would serve as models for Harrison. I foolishly hoped that since Harrison would see other children sleeping, he would do it, too. Sure, I expected some inconsistencies at first. He had never done a group nap time. He usually slept in a room to himself; his own room. Initially, this worked. I would pick Harrison up, and he had napped the entire 2-hours! That lasted all of a month, maybe. Then I started to notice sometimes Harrison immediately went into “fight” mode with us after school. He would be telling me what he wanted for snack, and that would lead to tears and anger because he was so tired he couldn’t get it out or he would say the wrong thing and get upset when I brought him what he didn’t actually want. I started asking the teachers if there were issues at school, and I requested that they let me know if he napped or not because he was struggling in the afternoons. If he was napping, and still behaving this way, I was even more concerned.

Well, it turned out Harrison was having a few issues in the classroom. He wasn’t necessarily behaving badly, but he was struggling to choose work, and he was easily distracted. His teacher also pointed out that he seemed to have trouble regulating his volume, even though he was hearing fine and knew what “quiet voice” meant. We noticed him wiggling in his seat a lot at meal-time, and it wasn’t because he had to use the bathroom. During nap time, they had started covering the book shelves because Harrison was apparently noticing the books and loudly labeling them and trying to get things off the shelf. They would turn on a sound machine to help with background noise from the elementary students (I’m not sure if this was for Harrison or if the already did this). The teachers would sit next to Harrison and stroke his back, and this helped him fall asleep… short-term.

I watched Harrison try to nap one day at home, and it was painful. My child was so tired, but all he did was toss and turn and get out of bed, get back in bed, reposition himself; try to fall asleep. He knew it was hard. He wanted to avoid this painful time for himself, I think. He would be yawning and rubbing his eyes, but be telling me he wasn’t tired. Occasionally, he would say, “I can’t sleep, Mommy”. I wanted to help him. I felt like his room wasn’t his anymore, though. This was his space, and we were pretty much forbidding him from accessing his things during this 1-2 hour block of time.

We decided it was time to change his room. We took the cover off his doorknob. We took the shelf out of the closet with his toys and moved it into the space outside his room. We took the books off his shelf and put them in a basket somewhere else.  Labor Day weekend, we arranged for him to stay with David’s parents, and we started painting. We had shown him the colors beforehand, and we sent pictures along the way so Harrison could see the progress.  The last thing we wanted to do was surprise him. That’s a no-no with Harrison most of the time (unless it’s, “Surprise! We have a cupcake for you!).

Basically, Harrison needs minimal distractions to be able to rest.  There are still some things we want to do with Harrison’s room, but that likely won’t included putting toys back in there any time soon. And that’s okay with us and him. Give him a few books during rest, and he’s usually golden. He comes up with plenty to do without toys.


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