Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sleep Wars

When Ezra's mom wakes in the night to tend the baby, he wakes and dashes into her spot on the bed. When Mom comes back she picks him up and carries him back to his bed. Regardless of the effort, she still finds him sleeping on the floor when she gets up the second time in the night to feed the baby. Sigh. 

Getting children to sleep, to sleep through the night, to sleep in their own beds...is the most exhausting, challenging part of childrearing.

How I remember--- finally, after rocking a child, or bouncing the child while singing One Tin Soldier with a long crescendo to silence, her eyes would shut. With the precision of carrying a bomb that might explode from sudden movement, I slowly lowered the child into the crib. I slipped my arms from under her body one millimeter at a time. I crouched to the ground inch by inch and hid next to the crib rails--just in case the child's eyes might pop open. Fearful still, I crawled, my movements as smooth, slow, and timely as a jaguar moving on its prey, towards the door.

When it's clear I've escaped, only then do I stand upright and tip toe down the hall.

Then comes sleep training. When the pediatrician asks, "Is she sleeping through the night yet?"

He already knows, that trickster. He can see it in the bags under our eyes, in the way we limp into his office, in the way our eyelids almost shut during his lecture concerning the child's age and how she is old enough to be sleeping through the night, and no longer in need of nightly sustenance or parental reassurance.

He may hand you a pamphlet or suggest a book. He may even go through the rigors of sleep training right before your eyes, because it is after all, very simple.

"The first night your child wakes, you just go in and pat the child's back, soothe her with a short presence and walk out. Do not speak. DO NOT pick the child up. The second night repeat the first actions. By the third night, the child may wake up for a minute and cry, but by now, the child has learned to soothe herself back to sleep.

As a young desperate-for-sleep mother, you believe the doctor. A 20 x 16 canvas image of his grown children snuggled at the sides of him and his energetic looking wife, hangs in the hallway. He did it. The proof is in the color coordinated smiles and clothing colors of his handsome, healthy children and the smiling proud parents sitting with a backdrop of pastoral grass and pine trees.

But in his two minute tutorial and picture lined office hallways, he never mentioned the child crying for three hours straight...or trying to outlast, outlive, the small patch of patience fast-draining from the deep recesses of the feel-good part of a parent's brain.

It is then that sleep wars has a new battlefield: the parent's bedroom.

"It's your turn."

"It's yours."

"I'm just going to pick her up and bring her into our bed."

"If you do, we've lost all ground gained in last night's two hour battle."

"I'm getting a hotel if this doesn't end."

It does end.

The next sleep war begins.

High school, first period math. 7:30 a.m.

6:00 a.m summer tennis lessons to beat the heat, that the child was so enthusiastic about when you wrote the check for $200.

It does end.

Finally, the children are raised. Somehow, on their own, they managed to graduate from college, hold a job, marry a very decent man or woman...then have children of their own....

Sleep wars begin again.