Wednesday, April 19, 2006

the dawning of a new age

a couple of weeks ago, stephen came home from seeing sarah and perry and related to me a story that sarah had told him: one of wile's many girlfriends, nola, goes to daycare. and at this daycare, they ferberized her—without asking/telling her parents first! my initial reaction to this was mild shock and horror—the whole cry-it-out/don't-cry-it-out debate inspires such strong feelings from both sides, i felt like this was a fairly insane in the membrane thing for this daycare to do. how could they be sure that the parents would completely freak out? luckily, nola's m+d, terra and derek, didn't. but how could they have known that? i could totally see some high-strung mother suing over somthing like this. and though i wouldn't have gone so far as to involve the courts if it had been my baby, i thought that i would have been pretty mad that they took that liberty.

but when i said to stephen "oh my god, are they freaked out?", he said that no, they were psyched—post-daycare-ferberization, nola would go to bed in her crib, cry for 5 minutes, sleep for 4 hours, wake up, cry for 5 minutes, and go back to sleep for another 4 hours. i could understand being happy about that, especially considering our whole sordid sleeping history. but i still felt like it was a betrayl of trust and would make me a little wary of keeping my kid in that daycare, like, what else would they do without asking? not that they would dangle her out a window or anything, but would they would make other choices that went against my whole parenting mojo?

yes, you possibly could say i was up on a little bit of a high horse. and last week, you could say that that horse was knocked right out from under me and i landed like a sacka patatoes flat on my ass.

last thursday we went to a friend's apartment for passover seder and left the little man with neesha, a sitter who has stayed with him once before. the last time (first time) she sat with him, we were going out to a party that started around 9, so she came over early so that wile could meet her, then she did bath and pajamas with us, then i put the monkey to bed. when we got home around 12:30, she was upstairs with him and he was in full freak-out mode, not interested in going back to sleep at all, and she seemed a little rattled. but when i called her to ask if she could sit last thursday, she didn't shreik and hang up the phone or pretend that i had the wrong number, so i figured all would be well. she came over around 6, i ran down bedtime routine with her (into pajamas, say goodnight to all the things in his room, walk/rock him till he's pretty much asleep, might need to lay down with him if he won't fall asleep), and i left at 6:15 to the expected crying ("ma-MA? ma-MA?").

we got home at around midnight, and neesha was in the living room. i asked if he'd been up at all, and she said that she'd been downstatirs since 8:30. great! fantastic! i asked how it went overall, and she said "well, i let him cry a little bit." heh? "when?" i asked, "you mean when i left, or....?" "no, when i put him down for bed." oh! oh really! "yeah," she said, "bath went well, but then he started to whimper and call for you when we were getting in to pajamas, so i just put him in his bed, said good night, and left the room. he cried for 5 minutes then went to sleep. he whimpered for a few minutes after that, but has been asleep since then."

my thoughts as she was telling me this story were:
1) that takes some freaking cojones to blatently disregard the parent's instructions re: bedtime, especially when it's only your second time sitting for the kid.
2) if he had cried for longer than 5 minutes, how long would she have let him cry?
3) is she telling me the truth? did he really only cry for 5 minutes?

but what came out of my mouth was just "oh. hmm. okay." because i wasn't sure how i felt about it, mostly because i was tired and had had a few glasses of wine at seder. and really, even if i was mad/upset/suspicious, what could i have done then and there? yelled at her? (oh hell no, that might have woken up the baby.) i needed to think about it, and if i decided that it was too big a breach of trust, i just wouldn't ever call her to sit for us again.

so stephen left to drive her home, i watched a little sportscenter and then went to bed with the baby monitor.

i woke up to crying through the monitor at 4:30. that's eight hours. i let him cry for a couple minutes, but when it started to escalate rather than die down, i went in, nursed him, and he went back to sleep and slept till 7:30. it was like i'd always dreamed it could be.

but of course, after the way he's slept for the first 20 months of his life, i wasn't convinced that it wasn't a fluke. so we decided to try the put-him-down-awake-and-leave-him method again on friday night, and decided that stephen would do it. so stephen took him upstairs for bath/bed and i stayed downstairs to pace. eventually i heard stephen leave wile's room and heard the cry rise up—"da-DA? da-DA?"—then stephen came down into the living room, asked me how long i thought we should let him go, i said 5 minutes, we turned on the monitor, and...silence. the child had cried for thirty seconds, then gone to sleep. and again, he slept till 4:30. maybe twice in the night he cried out, but for no more than 30 seconds and he was back asleep. saturday night: cried for 10 seconds, asleep from 9 to 5:15, then to 8. sunday night: cried for 10 seconds, asleep from 8:30 to 4:45, then to 7:30. monday night: cried for 10 seconds, asleep from 9 to 5:15, then to 7:45. last night: cried for 10 seconds, asleep from 9 to 3:30, so a little backsliding there, but he did go back to sleep until 7:15.

