This post is of a little bit different nature than my usual. Typically I prefer to avoid entering the realm of parenting issues in such a public manner. Nonetheless, I am compelled to write about something I just experienced, so I’m running with it.
Many of you know that my husband has been out of the country for 10 days. He returns in three and we are all looking forward to the reunion. In his absence I – as expected – have been stretched to meet the needs of our two young daughters, ages 3 and 1. For the most part, this time has gone much better than expected. Several nights so far I have even been afforded a good amount of uninterrupted piano practice after the girls are asleep. These times have been a highlight, allowing me to thrive musically in the midst of a time of intently acting out my primary role as parent.
Since the beginnig, mammahood has been all but peachy for me. Fatigue, moving a ton, lack of personal space, faith confusion – all have combined to create what a friend coined a rather depressing “emotional cocktail” over the past few yeas. So as we anticipated this time of Nathan’s absence we had a healthy amount of fear about how I would manage, particularly at the most difficult time for me – sleep time.
For a number of reasons, I have an excruciatingly hard time with the concept of letting babies ‘cry it out.’ It doesn’t sit well with me. I can’t even figure out entirely whether my beef is with the concept itself or something in my psyche that makes it abnormally difficult. It’s been a pretty common topic with my therapist, but a resolution that I can feel peaceful about seems to still be owned by the futue.
I like to nurse my baby to sleep and cuddle my toddler into dreamland.
But I get tired and it doesn’t usually go that smoothly.
I have been learning the importance of asking people for help and asking people for advice, and I’ve done much of each in the last couple weeks. There sure is a wide variety to sift through. So many well-meaning people with good intentions offering suggestions that “work.”
Let’s just get this out there: I’m a big fan of attachment parenting and La Leche League, and I can hardly get through a page by the Ezzos without wanting to scribble all over the paper.
So this was my evening:
It was the close of a full day, complete with company and ice cream. All three of us girls were tired and I knew I could potentially get very mean if I let bedtime drag on forever. So I decided to try one of the suggestions: a baby gate to keep the one year old in our room and let her cry. (The very idea insights a cringe in me, but who am I to judge? – I’m the one who had the nervous breakdown last summer, so I guess I’d better try some other people’s ideas now and then.)
Both girls seemed ready for sleep at about the same time. I went through the story and song routine. I left the hugged and kissed but still whimpering 3 year old and laid the sleepy 16 month old on our bed. We mimed to each other the sign for sleep, and I left the little cutie with her truck.
Egg timer. 10 minutes. It can’t cause that much damage, right? I needed some time. In the midst of these short periods of emotional distress I am most apt to get very angry at God and be very confused about what the right course of action is. I don’t like the feeling of being angry, so I am trying to make better choices, to be open to learning and relearning who this Jesus person is and what in the world he has to do with my screaming children. The connections between the dots rarely seem to line up, but I am wanting to be open to doing what is right even when it’s hard. Sometimes it’s so hard.
As the timer clicked away, I reviewed sermon notes, poured over a Proverb, and dumped out my thoughts on the pages of my journal. Both girls were upset, but I knew I needed a moment of mental and spiritual breath.
To be with them? – and maybe cause them pain through my behavior?
To be not with them? – and cause them pain through my absence?
It seems like I am all too often choosing between these.
The younger one is practically choking as she cries. The older one has quieted, probably asleep. Her behavior had been such that it was clear she needed some time to let it out; the distress I experienced with her tears was minimal. Still there, but not too bad. The younger one however, had never had mommy lock her in her room before. She was distraught.
Timer rang. As I pass big sister’s room I see her sound asleep I smell it. One down. Then I smell it. Vomit. Little P was so upset she puked all over the floor. That had never happened before. And then I smelled something else. Poop. She had filled her diaper. Pooping is usually a big ordeal for her. Whether on the toilet or in her diaper she usually needs a cheering squad to endure the uncomfortable challenge. This time, she was all alone.
I carried her to the couch and held her. A mantra kept flooding through my mind and out my mouth: “It isn’t right. It isn’t right. It isn’t right. It isn’t right.”
The now quiet baby lay still as I cleaned her up and then held her close. The whites of her eyes were pink. She has never before sat still in my arms for as long as she did just then. She pulled away, looked at me, then snuggled in close again. She pulled away again and said, “Dadda.” Yeah, I miss him too.
I nursed her to sleep.
How is it that something that is supposedly right can feel so so so so so wrong?
How is that the course of action I value as right so often feels so entirely impossible for me personally?
They are both sound asleep in their beds now, but I don’t think tonight will be another piano practice night. I’m too pensive. I don’t practice well when I’m pensive. Unless I’m working on some Chopin.
Besides, I need to go clean the carpet.