Every evening when I’m ready for bed, I turn off the hall light and push my bedroom door open with just the right amount of pressure so it doesn’t rattle. I know that the floorboard just inside the door creaks, so I slide my weight to the left while gently shutting the door behind me. As I climb into bed, I know that it will creak exactly once under my weight, which often elicits a rustle and a sigh from the crib across the room. If I can make it past that point, I’m usually golden – at least for an hour or two.
It’s my nightly dance. A-push and a-step and a-slide, 2, 3, 4… A-creak and a-rustle and a-cry, 2, 3, 4…
At eight months, baby is a certified SHITTY sleeper. I am among the ranks of the hopelessly sleep-deprived, and I’m never sure whether to wear this as a badge honor or a mark of shame. I always say that I’ve earned my stripes with this baby. But I would also gladly return said stripes, all my medals, AND my collection of mommy merit badges for a few more hours of uninterrupted sleep.
I have tried it all: swaddling, swinging, white noise, co-sleeping, solo sleeping, belly sleeping, sleep training, begging, pleading, bribery… I could go on. I will go on, in fact, because as all of us sleep deprived parents know, we won’t stop – until THEY stop waking us up at all hours!
WHAT am I doing wrong? What could I do differently? Once upon a time, I would have gone to myself for sleep advice. My first child was one of those magical sleep-through-the-night-at-eight-weeks unicorns. Back then, I had it all figured out, but now? I’m a disaster. How is it that I’m a worse parent now than I was just two years ago?
Something else I always say is that I’m so glad this baby came second. I mean, obviously, we may not have even wanted a second if this baby had come first (for sleep reasons ONLY, of course). But also, having had the slightly smug, pat-myself-on-the-back experience of birthing a great sleeper before my crap one has taught me the important and comforting parenting lesson that IT’S NOT MY FAULT. I cannot begin to express how freeing that is.
Of course, absolving myself of responsibility for my current no-sleep state is a double-edged sword. No amount of parenting magic is going to transform her into something she’s not (I would know, I’ve tried). At the same time, this erases any claim I have to some of her finer qualities. I don’t mean to imply that parenting doesn’t matter, I’m just saying that kids are who they are, and we can’t always control everything. I think a lot of the time we overemphasize parenting style and think that if we work hard enough, read the right book, take the right advice, we can fix everything. Then we blame ourselves when it doesn’t work out. At the same time, we underemphasize our children’s unique temperaments and the importance of just giving things time. That’s just another way of saying: take a deep breath, it’s not (all) your fault.
So – a few lessons here, parents. Stay humble, and don’t ever get caught patting yourself on the back TOO much. And remember, some kids just suck at sleeping. Period. Are there some things you could do to encourage healthy sleep habits? Sure – but you can’t “perfect parent” your way out of everything (or anything?). Now get off the internet and go grab a power nap before your baby wakes up.