Friday, March 30, 2007


Yesterday's mail brought a letter from G's school, scolding me for the number of times she's been late this year. I know this is nothing personal -- it's a form letter that they customize and send out to everyone whose child has X number of tardies or absences. (I got the same letter when G was in kindergarten because she'd been sick several times and had missed more than 5 days of school as a result.) Still, it's annoying, both because it makes me feel like a deadbeat parent and because I'm supposed to sign the bottom of it, just below the line that reads "I have read this letter and will take steps to improve my child's attendance, blah blah" and return it to the school. It's not unlike being in school myself and getting sent home with a note for my mommy to sign because I've behaved badly, only in this case I am the mommy.

As it happens, the reason we've had so much trouble getting to school on time lately is because G's sleeping problems have grown exponentially worse over the last few months. We're not just dealing with the normal don't-wanna-go-to-bed complaining all kids do to some degree, but the vicious cycle of true insomnia, where she worries about not being able to sleep and is upset when her worries become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Lately she's been lying awake, intermittently moaning "I can't sleeeeeeeep," until almost 11 p.m. every night. This is not good. I considered the possibility that she just might not need as much sleep as kids her age are "supposed" to need, but rejected it because 1.) she says she's tired in class, 2.) she's half-comatose in the morning, leading to lateness, and 3.) she's as grumpy as a bear most of the time. On the rare nights when she does fall asleep early (because she's so exhausted she can't help it), she's like a different kid the next day -- cheerful, calm and cooperative.

I've already been through the insomnia battle with P, who spent the last several years of his life on a constantly changing parade of sleeping pills that didn't work (and in one case, made him psychotic), so I know how hard it is to combat. We've already tried a series of home remedies for G -- eating bananas, sleeping with a lavender aromatherapy pillow, listening to soothing music, backrubs -- but none of them have worked for more than one or two nights. She's not worried about anything as far as I can tell, and she doesn't have more than the normal quota of nightmares you'd expect from an 8-year-old. She just can't sleep, and I don't know why. But I do know I resent having my hand slapped by the district (not the school -- the staff have all been supportive of our situation and are just doing what's required of them) because of it. I wrote a brief note on the portion of the letter I'm supposed to return, explaining that she's having these problems and we're trying different strategies to solve them, so we'll see what happens.


FosterAbba said...

The real truth is that the reason the school cares so much about tardies and absences is because they cost the school money from their average daily attendance numbers.

In our school district, kids are worth about $5,000 a piece with perfect attendance, and even more if the kids are English learners. It's no wonder the school tried so hard to keep "Danielle" there.

Laurel said...

Childhood insomnia is awfull. I had sleep issues for years, and my sister went through a much shorter but still miserable period of difficulty sleeping. I never took pills, so I don't know about that, but music helped. I listened to a clasical peice, the same one, every night until I fell asleep. It didn't actually help with sleep, but it staved off loneliness. It might help your kid. Being a child, especially a young child, awake after everyone else in the house is asleep is one of the loneliest places one can be in, and loneliness makes it harder to sleep because of all the misery it causes. It may make it easier to have something to listen to. "Ave Maria" can be very soothing. Don't worry about the tardies. School administrators tend to fall into two catagories. One is amazing, and the other is idiotic. Unfortunately, the later variety is much more common.

Pixilated Mum said...

Ick. I know it's a form letter, but I think receiving such a thing would make me feel small.

Can you talk to the teacher about it? My friend A takes one mental health day a month with her kids --- a day for field trips, just her and the kids --- which adds up. She talked to the kids' teacher about it and her philosophy about it, and the teacher ws very understanding about it. You never know ... They might help deal with the administrative folks.

And I wish I had good advice regarding insomnia. :-( Does the pediatrician have any good advice?

Anonymous said...

My son had some sleep problems during the elementary school years that really began to affect his emotional health. Mornings were horrible for everyone involved. I began giving him herbal tea at night, lavendar pillows--all that good natural stuff. It helped a lot, but it wasn't a cure. He still couldn't function in the morning.

I'm a little ashamed to share my solution, but I admit it worked. I began waking him two hours before he had to leave to school. I would wake him with a song and a nice warm latte. Yep, coffee. Then I'd get him into the shower and let him stay as long as he liked, usually until the hot water heater was drained. After a good breakfast, he was out the door with a smile on his face.

He eventually grew out of the sleep problems, though he still takes terribly long showers. He does enjoy coffee, but doesn't drink it very often--he's more of a tea guy. I haven't noticed any lasting harm from giving him a cup of joe to cure his fuzzy head.

(I'm not going to sign this one in case there's some law against giving kids coffee. :-))