I don’t like calling it that, George, but that’s what they call it, and that’s what we’re doing. You are 1 year old, and for the last year we have rocked you to sleep. I nursed you almost every night, but on the very very few nights when I didn’t, someone fed you a bottle and rocked you and rocked you until your perfect eyelids closed and your lower lip was sucked into your mouth, in and out, in and out, in peaceful slumber.
We would lay you down in your bed, asleep, and you would wake up over and over again all night long, presumably upset because you were no longer being cradled in someone’s arms and being rocked. And when you would wake, I would zombie walk to your room and hold you and nurse you until you fell back asleep, and then I’d place you in your crib to sleep again, until you woke again, and so on.
But now, I am in the hallway outside your bedroom, on night two of what they call “sleep training” – otherwise known as parental torture and probably childhood trauma. I got a book at the library called the Happy Sleeper. And it tells me to go in and “verbally comfort you” every five minutes. So I have stopwatch. I have a book. I have this computer. I have anxiety. I have a glass of wine. And I am listening to you scream angrily on the other side of this door, wondering why I have forsaken you.
There’s supposed to be a phrase we repeat, exactly, word for word, each five minutes that we go in to “comfort you” without touching you. THe phrase I’ve chosen is, “It’s time for sleep, I love you, goodnight.”
You are NOT amused. You are the as far away from Happy as I’ve ever seen you. You are angry. And you are not sleeping.
The book tells me that you are screaming because you are protesting change, not because you think I don’t love you anymore. The book says that you will appreciate the “sleep wave” of me going in and reassuring you by saying the same thing each time. But instead you stop screaming and reach for me, and it is breaking my heart sweet boy.
But you have to learn how to fall asleep on your own or else we may never be able to take a vacation again. You need to know that, although I wish I could, no one will cradle you forever, and at some point you’ll have to make yourself fall back asleep in the middle of the night when you wake up at 2, 3, 4 and 5.
I wish I didn’t have to do this, because I feel awful and terrible. And there isn’t enough wine in the world to numb the pain associated with hearing your baby cry. Last night I sat outside your door listening to you weep in your sleep after you’d fallen asleep crying.
This part of parenting is so hard. Everyone says it’s the right thing to do. I know that I have to do it because I am tired. I worry about you. You have to learn.
But I am sorry. I’m so sorry to make you cry and yell like this, George. I hope you don’t remember and talk about it in therapy as an adult.
Just know that I am sitting outside your bedroom door, broken hearted and almost crying myself, drinking a glass of wine and wishing I could make everything better for you all the time. But this is the first of many times that I’m having to step back and say, “I’m sorry buddy- you gotta figure this out on your own.”
I do it because I love you. Please don’t cry much longer.