Parenting is so challenging because every child presents different challenges

If he only looked like this all night long

Parenting is not like math, unfortunately for those of us who enjoy formulas.  No, it’s definitely more like poetry or impressionistic painting.  Sometimes you get it, sometimes it makes no sense; sometimes up close, in the words of Cher from “Clueless,” it’s just a big old mess.

Before having Eliza, I read the book “Baby Wise” for advice on getting her to sleep well.  I decided that if I followed its principles, it would be nearly impossible to have a child who didn’t sleep well.  Wouldn’t you know, Eliza was sleeping 8 hours through the night consistently by 11 weeks.  (Looking back, I believe God was just being gracious because of the injury she caused when she exploded out of me on the third suction attempt, causing a fourth degree tear.)  She slept 12 hours a night from about 5 months on and has never looked back (except of course for her two-month-long battle with night terrors from July to September last year that I am still trying to forget and never blogged about because, as I just said, I don’t want to remember it).

Throughout Eliza’s infancy, I smugly and silently scoffed in my head at the moms who told me, “Well, Johnny’s always been a great sleeper, but Emily’s my one who still wants to get up several times a night.”  I thought it must be the parents who screwed up, got lazy, or didn’t follow through.  I looked forward to following the same formula with Zach and – POOF! – sleeping well again by the time he was three-months-old.

I was very, very wrong to make such an assumption.  Zach turned one a couple of weeks ago and he is still not consistently sleeping through the night.  All along as I’ve tried to train him to sleep and then found myself having entire two-sided debates in my head about the benefits and drawbacks of going into his room, I’ve thought, “At least by the time he’s one this won’t happen anymore unless he’s sick or teething.”  (The day I learn not to make assumptions about what should and should not happen developmentally for my kids on my self-determined time line will be very liberating indeed.)

The thing is, I followed the “Baby Wise” formula again.  I couldn’t be as rigid and calculated about it because I had another toddler to manage, but I followed it.  The problem is two-fold: he is a second child and he is a different child.  It was a whole lot easier to let Eliza cry it out to get herself to go to sleep because there wasn’t another child in the house she could wake.  Not only that, but for her, “crying it out” meant letting her fuss for a few minutes and then enjoying the silence.  For Zach, it turns out that crying it out is an inexorable affair that causes me to wonder, “If I put him outside in the backyard and go back to sleep, will the neighbors be able to hear him?  And if they call the police, will I have broken any laws?”  These eternal screaming fits eventually and inevitably wake Eliza, and then we have two inconsolable babies with which to deal.

I’ve tried two or three times (I can’t remember exactly because sleep deprivation inhibits memory retention) to let him cry it out for days on-end.  I also follow the rules about not picking him up when he cries.  If I go into his room, it’s just to rub his back for a few seconds and replace his pacifier.  He will randomly sleep through the night without a peep, as he did two nights ago.  Then he’ll have a night like last night when he screamed for more than an hour.  It just doesn’t make sense.

So if you are a mother out there and you have figured out the formula for getting a child like Zach to be able to self soothe when he wakes, I’m all ears for suggestions.  Just don’t expect me to be able to do it unless it’s X + Y = blissful sleep.


6 thoughts on “Parenting is so challenging because every child presents different challenges

  1. Hey Christine,
    The book 12 hours by 12 weeks worked for Jack maybe it will also be helpful for Zachary! Hope you’re able to sleep soon!!!

  2. Girl this has been my life for the last 16 months. Your second kid is my living in a hotel room and not being able to let her cry it out too much for fear of waking the whole hotel. And in addition B is a really light sleeper so she wakes whenever she hears anything (with very few exceptions) causing more middle of the night wake ups. It’s exhausting. I have no answers, because she still wakes several times a night, but here is what we’ve tried to get it to be less often…
    -When we stopped nursing she started sleeping much, much longer.
    -I was very consistent to make sure that I weaned her off of comfort during the night slowly and stuck to it. Now I normally just tell her to put her head back down and that its “night night time” and most of the time she does after a couple minutes of fussing (not crying or screaming) about it.
    -The warmer her room is the better she sleeps. If she can be warm enough that she doesn’t need a blanket then she is less likely to lose her blankie in the blanket and is more likely to put herself back to sleep.
    -This may be unique to me, but I’ve had to convince my husband to leave her be at night. He is a much lighter sleeper then me (much like B) and is much more inclined to get her in the night then I am and therefore often feeds into her night time wake ups. Sometimes he even tells me that she woke up a lot more then I heard. This ones a work in progress lol.
    -Routine and doing naps and the night time stuff exactly the same helps her a lot, but we haven’t been able to have too much of that leading to most of her wake ups right now.
    -And the thing that had the most success of anything I’ve tried is to put her to sleep an hour earlier. When we did this she went from waking up numerous times a night to maybe once and she went from sleeping 11 hours at the most to finally sleeping 12. And having another hour to myself at night before bed has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself as a mom!

    Hope that helps! I will be checking back to see what other people are saying!

    1. Hi Dana! So I totally feel your pain, especially because I know B was such a “charmer” on her way into the world. 😉 It’s funny you mention Keith, because Greg almost always makes Zach a bottle in case that’s why he’s upset. Generally speaking, he won’t take it and doesn’t want it, but sometimes he will – and I’m sure that creates more problems than it fixes. Sticking to our night-time routine definitely helps as well. Part of our issue is we spent the past month moving from place to place while traveling (like you). From December 6th to January 6th, we slept in 8 different places – and sometimes we were uprooting between places. I will say that we have now slept four nights in a row at home, and though the first night prompted the above blog, the past three nights he hasn’t made a peep for 11-12 hours. I really hope this is the beginning of better sleep. That is, of course, until he cuts more teeth or gets sick. We’re due for one or the other any day now. =(

      1. Isn’t it always something that messes with their sleeping! I’ve given up on any good sleep from here on out because it happens less and less for whatever reason. Now I rely on caffeine 🙂

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