A big differences I have seen between Australians and Japanese people is their perspective on sleeping. You can see this difference in high school. High school students in Japan are told that they only need five hours sleep each night. They are told that if they are getting more than five hours sleep a night, then they are not studying hard enough. This may make an Australian high school student wonder “How much time do they have to study each night?” That is because Australian high school students finish school between 3 and 4 pm. Japanese high school students don’t get home until around 7.30pm. That gives them an hour to eat dinner, an hour to have a bath, an hour to relax and then two or three hours to study.
Perhaps one day I’ll write a thesis on this but not today. Today it’s just some observations on differences I’ve noticed between the two countries.
Recently we had our second baby. She is two months old. As you’d expect from a baby this age she tends to cry a lot between 9pm and 12pm. She then wakes up every three hours crying. My wife and I started doing research on what we could do to help our baby settle. The results were quite surprising. Almost all of the English sites on the topic said the same thing. Just let them cry. The Japanese sites though were stressing the importance of giving the baby comfort and be patient until they settle. All sites both in Japanese and English said this is just a phase and in the third and fourth month the baby will adjust to day night patterns. Either way the baby will settle after a month so which is better? For us letting the baby cry is impossible. This kind of response is only possible if you have a wide open spaces perspective. In Australia the baby has it’s own room away from yours. You can’t hear the kid cry anyway unless you set up a two way radio or a video. In Japan the baby is right there with you. I couldn’t ignore the baby’s cry if I wanted to. The other thing about this though is that I don’t want to ignore the baby’s cry. I want to comfort the baby and honestly I think that’s important. The baby in its first few months is only just adjusting to the world. I don’t need to lay down the law with it tell it this is what life is. I want the baby to know that it’s surrounded by love and happiness. If that means occasionally getting up and walking back and forward in my kitchen rocking her back to sleep I’m OK with it.
As hinted at we sleep in the same room as both our babies. Well one is two years old but she still wants to be babied sometimes so I call her our baby. When we had our first one everyone from doctors and midwives to parents and friends said ‘Don’t sleep on the same bed as your baby, you’ll crush them.’ Honestly I don’t see how this is possible but a little research revealed that this has happened. In Japan the opposite is the case. Doctors, midwives, parents and friends all recommend sharing the bed with your babies to better cater to their needs at night. Two years in and neither my wife and i have ever come close to rolling over onto one of our kids. That said though if you aren’t so sure about your ability to wake up don’t try it or test yourself by putting a doll in your bed and see if you wake up after rolling onto it. Interestingly enough it isn’t so rare to people to keep on sleeping in the same room. Our neighbours all sleep in the same room and their kids are seventeen and twenty. I don’t think we’ll be doing the same.
Another interesting difference between the two is the question of teething. In both countries there isn’t even a question. In Australia teething is an accepted theory for why babies cry. All sorts of goods can be purchased to combat this discomfort. There is no such theory in Japan. People I’ve mentioned it to look at me as if I’m totally crazy. They ask me ‘Why would teeth coming in make them cry?’ As far as I can tell I’m going to agree with Japan. Why would it be a problem? I don’t remember my teeth coming in ever hurting. I also don’t remember losing my teeth ever hurting either except when they were being pulled out by the dentist. A dentist pulled four of my teeth out believing it would stop my teeth from being so crooked. Shakes head. Those poor four teeth, you aren’t forgotten. The point is that my wife and I haven’t done anything in regards to teething neither has a whole nation. Japan is probably not the only one either. Perhaps there’s another thesis here. Whether or not teething is a thing or just made up to make parents feel better. I suspect it’s the later.
There are probably more differences. I suspect I’m just scratching the surface. I’ll keep a log of it and perhaps one day there’ll be a great big book about it. I think I’ll call it How to make an Australian or a Japanese person. Or perhaps something simpler.
This is probably more for myself then anything else. A mantra to stay in control and get it done.
I’ve been kicking this idea around in my head for a while. When your a parent you get tired. Real tired. It comes with the territory. This article is about how you act when you’re tired. So far I’ve spotted three different reactions when tired. I’m sure there are more.
