During your first round of nap protests, I had several mothers recommend the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. “It’s so helpful,” they said. “It really encouraged me understand my baby’s sleep needs,” they told me. Consequently, I bought the book and plowed through it. Then I attempted to apply the advice given in the book to you.
You didn’t go for it, leaving me a hysterical mess because the book also assured me that if you didn’t get the “right” sleep, you would grow up to be a delinquent idiot.
Your own sleep cycle soon emerged: For several days you would take extremely long naps and go to bed well, then several days you would only nap for 30 minutes at a time and refuse to fall asleep at night. Each time you entered the anti-sleep phase there would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth because I was sure that your refusal to nap was a reflection of my terrible mothering.
At any rate, last week I thought we turned a corner with this whole sleep thing. For three days you went to bed at 7:00 p.m. and you took a good morning nap and a good afternoon nap–just like the book said you should. Then, without warning, you started waking up at 5:30 a.m. and taking 30 minute naps–just like the book said you shouldn’t. Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
After the second day of this, I talked to your grandmother. I bemoaned the fact that you just wouldn’t take a decent nap and despite you continuing your 7 p.m. bedtime, you were insistent on waking up before 6 a.m. “That sounds reasonable to me,” your grandmother said.
“But that isn’t what the book said she should be doing,” I explained.
“Oh, throw that stupid book away. I’ve always told you that you gave up your morning nap when you were only a few months older than Babykins!” exclaimed your grandmother.
It was true, one of your grandmother’s favorite stories of my infancy is that I was a terrible napper and refused to take a morning nap well before I was a year old. Originally I thought this story was amusing, now that you’re here, Babykins, I realize the horrible reality of a baby who won’t take a nap. Oh, why did I put your grandmother through that?
Oh, right, because I was a baby.
However, it is a comfort to know I was a terrible napper and I didn’t grow up to be a delinquent moron. So there’s hope for you.
At any rate, perhaps 26 years from now you’ll have a baby of your own who won’t sleep. And I’ll tell you when you lament about bad naps that you would often only take 30 minute naps that made me wail and gnash my teeth. But I’ll do so with fondness and laughter.
P.S.–After I had this conversation with your grandmother, you took a 3 hour nap that afternoon. Go figure.
If you ever want to spark a debate among pastor’s wives with young children, just mention attending midweek services during Advent and Lent. These services typically start around 7 p.m. You know, right when parents are usually getting their children ready for bed. As hard as it is child-wrangling on Sunday mornings, it’s even harder fighting with exhausted children in the evening.
There are two groups of pastor’s wives when it comes to evening service attendance. First, there are those who diligently go to midweek services, no matter what age their children are. They argue that the only way children will learn to appreciate these midweek services is by taking them. Likewise, they state that it’s difficult for their husbands to ask other members to attend midweek services if his own family isn’t attending.
The other group are those who stay home for the evening services. They argue that the battle in the pew is not worth fighting when the mother will spend most–if not all–of the service quieting an increasingly fussy child. They make attending Sunday morning service the priority and do the best they can the rest of the week. The best they can often doesn’t involve taking their children to church after their bedtime.
Guess which group I fall under? Hint: I started writing this post at 7:30 p.m. on Ash Wednesday.
Yes, I stayed home with Babykins. I initially did try to take her to midweek services. We went to a few Advent services that ended in tears. Christmas Eve service was a disaster involving a completely inconsolable Babykins with no escape plan. I didn’t want to go through that frustrating and humiliating ordeal again. I told my husband I would not be attending Lent services.
However, I did intend to try to attend Ash Wednesday service since it’s one of the bigger services of the year. But this week Babykins finally started going to bed earlier and I didn’t want to ruin our progress (and yes, I really do believe having her out late one night would set back her sleep progress).
Sure, I feel guilty for putting sleep before hearing God’s Word. Of course, I would have also felt guilty if she had a meltdown at church from being overtired. Lose, Lose.
At any rate, she fell asleep at 6:30. Church would have been rough.
I know this is a favorite topic of mommy blogs everywhere. Post after post have been written about young mothers’ abhorrence of being told to “treasure every moment”. Why is this?
Because it’s freakin’ annoying to be told that you should love every moment of motherhood. Because it’s a lot of pressure to feel like your heart should be overflowing with happiness during every tedious task. And mostly because the people telling you to “treasure every moment” are the ones who are least likely to know your parenting struggles.
Last Sunday morning provided a fine sample of moments to “treasure”. The 2 a.m. feeding for Babykins, which wouldn’t have been bothersome except that it was followed by a 3:30 a.m feeding and a 6:15 a.m. wake up.
The battle to get ready for church with an overtired Babykins. The half-mile walk to church over icy roads in a desperate (but ultimately futile) attempt to get Babykins to sleep before church.
The failed attempt to discreetly feed Babykins in the Sunday school area. The poop on my hands when I changed the blowout diaper. The wrestling match to get Babykins in a clean outfit because the poop on my hands got on her.
The mad dash to leave after service before Babykins had a meltdown. The half-mile trek back home over icy roads in which Babykins finally fell asleep.
Granted, last Sunday morning was a particularly difficult one for Babykins and me. But are those the moments I’m really meant to treasure? Am I a bad mother for not enjoying Sunday morning with my baby?
For once, I’m not racked with self-doubt by these questions. I realize the “treasure every moment” mantra is said with nostalgia and the expectation to love every second of motherhood is foolish.
There are many moments that I treasure with Babykins. I treasure the moment when my husband excitedly told me “Girl!” as he saw Babykins for the first time. I treasure her smile that she readily gives me but has to be coaxed to give strangers. I treasure having her by my bedside at night (when she’s peacefully sleeping, of course). I treasure the snuggles. I treasure her bright eyes and long fingers. I treasure many things.
But I don’t treasure everything. Like any vocation, there are crappy moments (figuratively and literally) and it’s a ridiculous sentiment to treasure every moment.
But those precious, treasure-worthy moments make the gut-wrenching, frustrating moments worth it.
There’s a saying about being a mother and father, “I thought I knew everything about parenting. Then I became one.” While I won’t admit to thinking I knew everything about raising a child, there are certainly some preconceived notions that Babykins has shattered.
One of these notions was that my husband and I would both be able to get her to sleep. I heard women talk about how their babies wouldn’t go to sleep unless they did it. “Ha,” I thought to myself, “My husband and I will both be able to put our children to bed. We won’t train them to only rely on Mommy!”
Initially, we shared sleep duty. Sometimes my husband would get Babykins to sleep, sometimes I would do it. She didn’t seem to care who was doing it as long as her belly was full. It worked well.
At least it worked well until two weeks ago. Suddenly Babykins started fussing every time my husband tried to put her down for a nap. The fussing would increase to crying. He nothing he did soothed her. I would take over and she would immediately settle. Then she started doing the same thing at bedtime. We tried again and again to have my husband get her to sleep, but each time she fussed and cried until I took over.
The befuddling part of all this is how I get Babykins to sleep. I don’t rock her. I don’t nurse her (although she has started to fall asleep while nursing this past week). I sit by her swing or Pack ‘n Play putting her pacifier back in her mouth whenever it falls out.
Obviously my husband is perfectly capable of this task. I have no idea why she only wants me to sit by her side.
Babies are crazy.