Resolve and Compassion — By Laura Houston
I’m testing my resolve as I type this. We have decided it’s time to have the boys sleep in their own cribs. Up until recently, my husband and I have been fans of co-sleeping. It served our family well. Our boys are deeply bonded to us, and we are to them. We attribute their easy going natures, self assuredness, and happy dispositions to co-sleeping, and we also found that it helped reduce our stress level as well because if they woke up in the middle of the night, we could easily get them back to sleep. It’s pretty much a win/win situation. However, there are two downsides to co-sleeping: when we are ready to end it and when the child is not.
So right now my husband is attending to Lyle who is wailing away in his crib. Lyle is the twin who wants to sleep with us the most. He insists on it. Wyatt, however, is pretty mellow. He figured out how to self-soothe a few months ago, and he has been sleeping just fine on his own ever since. The only reason he sleeps with us now is because we feel guilty – all of us in one bed – Wyatt all alone in his.
The crying has been going on for 45 minutes. Dave and I have been alternating “compassion duty” every five or ten minutes. This is when one of us stands over Lyle’s crib and pats and soothes him and tries to reassure him everything is OK. We are using a few different techniques suggested by other parents, as well as a popular sleep manual sold on Amazon.com. The book says not to pick the child up. Don’t look him in the eye. Just be sweet. Sing softly. I went through a few rounds of four different lullabies before I could feel my resolve weaken, so I left the soothing to my husband. I know it’s hard for him. I can hear him in there whispering to his son. I know he wants to pick him up and hold him more than anything.
This method we are trying is a little too close to the Cry-It-Out Method used by many American moms. It is not at all popular in Europe. I am not a fan of the Cry-It-Out Method for babies. I cannot believe it is an emotionally healthy thing to do to an infant or small child. Quite frankly, there is not an animal on the planet that lets their babies cry it out except for the two-legged ones. I don’t believe in letting a human being cry alone in the dark, waiting and wanting for someone to come help. Especially when that someone is me, and I have the power and the ability to do something about it. I believe it is my responsibility as a parent to help my child learn to soothe himself and others by offering him kindness and compassion when he needs it or when he asks for it.
I know people practice Cry-It-Out in order to change a behavior such as getting the child to sleep through the night. Or eliminating a 2am feeding. I understand people do it because they have jobs, and they need sleep, and they want the child to learn to do it for the good of the family. I get that. I get how tiring it all is. I just can’t do it. I know it would forever break the deep, natural trust between my child and me.
I think it is time for me to go back in and practice another round of standing over the crib until my back and arms are screaming with aches, so my husband can find relief. But just when I hit “save” and got up from the desk, the crying stopped. My husband came out of the room with a heavy heart and a sorrowful face. He did it. He helped Lyle find his way into a deep sleep, but I think it cracked my husband’s soul a little.
Tomorrow it will be my turn. I will have to go in there a little more prepared. Maybe a CD of lullabies. Maybe a different light, a fresh blanket, or warm milk. But right now for the first time in a long time, I am going to go into our childfree living room, curl up on the couch next to the man I am crazy about, and watch a movie we have been trying to watch now for two weeks. And we will watch without interruption. And without a child between us. We have to take this time to just be. Together. It’s important for our marriage and our friendship. But it feels selfish. Picking a movie over our son. Yeah. I’m going to have to sit with that. But we both agree it is time. Our kids are shoving us out of our own beds and out of our precious intimacy. And intimacy between parents we believe is the best gift we can give our kids. So here we go.
Sure. We’ll both feel guilty and slightly distracted as we listen for the sound of sobbing, but one of us will ease Lyle back into his dreams if he cries. And in turn our son will forever know that no matter what happens he can count on his parents to always, always come for him. I wish for the entire human race that very feeling.