Sometimes I feel that I am well suited for parenting in 2018. I generally agree with the ideals of raising your kid to be a confident, independent, caring member of society through practices such as listening, communicating, providing constructive choices, empathy, and fairness. Other times, I feel like the Gen-X and new Millennial parents of 2018 are maybe a tad too concerned that their toddler be able to make decisions for themselves and perhaps are the victims of being overworked, overtired guilt-infused zombies. I know that especially when life throws its curve balls, I am susceptible, too.
Still, as I browse the Facebook parenting boards I've signed up for (why? I don't know...) and read posts from desperate parents looking for answers, I feel the urge to tell them that maybe the reason they're struggling with getting their kid to sleep in his or her own bed is because they've never set the expectation that bedtime = child sleeps in child bed. It also might not help that they nurse said child to sleep because it's the only way child will GO to sleep and have done this for (!!) years. I guess this means I'm judging. It's not my intention. I want to share what I've learned in my very, very short time as a mom because I've seen it work.
[I feel the need to insert here that I know at least 3 close friends that are struggling with this issue. This post was not inspired by you. But it's true, I have opinions about some of the situations I read about on the internets of "gentle parenting." And this- more so than any political stance or religious debate is the hardest opinion to press publish on, strangely.]
Once I had my daughter, I quickly learned what a fool I was before, judging parents in any way. I had no idea how hard it was going to be. I finally GOT it. I was an ignorant ninny before, and damn- I was wrong. I might still be wrong. I am not good at parenting. I will always be learning. Some days, I win. Some days, my daughter wins and I cry into my bourbon at night after she's asleep. I've switched to the hard stuff.
But I really want to know- why are we Millennials such soft, mushy parents? Kids, especially young ones thrive on routine and expectations. They won't always like it, but it helps them feel secure and know what to expect. Creating the right routine takes time, patience, exhaustion and courage to find success, and there is no one "right" way of doing it. I think back to every struggle I've had as a new parent- almost every single one of them has one really annoying solution: TIME and PRACTICE. My issues weren't solved by discovery of a magic product or because I'm a genius, it was because I chose a potential solution and stuck to it, over and over and over again.
My girl is a champion sleeper. I'm sure that 89% of it is luck and genetics. The rest I am taking full credit for, as I waited up nights following my sleep-training method of choice (The Happy Sleeper- I recommend it to ALL parent friends). She wailed for days. Weeks. Months. I hit peak desperation. At midnight, 2AM, 4AM...every 5 minutes I entered her room and uttered the same "speech," of reassurance, and quietly exited until 5 minutes later when I did it again. During that time, I worked on my deep breathing, wrote a letter to then-President Obama (he wrote back!) and knew that this painful time would be worth it in the end. It was. She loves her bed, can self-soothe, and Dad and I sleep a glorious 7-8 hours most nights. Sleep is a miracle, and we sleep because of practice and persistence. Even this time of glory is a phase, I know that. She will get sick or have a growth spurt or start to have nightmares and we'll be back to square one again. But we will return every time to the idea that she can soothe herself, she is most comfortable in her own bed, and she will get through it (and hopefully, so will we!)
I want to tell the parent I saw in today's Facebook parent group that there is a light at the end of her sleepless tunnel, but she has to work for it. It will be HORRIBLY PAINFUL to get through. But I want to tell her that she is the parent. She makes the rules. I hope that more young parents remember this- because (judgmentally????) I think it makes for happier, more independent future adults. Not to mention, more sane and well-rested parents.
Go ahead, comments are open. Rip me apart. It's good to be back!