Q. "I wanted to let you know the results of the advice you gave about my daughter (then 21 months) who got up frequently at night and slept with us.
"You said she should be answered and soothed whenever she cried, but without coming into our bed, and that my husband should be the one who went to her, since she would expect me to nurse her.
"We followed your instructions to the letter. The first night was rough. The second easier, and the third night she immediately lay down when my husband walked in. By the end of the first week she was sleeping peacefully through the night and we were waking refreshed.
"My only regret is that I didn't write earlier.
"P.S. I just read your column from readers who recommended the "family bed." I had believed I was being a dutiful mother by letting our daughter set the pace and then responding to it.
"Consequently, she woke up often and although I don't know if she suffered from it, I sure did. In contrast, we all now sleep comfortably through the night. My husband is proud of his accomplishment in retraining our daughter; she is happy -- and I'm rested."
A. I'm glad it worked so well. Now I can sleep better too.
Q. "I'm concerned over a trip planned for December which takes my husband and me, and our two sons -- who will be 16 months and 3 years -- to San Francisco for two days, and then a 21-hour flight to Hong Kong, stopping in Anchorage and Seoul. I'm worried that they will tire of the carefully chosen toys, and that they won't sleep, or be able to stretch or move much on the plane.
"We will be traveling with two aunts and two uncles; their children, who are between 7 and 16, and a grandmother, so there will be help. Still I am responsible for my children and would appreciate any advice, consolation or sympathy you can offer. My pediatrician has suggested an antihistamine as a sedative, although it wasn't too successful before. I'll do anything -- even take a sedative myself!"
A. You'll probably feel safer if you take along a relaxant for the boys -- and so you should -- but first try whispers and lullabyes. A little loving is the best sedative in the world.
For other precautions, take a double folding stroller with you -- airports never have them when you need them -- and try to get a window seat by the bulkhead, which is the roomiest spot on the plane.
The rest is a matter of lowering your expectations for your children the way you automatically do for yourself. You know your ride will be boring and your food will be dreary, but since there is nothing you can do about it, you settle for less. If you do the same for your children, they also will settle for less. And they might as well, because less is what they're going to get. A plane just isn't a playground.
Your little boys will surely get tired of their toys and have trouble sleeping and moving around, but they won't be so frisky if you use low-key amusements and responses.
Traveling with so many relatives should be a blessing for everybody. They will be bored too -- especially the older children -- so you actually will be doing them a favor if you let them amuse your boys (or so you can tell yourself before you take a nap). They'll be glad to oblige, so long as they know you'll rescue them before anybody gets bored, grumpy, exasperated or exhausted.
You may find some more solutions for quiet activities in Traveling Games for Babies by Julie Hagstrom (A & W, $4.95), as well as three other books of practical hints for parents, each with a healthy travel section: Best Bets for Babies by Brooke McKamy Beebe (Dell, $5.95); Best Practical Parenting Tips by Vicki Lansky (Meadowbrook Press, $3.95), which reminds parents that they can't possibly do everything that's suggested, and perhaps the best of them all, Parent Tricks-of-the-Trade (Acropolis, $9.95), because it goes from birth to 10. It's written by Kathleen Touw and illustrated by LowellBarr, both Maryland mothers.
And when you're over the Pacific and the children are clowning around, look at your fellow passengers and feel relieved. People are much more tolerant when they're in a plane. They know they can't do anything about it either.
Q. Our daughter -- who is 2 years and 3 months -- recently began nursery school two mornings a week and seems to enjoy it very much.
However, the inevitable has happened: after four sessions, she has picked up an intestinal infection and a cold. Are we doing her a disservice to send her to nursery school? She seemed to need it, since she has no playmates her age in our immediate neighborhood, but it isn't absolutely necessary. However, I will be going to work next year and she will have to be in day care then.
A. The child under 3 does seem to pick up more bugs in nursery school than an older child, but her resistance should get better with age particularly if she eats a lot of citrus fruit and gets extra rest.
To a child, the joy of nursery school is greater than the colds it brings -- although the parents may not think so.