Some things I’ve learned as a parent:

1. Sometimes you just have to let them cry it out.
And its hard. Really hard. When you first bring them home, babies are helpless. The only way they can tell you they want or need something is to cry. Essentially, you become trained to jump up and run to them whenever they start to wail. (This is infinitely worse if your kid has any kind of medical condition. The ICN nurse warned me about it when we left the hospital.) And then when they’re six months old, you have to wean yourself from that way of life. Because now? Now they’re learning things.

Things like how to roll over, crawl, smile, giggle, and make your heart melt. Also? Things like how to train you. Hmmm … you mean that if I start crying, you’ll stop whatever you’re doing and will run to me to see what I need/want? And suddenly, your sweet angel is a mini Darth Vader, sending you commands from the crib. This is also when the pediatrician will tell you that you need to let them “cry it out.”

And its really freaking hard not to run to them. To not tell them its OK, you’re there. To not pick them up from their crib. Because they need to learn to fall back asleep by themselves. And you need to learn that they won’t hate you forever if they cry for five minutes while you go to the bathroom.

During this time, I really leaned on the Hubbs. Unlike me, he had/has no problem letting Sean cry. I’d practically be in tears, trying to stay in my chair and very nearly shaking and he’d put his hand on my arm to steady me: He’s OK you know. Look, he just laid down and went back to sleep. That wasn’t so hard, right?

Um, right. Tell that to the hives that just broke out on my legs.

And you know what? You’ll have grand leaps forward and steps backward. For the past week, Sean has been waking up in the middle of the night. Usually once before I go to bed and another time around 5 a.m. As someone who is now accustomed to not having him wake up in the middle of the night, I was very unhappy. And when you’re super groggy and sleep deprived, you don’t think. You just kinda blindly sleep walk and get stuff done.

So when he cried at 5 a.m. this past week? I gave him milk, laid him down, and went back to bed. BAD MOMMY.

Know why? Cause then that little Vader brain comes back: If I wake up at 5 a.m., I get MILK. Guess what he did the next night? Oh yeah. Except instead of just crying, he screamed Mama? Mama?! BA-BA! Which is Sean-speak for: Woman, give me milk. NOW!

And its 4:30 in the morning. And I’m so not awake. And so I mumble: OK baby, Momma will get you milk. And I hand it over. Again, BAD MOMMY.

And so yesterday, I took to Facebook to ask some of my mommy friends for advice. And the one that hit me in the gut was from my friend Tree, who said her son, now 4, gets up every morning at 6 a.m. or earlier (egads!) and expects to eat breakfast because she made the same mistake I was currently making. Her advice: Let him cry it out. You don’t want this to become the norm.

Amen, sister.

So last night, Sean woke up twice. The first time, around 10 p.m., I went in, laid him back down, tucked him in, and handed him the sippy cup of water we had placed on his crib in case he got thirsty. And Vader was enraged. He screamed and shrieked at me as I closed the door behind me (telling him I love him and to go back to sleep). He stood up and hollered at the door. He screamed and shrieked some more. For about five minutes. Then he plopped back down onto the mattress, picked up a binky and the sippy cup, took a drink, laid down, and went back to sleep. Hubbs held the monitor the entire time, and helped me weather it out.

Then he woke up at 5 a.m. Hubbs was fast asleep. So I turned the monitor on mute and watched, refusing to even sit up in bed. Sean cried for about three minutes, then picked up two binkies, stuck on in his mouth, laid down, and went back to sleep.

He stayed asleep until 7:15 a.m. I’d call that success.

2. You need to learn your own limits.
I’m not even close on this one, I admit it. I’m horrible at asking for help. Always have been. I’ll keep my chin up and soldier on until I randomly collapse into a puddle of tears because I’m overwhelmed and tired and can’t do it anymore.

And then Hubbs looks at me like I’m completely insane and asks: Why didn’t you say anything earlier?

Excuse me, but that’s just a way too rational question. I don’t think you realize that I’m having my Tom Cruise freak-out right now. Except that instead of jumping up and down on a couch like a hobbit on crack, I’m crying and blubbering and not making any sense. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you when the pregnant hormones decide to ease up a little bit.

I do things like decide to throw a BBQ at our house when I’m 7 months pregnant. Then get it in my head that I’m going to make macaroni salad and potato salad the night before. And when I say this to Hubbs, he cocks one eyebrow at me and says, Um, WHY? And I’m sitting there, mouth gaping open like a fish, and he continues: You’re 7 months pregnant. Just buy the macaroni and potato salads and save your energy.

And then he shakes his head to himself as if thinking, the woman who can barely haul her butt off the couch each night just so she can get into bed is planning on making time-consuming salads for tomorrow? Is she stupid or just crazy?

I think we all know the answer to that one sweetie. BOTH.


4 comments on “Learning

  1. Erin says:

    The whole cry-it-out thing is of great interest to me, because there are opposing viewpoints on it. For the record I don't have an opinion, but I lean toward letting them cry it out. However, I know some parents who say their kid will scream for HOURS. What do you do in that case?

  2. monkey momma says:

    When we first started doing it, it FELT like Sean would cry for hours. Jason actually timed it once. I'd start freaking out if Sean was seriously crying for more than 3 minutes straight. But to me? It felt like an hour. What we ended up doing is set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes. I had to wait until the timer went off, before I went into his room.

    Then, I'd try to soothe him without picking him up. Lay him down, tell him he was OK, give him a binky or a bottle, and leave again. If he was still crying, I set the timer for another 10 minutes.

    Half the time, he was just upset that he couldn't find his binky or bottle, snuggled in, and went to sleep. The other half of the time, he was mad because he wanted me to pick him up.

    But he NEVER cried for hours, or even 1 hour. I think the worst was 30 minutes. And after that one time? He never cried that long again. It was almost like he was testing us.

    The point of going into the room after 10 (or for some people, 20 minutes) is to reassure them that you are there, that they aren't alone. And you have to be calm when you do it. Exude that, “nothing is wrong, you're completely fine” vibe. You also have to be consistent. If you cave after 5 minutes every time, the kid will KNOW that all it has to do is cry for those 5 minutes before they get what they want, and then it doesn't work.

    Its similar to why doctors will tell you to put the baby down to sleep while they're sleepy but still awake. If you don't, then the kid gets used to you rocking him/her to sleep and then if they wake up in the middle of the night, guess what has to happen before they can sleep again?

    I think the bottom line is that parents have to figure out what works for them. If they don't agree with letting the kid cry it out, then … well … I'm not sure what they do, but I hope it works. This works for us. And after being consistent with it for a week, it was never that bad again.

  3. Erin says:

    Good info. I think a lot of people do get stuck in those patterns, and it takes over their lives. I can't blame them — I've never been there before, but I hope I have the will to stick to my guns.

  4. monkey momma says:

    Oh, its HARD. Nobody LIKES hearing their child cry, and I think we're all hard-wired to run in there when they do.

    I honestly don't know if I could have done it without Jason. The first time we did it, I was a complete wreck, but he helped me hold my ground and we're all better because of it.

    You gotta have the teamwork. I'm sure that when you get to that point, if you feel yourself wavering, you can turn to B (like I did to Jason) and say “Don't let me go in there for 10 minutes.” And he'll hold you to it. (And hold your hand the entire time.)

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