The “big deals” of child rearing that we dread don’t always turn out to be dreadful

Killing two birds with one stone is awesome, especially when it relates to kids.  Often, it seems like forces are working against you as a parent.  Some days nothing goes as you wish, you feel like a failure and Murphy’s Law kicks your butt.  But sometimes, you get pleasantly surprised.

I’ve been dreading weaning Zach from his pacifier.  Of course I read somewhere that kids shouldn’t need them or use them past the age of 1, so as Zach is 13+ months, I already feel like a failure in this area.  (We type-A folks put a lot of pressure on ourselves.)  Side note: I know plenty of two- and three-year-olds who still use them, and they seem to be doing just fine, but that just isn’t for me, like changing two- and three-year-old poop diapers isn’t for me.  (See all my posts about potty training Eliza at 23-months.)

So, Zach has used the pacifier to sleep since he was a newborn, and he just started sleeping 12-hour nights consistently a few weeks ago.  So the idea of weaning him from using it was looming over me like a storm cloud.  I didn’t want to lose my newfound seven straight-hours-of-sleep nights that have made me feel like a new woman.

Welcome to real life, where children younger than five get an average of seven infections a year and a bunch of viral colds on top of that.  A week ago Zach started hacking so badly it made him throw up.  For the first several nights of the sinus infection that has now infiltrated us all, I gave him his pacifier but he kept spitting it out.  He could not breathe with it in.  And finally, I just stopped giving it to him at all on Tuesday.  He has been pacifier-free since then.  Granted, he’s not sleeping great anyway because he’s sick, but I’m not planning on giving it back to him.  In the quest to get him well, I’m also fixing his pacifier addiction.  I was anticipating a difficult, drawn-out process, but this illness has forced me to have more sleepless nights, and presented the perfect opportunity to wean him because he can’t use it anyway.

I love it when things like this happen as a parent.  You can keep changing phases and stages so quickly that all you do is dread the next big thing.  The problem is you forget to remember all the progress you’ve made and all the things that end up not being a big deal.  It’s amazing that Eliza has mastered so many skills that seemed so onerous when they were on the horizon, such as feeding herself and using the bathroom by herself.

So with Zach, it’s amazing that he’s mastered things like smiling, feeding himself finger foods and crawling.  I don’t want to forget to be thankful that we’ve passed through these phases joyfully.

Now, if only there were a way illness could get him to walk.  Oh well.  One thing at a time.  It’s pretty hard to kill three birds with one stone.

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.


The illusion of sleep

Last night was the first night since June 26th that I slept for 7 straight hours without moving.  Well, perhaps I moved, but you know what I mean.  (Incidentally, don’t ever expect to get good sleep on your first trip away from your kids if you’re at a college reunion, sharing a house with 16 other people.)

I didn’t get up to pee.  Nor did I get up to change Zach’s diaper, put a pacifier in his fussing mouth, or rub his back and make sure he had his blankies just how he likes them.  I didn’t spend time rocking or holding him to get him to go back to sleep.  I didn’t spend 2 hours dealing with one of Eliza’s night terrors that begins with screaming cries of “MOMMY COME!”  And I didn’t have to take her to the bathroom (because now that she uses the potty, she doesn’t ever want to use a diaper).

Nope, last night I slept like a baby.  (What a laughable phrase.)  And it got me thinking about sleep in general.  I find myself continuously hoping my sleep life will revert to what it was at a certain phase in my life.  It’s like how you always look back and wish you could just get back to your college weight once you’re out, but when you were in college, instead of appreciating how great you looked then, you wished you weighed what you did in high school.

For example, the best, most recent phase of sleep I had was between when Eliza was 4-months-old, when she was sleeping through the night and my boobs finally let me do the same, and when she was 8-months-old, when I got pregnant and immediately began having to get up at least once to pee.  I have not slept well since then.  And I thought at this point, with Zach being 7-months-old, that I would be in sleep heaven.  But on any night that Zach seems to make it all the way through, Eliza seems to wake.  And on the nights she sleeps well, Zach inevitably wakes.  Of course, there are the nights when one of them is so loud it wakes the other up as well.  That’s even more fun.

What I’m coming to realize is that just like I will never weigh what I weighed in high school or college again, I will never sleep like I did in those years again either.  I am realizing that I’m chasing a pipe dream of sleep.  Here’s how I know: I might not remember waking my mom as an infant or a toddler.  But I remember being 5- or 6-years-old and being scared of the leaves on our tree out my window that looked like the profile of a scary old man.  I remember going to get her several nights, and her lying in my bed with me to help me get to sleep.  I also remember when I was a teenager and my brother and I would come in from being out, and I would hear her finally relax enough to sleep tightly, knowing we were home.  And now, as a grandma, she’s here visiting, and she’s up when I’m up, offering to help so I can get some sleep.

It makes me realize that by the time I’m done raising kids who keep me awake, I STILL won’t be well rested because I will have to get up to pee (like when I was pregnant), or I’ll have back pain, or Greg will be snoring much more loudly.  Take your pick and fill in the blank.

So, I’m on a new mission.  I complain out loud and in my head – a lot – about not getting enough sleep.  Instead of letting it get to me, I’m going to be glad that once a month, I seem to get 7 straight hours of blissful wake-up-in-the-same-position-I-was-in-when-I-went-to-bed sleep.  And perhaps there will be more and more of those nights.  At least until Eliza starts dating.  Which won’t be for a long, long time.