so, pretty great, right? but i still wasn't convinced. we hadn't passed the big test yet: i hadn't put him down. with no snuggling. no falling asleep in my arms. no boo-bah. aaaaiiiiiieeeeee!!

tonight was the night. stephen had a poker date, and bedtime was all mine. i nursed him before the bath, a nice big feed. bath was great, tons of fun—lots of water-pouring, some singing, and i stuck his little pink lion-shaped sponge to his belly and he just about fell over backwards laughing. when it was time to soap, he stood up and let me wash his butt instead of pretending that he had accidentallly sat in a puddle of super-glue. when it was time to get out, he put all the toys back in the bucket cheerfully and didn't screech like a vampire bat when i picked him up out of the tub. diapering and pajama-ing, no problemo. but as i was picking him up off the changing table: "ba-boo? ba-boo?" oh man. here we go. "honey-love," i said, "you just had boo-bah. it's time to go to bed now." a little crying, but his heart wasn't really in it. we said good night to everything, and when we finished and turned off the light: "ba-boo? bed? ma-MA?" again, i told him that he had just had a nice big heaping serving of boo-bah, and that it was time to go to sleep. i braced myself for the outraged reply, and....he put his head down on my shoulder. wow. okay. so i sang him a couple of verses of beautiful boy and rocked him in my arms, then layed him down on the bed, at which point he started crying.

"ma-MA? ma-MA?"

"it's time for bed, baby. i love you."

[sitting up] "ma-MA?! ma-MA?!"

"go to sleep, honey. i love you. i'll see you in the morning."

[standing up] "ma-MA!! ma-MA!!"

[closing the door behind me] "i love you, wile. i'll see you in the morning. time to go to sleep."

[as i go down the stairs] "ma-MAAAAAAAAA!"

[as i reach the bottom of the stairs] wile: "............." me: "you've got to be kidding"

no joke. the child cried for 5 seconds. that was 8:43. it's 10:38, and i've only heard the littlest of peeps.

i'm pretty f-ing ecstatic. this is major major major major. and not only for the fact that after 8:30 or so, i can now either a) get more than three hours of consecutive sleep, or b) do work or a project without always being on edge, waiting for the baby monitor to erupt. and that alone is awesome. but even more satisfying is knowing that i can leave him with a sitter without having to give the whole deeply apologetic speech about how yes, he's going to wake up before we get home, and no, it's not going to be pretty, and feeling like i should be paying them double.

which brings us back to the fact that this was all brought about not by some strong and decisive parenting on my and stephen's part, but by...a renegade sitter. i'm not going to lie, i definitely had to work through how i felt about that before i could be wholly and without any reservations psyched about the sleeping. at first i felt a little embarrassed, like if it was really this easy to produce the good sleeping, were we bad parents for not initiating it ourselves? just lazy, passive, slacker parents? were we on the path to raising a spoiled, undisciplined child with bad manners? sweet rollerskating jesus, were we candidates for supernanny??!!

then i stepped back and said, "no, probably not." i think what we had was a stupidly common issue: we were just too close to the problem to see what the best solution was. isn't there some saying about forests and trees? yeah. and when you add sleep-deprivation to that kind of myopia, it gets even worse. so it took input from a near-stranger to resolve an issue with our kid that we hadn't been able to successfully resolve. so what? it's resolved. and if i'm going to try to go through wile's whole upbringing all "i can do it my own self, i don't need your advice, mind your business, back it up", it's going to be a looooong 18 years. yeah, so, i would have rather neesha had asked before doing what she did. but you know what? it's 11:23 and i'm awake and writing this instead of upstairs nursing wile back to sleep. word up.

which brings me to the other inevitable question: am i feeling stupid/kicking myself for not trying this technique months ago? and after some deliberation, i have to say: no. first and most importantly, i truly truly believe that if we had tried this a few months ago, it wouldn't have worked. wile is at the point now where he understands at least the general jist of everything we say to him. so when i tell him that it's time to go to bed, and i love him, and i'll be downstairs, and i'll see him in the morning, he gets it. he understands that i'm not leaving him forever, that i'll be nearby and will come right in when he wakes up in the morning. plus, though he's showing no signs of being ready for the w-e-a-n-i-n-g, the attachment to the boo-ba is on the downslope. 75% of the time when he starts "ba-boo?"ing, i can sway him with talk of rice cakes or cheese. through the months and months of sleepless nights, my stepmom kept reassuring me: "when they're ready, they're ready." and i think he was ready. if we had tried to do this a few months ago, i think that the crying would have lasted a lot longer than 5 minutes, 30 seconds, 30 seconds, 10 seconds. and i wouldn't have been able to deal with that, and would have gone right back to the methods that we were using anyway.

of course, i could be totally wrong. this could have worked back in january. but until somebody builds that time machine i always dream about, that's a moot (court (shout out!)) point.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

however it came to be, this is a wonderful new development! congratulations. xoxo