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.