I have now stopped and started this post about ten different ways. I have all kinds of ideas about sleep swirling in my head, and I’m trying to determine my bigger point. I’m not interested in backing one parenting philosophy over another. I think my point is that parenting is hard, but not so hard that you can’t win once in a while.
When Chica was a baby, I received a book about infant sleep. I admit I was really green and didn’t have any idea that a huge debate about sleep methods existed out there. I read it, followed it, loved it. The whole book, from what I remember, boiled down to creating an eat-play-sleep routine. Feed the baby, play with the baby, then put the baby down for a nap when she shows signs of sleepiness. The baby will cry, and it will be hard for you, but eventually she’ll learn to put herself to sleep. Let me just say…Chica was a rock star at all of this.
As I’ve written before, Bubba just didn’t fit that mold. Right from the beginning he wanted to be held much more than she ever did. I tried half-heartedly letting him cry it out a few times, but I always caved before he did. I think one of the main reasons I didn’t let him keep going is that I was worried it would upset or wake Chica.
So fast forward about eight months. Summer vacation is coming to a close and I literally can’t remember the last time Bubba took a nap in his own bed. All of his naps were had either in the car while running errands or in my arms in our ugly brown armchair. Our routine was play, eat, sleep. I would nurse him when he seemed tired, and then we’d just stay there. If I tried to put him in his bed, even if he was fast asleep in my arms, he would jolt awake about one half second before his body hit the crib mattress. He would scream his shrill cry of desperation, and I didn’t know what else to do besides pick him back up and lull him back to sleep…in the ugly brown armchair.
Things started off well last week when I went back to work. He actually slept through the night on the first two nights…maybe 10 p.m. until 4:30 or 5:00. Not bad for him. But things began to deteriorate as the week wore on. One evening (things are so fuzzy I can’t remember which one) I was going on two hours of trying to get him to sleep in the bed. I hate to admit this, but I started thinking, “It’s no surprise that some people end up truly hurting their kids.” I thankfully realized those are not very safe thoughts to have in my hazy, sleep deprived state. I left him wailing in his bed and came downstairs to tell Jay I was tagging out. Bubba should be thankful he has such a good daddy.
In retelling this story to some friends and experienced moms at work, they insisted that I needed to just let him cry it out on his own. I recalled for them at least one occasion where I had let him go for ninety minutes with no signs of slowing, but they rebutted with stories of babies who had taken just as long.
It’s been said that insanity is trying the same thing over and over expecting different results. You can call it what you want….determination, desperation, insanity…but I gave it another shot. Friday night I left him wailing in his crib and went downstairs to hang out with my dad and Jay. We had the TV on to drown out the screaming. About 30 minutes later a sound startled us…silence. Thirty minutes, people! My stubborn, needy, determined child had fallen asleep on his own. Miracle.
Saturday at nap time it took 20 minutes of crying for him to give up. And get this…I got TWO HOURS of uninterrupted time to work while he napped. I was able to uncover parts of my dining room that I hadn’t seen all summer. We now have a homework/schoolwork center and a place to work. Yippeeee! Last night it was less than five minutes until he was asleep. This morning, after his early morning meal, it took less than one minute. God is good.
So I’m thinking that unless you have kids this age of your own, or you’re related to me, or you’re my friend Ruth, you’ve probably stopped reading by now. And that’s fine. I do realize that my baby’s crying and sleeping habits are not the most interesting material for a blog post. But here’s what I’ve learned for those who’ve stuck with me…
- Trying the same thing over and over is not always insanity. People change and the context changes. At six, seven, and eight months it didn’t work. At nine months it did. This has reminded me, especially in the context of school, to not write off any ideas. New year, new kids, new perspective on my part…it just might work.
- I’m rolling around feelings that I can best describe as regret and guilt from the last few months. At the same time that I say, “People change,” I wonder if I could have gotten to this point a whole lot sooner if I had been more committed to helping him learn to put himself to sleep. I’m tempted to think that I wasted many, many hours in the armchair, but I know that I did learn something about slowing down in the process too.
- I can’t take credit for this one. While talking about this with Jay’s mom, she challenged me to see Bubba’s stubbornness in falling to sleep as the makings of determination instead. I like that idea.
- Finally, I am not naïve enough to think that we have solved all sleeping issues in our house. But for right now, we have four well rested people, and that is a beautiful thing.