The first reaction I’m going to call explosive. This is the one where as long as everything is going well and sweet you are your usual self. As soon as something goes wrong though, and in his state something goes wrong has a very broad spectrum, you explode. This reaction is not a good way to react especially when you are around children. The reason is simple. Up until the breaking point your child was probably showing model behaviour. One thing goes wrong and the entire night is out. If this is a reaction that you know you go to regularly when tired I strongly suggest you become aware of when you are feeling that pressure build and try and change the situation. Perhaps go out for a quick walk.
The second reaction I’m going to call too tired to care. This one you just couldn’t be stuffed doing anything. Everything seems too much hassle. The kids are going berserk and you’re just happy they are playing by themselves and giving you a chance to drink your tea. It’s true that you want your child to be playing by themselves. It’s something they need to learn. If they are misbehaving though and you are too tired to care this can establish a dangerous precedent. I would consider this reaction worse than the previous one. The first one at least establishes boundaries. It’s not an ideal way to establish them but they are there. The too tired to care reaction lets the kids go wild and that they will do. Have this reaction long enough and the situation is going to get much worse. You’ll be fighting an uphill battle to gain control. Basically this too tired to care reaction will beget more tiredness. If this is your go to reaction when you’re tired be aware that you could be teaching your kids they can do whatever they want.
The third reaction I’m going to call getting it done. This is the one where you make a quick list of everything you need to get done before you can rest. When it comes to parenting the list is something like; play with kid, feed kid, give kid bath, read books to kid, get kid to clean teeth, put kid to sleep, clean the dishes, wash the clothes, clean your own teeth and go to bed. You go through the steps that you’ve laid out in your head and you get it done. Each step may take longer than you thought but you’ve got a plan and your body is giving you what you need to do it. This reaction is ideal. There’s minimum stress and because you’ve got a plan if you keep it up every night you’ll make yourself a routine. Keep on egging yourself. Tell yourself, just gotta do it and then I can rest. Next thing you know you and your kid are asleep.
Of course it’s not as simple as saying there are three different reactions. Often the three go hand in hand in one night. You’ll be going along with your night time routine and your kids wants to watch TV instead of going through your carefully laid out plan. Suddenly your get it done persona slips and your explosive persona comes forward. Or perhaps you just don’t care this night and you let your kid watch TV. Suddenly it’s way past bed time and you’re still only on step two of the list. To conclude when you’re tired it’s hard to make sound judgement calls. Stay in control, stick to a routine and you and your kid can get to sleep early. Slip and your probably going to get tireder.
A blog about getting a baby to sleep
In my circle of friends with babies it’s generally the dad’s job to get the baby to sleep at night. The first month or so was reasonably easy. We watched Harvey Karp’s video the happiest kid on the block. I won’t go into detail because that’s his thing not my thing. If you’re about to have a baby you should watch it. He has great advice for getting a baby to sleep. We found though that it only lasted for about two months then the techniques stopped working. Maybe you’ll be lucky and it’ll last longer.
With our techniques outdated what were we to do? Mum, the baby’s not my mum, had no trouble getting her to sleep. Onto the breast and the baby was asleep in no time. There were a couple of flaws with this technique though. First, mum was the only one that could get her to sleep. Baby didn’t want anything to do with me when it came to bed time. Second, mum couldn’t do anything after she’d put baby to bed. Third, it was making baby very reliant on breast milk as a means of sleeping and would have trouble if she couldn’t have any. It wasn’t ideal.
After a semi frustrating month of trying things out I developed the voice. I found that while calming the baby off to sleep I had to be calm myself. I had to rise above the wails of my baby and reach an inner peace. Not easy when your baby is crying. The result; I would speak about the importance of sleeping and why humans needed to sleep in a calm and logic way. I could probably be talking about anything the key here is the slow constant rhythmic way of speaking. Once I got into the rhythm of it I would relax which in turn made my voice relaxed as well as slow, constant and rhythmic.
For any dads out there trying to get a baby to sleep I recommend developing your own calm voice. The key here is to never lose your cool in the face of a crying baby. Pat her or him and just talk away don’t worry about if the baby can hear your voice over the sound of his or her crying. Just keep it constant slow and calm and you should be right. Practice it on your friends. If they start getting sleepy then you’ve got the voice.
- Your Baby’s Snooze Time Routine (nappytimes.wordpress.com)
- Dr Harvey Karp’s ‘Happiest Baby’ technique: Calming method that stormed the U.S. comes to the UK (dailymail.co.uk)
- Happiest baby on the block (happiestbaby.com)