It's no secret that our son has sleep problems. I had (hah! okay, so HAVE) severe sleep issues, and he does too.
We followed all the rules. Feed him early, give him a pre-bed snack. Bathing (not generally a relaxing experience for anyone around here). Warm "milk" (for us, it'd be rice or almond milk, as he's got casein and soy allergies). Making the whole house quiet before bed. Reading stories. Withholding nap time. Waking him early. Tiring him out.
Generally, he'll go to bed around 1-2am without assistance. Unless we have a long, dark car ride (for me these days with severe complex sleep apnea, these are really dangerous to do, so that's not happening – my sleep doctor's directives currently state that I should not be driving late at night) he'll usually be up and active the whole time. I often joke that the US could be independent of fossil fuels if we find a way to tap into his energy.
So after discussions with his doctor, we use an as-needed dose of Melatonin at night (we call them 'Magic Gummies', as they are in gummy form, like his vitamins), for about a year and a half now. I also use it periodically – while I have little trouble falling asleep at the wheel, I have problems falling asleep at night – in part because I use so much caffeine to stay awake and effective during the day. Yeah, in my case it's a self destructive loop, and I'm seeking medical intervention for my complex sleep apnea (3rd sleep study tomorrow, maybe it'll be the one where we find the right machine and settings for me!). But when I was a child, I had more or less identical sleep issues, so it's not JUST the caffeine.
Anyway, so it works great, and his teacher, aide and therapists can tell when he's been using it, and when we've had to get him to sleep naturally. But that doesn't stop people from judging us for using it. People give us looks of disapproval, or ask stuff like 'do you really have to drug your kid?' or *insert anecdote about someone else here*, then some judgmental comment about drugging him. Not just acquaintances, and friends, but family. It sucks, and it's stupid, and hurtful.
We've always treated it as a privilege, not some sort of punitive consequence. In fact, if he's been 'bad', we make him do something good to redeem himself in order to get one – like pick up a toy, or get mommy a glass of water, etc. They don't have a negative stigma attached here. We've never overtly told him what they're for, but that they're a special treat for 'good boys' on 'special nights'. We've gone out of our way to avoid saying what they're for, lest he protest taking them because he wants to stay up and play.
Lately he's been kind of warily asking for them proactively. I told Becky I suspect he knows what they are for and recognizes his need for one. She was skeptical, but tonight I asked him offhand – 'do you know what the magic gummies are for?'.
He says 'they help go night night'.
Damn right they do, kid.
My kid knows he needs help to fall asleep, and actively seeks it. I couldn't think of a more powerfully obvious statement of self advocacy than that.
So how do I feel about drugging my kid? I feel great, because I know I'm helping him satisfy a basic human need that he is now directly articulating his need for. I feel like our choice to give him this powerful tool to help him sleep has helped him behaviorally, educationally, and has soothed him when he was tired, sore and weary. And that our feelings that he would approve of the use of them if he understood what they were for have been validated.
I'd be off to take a magic gummy myself, but due to my upcoming sleep study (I'll have a whole post on this mess soon, once it's completely dealt with, because boy, it's been a long, strange ride) I'm not supposed to be doing that, so I'll go lie down and hope sleep comes quickly. Goodnight, all!