The first time I let one of my kids soothe themselves to sleep, it was hell.
I closed the door behind me, convinced I had failed my life’s mission. Disheartened, I sat outside the room as the cries of my first-born son rang through the air. Every minute that passed felt like an eternity. Every moment, a step further into the dark side. The dark side, where heartless mothers, lacking the necessary self-sacrifice, go to await their doom.
My husband, in a true act of a courage, left the house.
Alone on the battlefield I was a sorry sight, weeping in tune with the cries of our deserted child. So passed the longest 23 minutes of my life. 23 minutes marked by anguish, nail-biting, prayers and binging on anything edible in site.
The next morning, I entered his room expecting the worse. Ashamed of my behavior, I inched towards the crib, positive the deep bond we had shared until now was broken forever.
“WHERE WERE YOU LAST NIGHT TRAITOR?!?!”
Was the look I was expecting.
Surprisingly, I was greeted by a joyous baby full of giggles and smiles.
He looked like he just had the BEST sleep of his life.
Wary he might be onto something, I kept my guard up.
I was overly endearing and loving that day. Positive a grudge was laying low, I waited for the moment it would reveal itself. But the smiles continued.
Come nap time, the crying reduced to less than 10 minutes. The best part was when that wretched 40-minute mark came around, he CONTINUED sleeping. Multiple 40-minute periods later he awoke. Well rested, my baby was ready to continue playing and smiling as if a renewed energy had been invested in the both of us.
Still apprehensive, I waited for the surrounding millennial influence to blame me for all his problems. But that moment never came. So, we began our new life together. One where he got the sleep he needed and I could leave the house sans the fear of having to settle an overtired baby.
The topic of sleep training is a bit like the Yanni/ Laurel debate. You could go back and forth forever, but eventually everyone hears what they need to hear. All I can do is share my experience.
I have given my three kids the chance to learn to fall asleep on their own, and as far as I’m concerned, they are happy. MORE than happy. They take happiness to new extremes. They have energy and zest and a zeal for life that can’t be curbed at any hour of the day. From the minute the sun rises to the moment mommy has had enough (well before sunset), they are bouncing off the walls with joy and laughter and exciting ploys that more often than not leave my house trashed, and them ecstatic.
You're probably thinking: that's how most kids are. Exactly my point. Identifying who fell asleep how, gets ambiguous. Particularly when you consider all the obstacles that come up thereafter in the bumpy ride that is life.
There are a multitude of books on the topic, some more extreme than others. But what it comes down to is ensuring the child falls asleep without the assistance of anyone or anything. You could go in every minute or every five, or not at all. Do your research and arm yourself with facts.
The earlier we were ready to take a step back, the easier it was. Ending the “It’s your turn,” competition, where there are no winners, only martyrs, was just the cherry on top.
I could go on and on, but in a nutshell, Sleep Training is Hard. It Sucks. But, in my humble opinion- it’s worth it.
And after our fair share of rocking, swaddling, singing, humming, bouncing, tapping, patting, shushing, swaying and breaking down, I feel at liberty to share this.
King Solomon writes in Proverbs: "One who spares his rod hates his child, but he who loves him, disciplines him in his youth."
This is the source of the saying "Spare the rod and spoil the child." The discrepancy in translation is not because people felt the need to sugarcoat a seemingly harsh expression from Torah. It’s because that’s really what it’s referring to (definitely today and perhaps even back then): discipline of an emotional nature and not physical.
Motherhood begins with a euphoric sense of contentment. Your baby could do no wrong, and little else in the world matters. Until you touch back down in reality and remember sleep needs to be had, jobs need to be kept and the word “no” will eventually make its way back into your vocabulary.
If you are desperate and considering sleep training. Or, if you have to take toys away because a child refuses to help clean up. Or an outing needs to be cancelled because someone had a meltdown about being left alone in the bathroom. (I.e. the place people are supposed to be left alone). Rest assured this won’t be the end of your run as a good mom
The gates of heaven still open to those that are willing to do what’s best for their kids. Even when it doesn’t leave them feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.