March 14, 2016
When my child turned four months old, I went for the Hail Mary pass—the one that every sleep-deprived new parent dreams about: sleeping through the night!
A friend of mine had told me that the magic bullet to getting my kiddo to sleep through the entire night was to teach him to put himself to sleep—or put him into his crib wide awake and let him fall asleep on his own. No rocking, no singing, no nada. And because I was so desperate to help him sleep, I went for it.
My plan was never to let him "cry it out"—not a chance I could stomach that!—but I was willing to try to see what he thought about it and give it a shot. If he wasn't up for it, I'd pick him up, do our usual rocking to sleep thang and try again some other time.
Lucky for me, he was all for it. He rolled around for a few minutes and then fell into a deep sleep. No tears, no screams, no fussing! And just like my friend said, he slept until morning.
Miracle baby? Extreme luck? Divine intervention?
I don't know. But the sleep was glorious.
Fast forward a year and a few months, and I'm having second thoughts.
About a month ago, I had a little "experience" that ended with me taking my sleeping toddler out of his crib just to cuddle him in his rocking chair.
Since then, I've been spending more time sitting with him in that same chair before laying him down in his crib. After the pajamas are on, the diaper's been changed, the teeth have been brushed, and a book has been read, we turn out the light and cuddle.
And it's become the best part of my day.
Every night, it surprises me how restoring such a small act can be. No matter how hard the day was or how many tantrums we faced, cuddling and singing together at bedtime recharges our batteries and reminds us that, no matter what, being together is all that matters.
Sometimes, I can't help but mourn for everything I missed out on over the past year, when I just put him into his crib and walked out. If only I had lingered a little longer after reading a book, if only I had kept him in my arms a few extra minutes...
Just in this past week, if I hadn't lingered and cuddled with him, I would've missed out on that time when I finished praying for our loved ones and he took his pacifier out of his mouth and added, "Pluto!" Or when I stopped singing the Barney song thinking he probably hates it as much as I do but instead he immediately asked for more.
Now I realize why I did all this:
I let my fear of what might happen interfere with enjoying the present moment.
I kept thinking to myself:
- If he doesn't learn now, what if he never learns to sleep?
- If I rock him to sleep tonight, what if he wants that again tomorrow night?
- If I spend extra time with him tonight, what if he needs me every night?
This quote by Les Brown says it all:
“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”
You may not have a child and have no idea what this whole sleep thing is about. On the other hand, you may a kid (or a few) and understand completely. I don't really care either way.
What matters is: where are you letting fear get in the way of your dreams?
I was letting my fears of future lost sleep get in the way of soaking up my time with my son. So, I'm backpedaling on that sleep sergeant decision, and everyone is all the happier for it. I get all the cuddles, my son gets all the love, and we all get a little happy reset button at the end of a long day.
If I hadn't gone through all this, though, I couldn't possibly be grateful for the extra time I get to sit and enjoy him now.
That's the beauty in changing your mind.