The Night I Ignored My Son

A few months ago, I took up the task of reading about Sleep Habits.  Dawn’s middle was growing, and since I wasn’t stretching as fas as she, I decided to add this to my To-Do list.  This was right before the boy came.  When all I heard was that my life was over.  EJ told me to “Sleep now.  Get off the phone and go to bed right now.”  When everyone who knew me offered me the truth that I’d never sleep again.  People can be so cruel.  Even when right.

Well, a friend recommended the book.  In fact, several did.  And we have been digesting small pieces of the chapters.  I’m highlighting and quoting and telling my mother what the book says without saying I’m quoting a book because my mother will look at me like I’m still a bookworm and that she loves me for it.  But it’s been a small refuge to go to those pages, to learn that our kid isn’t as crazy as I’ve called him, to learn that mood impairment is to be expected–his and ours, and to be reminded that babies grow.  That they sleep.

As the kid grows older–and he’s only five months–I get to see him taking these little steps toward real sleep which have been outlined by smart people.  I see that he fits into the pattern, that his sleep needs are like other babies. 

The other night we tossed a milestone.  It started as an experiment.  It’s strange how the tiniest things become big deals when your body has almost adjusted to sleep deprivation.  I told Dawn that I was going to ignore the boy’s nighttime cry, to see what would happen.  We had been talking about doing this for more than a month, every since month three, but that day I got the guts. 

We sat there, like those other parents in the book, and Bryce started his call.  I could tell he was confused when he didn’t see me.  He cranked up, edging his tone up an octave.  He has a singer’s lungs, you see.  And he sang that night.  We sat together not moving.  It was easier for me than for my wife.  I’m used to ignoring people.  I’ve cultivated the ability to turn my attention to other things.  Incidentally, this was before I’d read Weissbluth’s section of 4-8 months where he says, “If you do not check on your baby, he will eventually fall asleep.”  Actually I read it three months ago, trying to read ahead, and forgot.  But I’m ahead of myself. 

We sat.  Bryce sang.  We waited.  The boy yelled. 

I said something about needing a sign for our door.  I was aware of our neighbors.  One young man had the gall to come to our door three weeks ago at 11:30PM.  “I heard the baby crying,” he said.  “Is everything okay?”  I didn’t recognize this man.  And I’m not used to people coming to my door at all, much less at 11:30 at night.  So, in response, I stood there for four seconds.  My kid blared a few feet away.  I wanted him to hear a baby.  I wanted him to think that a baby was in my house.  That babies cry.  I said, in the slowest possible manner, “We’re fine.”  And I closed the door on his confused face.  I was so proud that I didn’t deal more harshly with him.  Anyway, back to the milestone.  Bryce was crying, we were doing nothing, and after 13 minutes or so, he stopped.  Stopped like shut up.  Stopped like is he breathing.  Stopped like silence.  Went to sleep. 

In that moment–and I have to note them when they come–I figured that this parenting thing may be doable.  That I may just get out of it alive.  That was the first night where I felt good ignoring the boy.  Before that, even with my easy ability to close my ears without the earplugs I got for Father’s Day, I felt a twinge, a hint, a glimmer of guilt.  Not anymore.


15 thoughts on “The Night I Ignored My Son

  1. I hope I remember to call you and Dawn when I become a mom! I’m sure you will be writing your own books on this subject!

  2. Very nice, taking note. You both will be great references, once I become “with child” ;-).Your articles are great Micheal, good job!

  3. This is a timely post. Karen and I go to the doctor tomorrow to confirm positive home pregnancy test results. I have to say I am in denial about the challenges we will face. In my mind, it’s all good. This is in complete contradiction to the experience of everyone who has gone before us. Hopefully I can make some other parents laugh later when I find out how wrong I am, because that will mean it happened.

    • Bryon, I cannot presume how right or wrong your impressions, but to quote an admittedly dramatic friend, “It will be ten times worse you imagine.” This is exciting news to me for you and Karen.

  4. I like how you dealt with the guy who tried to mask his annoyance with concern. There are a lot of people quite willing to stick their nose in the business of strangers for no other reason than they are mildly annoyed, inconvenienced, or even just curious. You’d be amazed at the comments, questions, and inappropriate behavior that Sam is able to generate in total strangers. Though I confess, most of this happens to Dana as I am evidently not nearly as approachable.

    Oh, and I remember those twinges of guilt, and I also clearly remember what it felt like to wake up and realize that Ella had slept through the night.

    • Bruce, I didn’t wanna be the one to tell you that you weren’t approachable! That amused me. And it’s almost comical how people will push themselves in your business, comment about your children, try to touch them. It’s not happened to me because I actually where a sign when I’m with the boy which says, “Don’t come too close or you’ll be very sorry.” Guess that makes me like you, eh?

  5. Reminds me of a story my mom just told me. I was very tender headed growing up and when she used to do my hair I would scream. It got so bad, that she would do my hair in front of the window so that people would not think that she was beating me 🙂 All I want to know, is why wasn’t anyone around when she pierced my ears with a needle and ice to numb my ears. I STILL remember screaming and I couldn’t have been any older than 5!

    • Pam, I haven’t exactly thought of this when the boy cries, though I have tossed around the idea of him sleeping on the balcony. Dawn assures me that this will get me arrested. She is correct if the laws haven’t changed since my days working in child welfare.

  6. Thirteen minutes?! That’s it??? Way to go, Bryce!!!! 🙂 Victoria took 33 minutes the first night, 16 the second night, 8 the third, and then less than a minute after that. (I sobbed almost as hard as she did when we had to ignore her.) After that she slept through the night for 8 days straight. Then, the teething started…

  7. We started following the same book’s sleep training with our son right about the time you started two weeks ago. Yes, I am behind in reading blog posts again. Our son has been different from Cathy’s daughter in that some nights it’s straight to sleep and some nights he still cries for a while – it was half an hour a few days ago. Same thing with naps – some are right to sleep, some are a few minutes of fussing, some are 10 minutes of crying, and sometimes it’s the half hour wail.

    • Andrew, this boy over here keeps it interesting. He’s changed up his method of aggravating mom and dad’s sleep since this post. The other night he slept seven hours. Before and after that, the phases were closer to 3.5 or 4. These days I think the book is more about telling me what kind of good sleep is no longer ours! There is always tonight. Maybe he’ll surprise us.

  8. Pingback: For Really New Dads « For Fathers

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