Those of y’all who’ve read a thing or two around here know that Joshua is not now, nor has he ever been, a “good sleeper.” Ever.
Y’all also know that we did “sleep training” with him and I had some seriously conflicted feelings about it.
I fought against it and finally did it at the urging of my pediatrician and in the days after going through with it, I was kind of relieved that we’d done it. It was really amazing what a night or two of good sleep had done to improve my outlook on life.
A couple of months later, when Joshua’s sleep habits hadn’t really improved or been magically “fixed” by letting him cry, I started thinking what we’d done and I felt remorse.
Anger at myself for putting me before him, a helpless baby not capable of manipulating or communicating his needs.
And I vowed that I wouldn’t do that to him anymore.
Will I give him a minute or two when I hear him stirring or fussing or crying in the middle of the night to see if he’s going to settle back down? Yes.
But 8 out of 10 times, I end up going to him. He settles almost immediately upon feeling my hand in his crib. He sits up and reaches for me and I hold him for a few minutes before putting him back in his crib and going back to my own bed.
I know part of the reason I’m as tired as I am is because my son wakes up at night wanting to be held. It interrupts my sleep cycles which causes me to wake up not feeling rested in the morning. I know that. I know this without going through with the sleep study that I canceled last week (because my out-of-pocket expense would’ve neared $1,000.)
I also know that life isn’t about me right now.
Yesterday, The Feminist Breeder, Gina, tweeted a link to a People magazine article from their Celebrity Baby Blogger series. The article was by Mark McGrath of the band Sugar Ray.
One of the things that Gina pointed out in a couple of tweets yesterday was the fact that Mark McGrath wore headphones to block out the sound of his son crying because he, as he wrote it, was teaching his son “one of life’s great lessons.” He was teaching his son that he “can’t always get what [he] wants.” His four month old son. His fiance’, the child’s mother, went into another room to cry while her son was crying.
He put on headphones so he wouldn’t have to listen.
He “taught” his four month old not to “manipulate” the situation by crying. By using the only method he has available to him to let people know he NEEDS SOMETHING.
The fact that the crying is something McGrath didn’t want to listen to, the fact that his fiance’ was crying in another room fighting against her maternal instinct to go to her child, the fact that anyone thinks this is okay? That it’s just something you’re supposed to do?
I get that we don’t know how long the baby cried. I get that people’s definition of crying can be different.
I get that People magazine isn’t exactly literary genius. I get that the magazine’s readers are varied. I get that my expectations for a tabloid shouldn’t be high.
But one commenter’s remarks really grabbed me. Kind of punched me in the gut.
“Isn’t it ironic how every previous generation has survived to normal adulthood, when half the commenters on this site believe if they don’t jump on every ridiculous new age bandwagon, their precious kids will be damaged for life. Just because some self-appointed expert does a “study”. God help us all 20 years down the road. CIO is perfectly acceptable, as is bottle feeding, kids actually walking on their own rather than being worn and carried until they’re 5, you name it.”
New-age? Babywearing and being anti-CIO is new-age?
Not so fast there, commenter person.
Did you know that in many Native American cultures babies spent their first six months strapped to a cradle board? Was their growth stunted? Did they all become co-dependent, whiny brats because their needs were consistently and constantly met?
Did you know that Chinese, traditional Japanese, Indian, Ugandan, Indonesian, and African tribal cultures, to name a few, all practice babywearing and co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding as ways of life? Things are that way because they ARE. Have these cultures become co-dependent, demanding, selfish, “ME ME ME” people?
Western culture, that’s who.
Somehow, a belief has developed amongst Western societies that if we respond to the needs of our children, if we go to them when they cry, if we hold them, we are somehow damaging their sense of independence.
So, to foster this independence, we’re told to let our children cry. “They’ll figure it out on their own. They need to learn to soothe themselves.”
Don’t breastfeed them for too long. “They don’t need to be dependent on the mother. She needs time to herself. Her husband needs her. Her child can just take a bottle.”
Don’t co-sleep. Don’t hold them. Don’t carry them. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.
There is nothing even remotely soothing to me about crying out of anger or frustration or the inability to communicate what I want. I can’t see how anyone could argue otherwise.
(I do get that as ADULTS with fully-developed EMOTIONS catharsis can be found through tears. I get that. The same does not hold true for babies who cannot communicate and do not understand their world.)
As a high school teacher, I see my fair share of “helicopter parents” who cannot let their children deal with issues on their own. Parents who must swoop down at the first sign of danger and rescue their children from the evils of a bad test grade or a personal conflict with a teacher or peer.
I see organizations who don’t like the thought of having a “losing team” so state high school football championships now end in a “draw” with two teams being co-champions instead of going into overtime and duking it out until the bitter end.
I see schools where students are not allowed to bring more than a 16 pack of crayons to class because others may not be able to afford the 96-crayon box with built in pencil sharpener.
And these are what the anti-attachment parent community see as good things for our society?
While I may not agree with everything, or even many things she has to say, Gaelen Billingsey, a psychotherapist writes,
The societal belief is that babies who spend too much time in the arms of their parents are somehow stunted and will never develop independence. People think that in order for babies to develop self-reliance they must learn to rely on themselves for soothing and comfort as early as possible.
And what do we have now in our society?
People demanding that they all be treated the same regardless of their own efforts to effect change in their own lives.
All the things that we’ll apparently avoid if we just don’t practice those pesky interfering facets of Attachment Parenting as tribes and cultures have for centuries.
At Joshua’s 18 month check up last week, one of the questions I was asked pertaining to his development was whether or not he looked to me for approval before trying something new. I had not yet observed this from him, so I answered “No.” This was apparently not the “right” answer for that particular developmental stage.
The nurse practitioner did a simple test with Joshua. She took out a reflex hammer and handed it to him. It was obvious that he was intrigued. However, before he took it from her hands, he looked at me as if to say “Mama…is this okay?”
Children take their cues from us, y’all. It is up to us, as their parents, to guide them. To lead them. To teach them independence. It is up to us to model independence for them. To let them fall sometimes, but to help them get back up when they need it.
Because he knows that I’m there for him, he feels free to explore his world. When I bring him to school with me, he happily toddles down the hallways or around my classroom. He freely investigates and discovers anything and everything he can.
I’m glad Joshua looked at me for approval before taking that little hammer, that new toy that he proudly carried around the exam room for the duration of our time there. That lets me know he’s developing a conscience. A sense of what’s right and wrong. A sense of what he should and should not do. He looks to me for guidance and direction.
The sacrifices that I make right now, sacrifices of time and sleep and maybe a little sanity, are a drop in the bucket compared to the lifetime I have to recover those lost things. I’m happy knowing that my child’s needs come before my own. That he’ll know that and give that to others in the future.
Children reflect the treatment they receive, y’all. What are you reflecting?