Parenting Failure

I think my biggest parenting failure to date has been my inability to help A get enough sleep. Yesterday, as M alluded to in his post, there was a total and utter meltdown of rational thought, and A became a hysterical puddle of tears and exhaustion. Everything resulted in a temper tantrum of massive proportions, and she was so tired that she couldn’t calm herself down, or even really be calmed down.

As I watched her muddle through her day yawning, weeping, and rubbing her eyes yet unable to go to sleep or stay asleep, I wished I could go back in time and figure out where I went wrong. You see, she was in fact a fabulous sleeper between three and six months. She went to bed when we put her in her crib, she stayed asleep all night, and then took two nice long naps with no fuss. Then, just as abruptly as it had started, it ended. And I have spent the two years since then trying to remember what happened to make it stop and failing miserably.

Since the day your baby is born, your parenting abilities seem to be judged by your child’s ability to sleep. From the day you introduce your child to the greater world, the first words out of someone’s mouth is “How is she sleeping?” If you reply “Like a dream!” you get smiles and nods of approval, if you admit that she sleeps like crap, you get a frown and hours of unsolicited advice.

Now that A is older, it is assumed that we have worked out our sleep issues. So when I feel obligated to warn the lovely ladies at Mother’s Morning Out that A hasn’t napped in several days, and was up at 4am, they look at me wide-eyed and concerned. “Well, she HAS to sleep! She needs MUCH more sleep than she is getting.” Yes, thank you. I am well aware of the issue. Trust me. Even our pediatrician, who I love, gives me subtle looks when I relay A’s sleep habits to her. While she at least admits that you can’t MAKE a child sleep, she has frequently commented that sleep deprivation could be the root of many of our other issues, and perhaps if we could get the sleep thing under control the rest would sort itself out.

I just want to get on the rooftops and shout “I’m doing the best I can here folks! Do you think I am deliberately keeping my child from napping, waking her up in the middle of the night, and forcing her to get up before the sun in the morning?” I’m literally pulling my hair out over the situation. As I sit outside A’s door at night and run my fingers through my hair, it comes out in clumps which my Dr. has reassured me is stress related. “Try to get more sleep” she suggested as she finished up her exam.

But more than myself, the person I feel most sorry for in all of this is C, as he has to live through the daily tantrums, the nightly battles, and generally bears the brunt of my short temper. While I try very hard not to yell at him while I am trying to handle a situation with A, I frequently find myself snapping at him to “Just hold on until I can deal with A.” His special mommy time that used to take place while A napped has been abruptly halted and replaced by an afternoon of listening to A wail. At bedtime I almost always need to leave his room in the middle of a chapter to place A back into bed, which frequently takes upwards of 45 minutes. C sits patiently on his bed holding his place in the book, waiting for me to come back. And when I do return, he snuggles in tighter and asks me if A is really asleep this time in a sad little voice.

I know someday her body’s need for sleep will decrease and the situation will hopefully resolve. And as my sister pointed out yesterday, when A is 15 at least I won’t have to soothe her back to sleep at 3am (I hope). But I also think it is going to be a long, long haul until we reach some sort of equilibrium. And I am unclear if all of us will survive mentally unscathed until we reach that point. One can hope I suppose.

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