Monday, June 12, 2006


Crying it out

Simon, at the grand age of 28 months, has decided to go from one three-hour nap in the afternoon to no nap. In a classic case of bad timing, this is coinciding with Beloved being home with the boys almost full-time. I'm not even going to bother with a description - you can imagine what it's like.

Saturday and Sunday, I tried all the tricks in my arsenal to get him to take his nap. A tiny, childish part of me figured that Beloved just wasn't trying hard enough to get Simon down, that's why he couldn't get him to nap. Right. Not so much.

For at least two hours each day, Simon was in his crib (yes, we're still dragging our heels on that transition, too - give me a break, we just retired the highchair yesterday) in varying states of wakeful agitation. He would lie peacefully for stretches, which I realize in retrospect was to lull us into a false sense of accomplishment, and then move through the spectrum of annoyance all the way to raging tantrum and back again.

Sitting on the top stair, listening to him pitch a wailing tantrum on the other side of his door and hoping it was a short-lived prelude to an actual nap (idealist to the end, I am), I was thinking back to the early days, and the first times I had to let the boys cry themselves to sleep. Letting my tender, innocent ten month old baby cry for five minutes seemed like such a horrendously hard thing to do, but in retrospect teaching the boys to fall asleep on their own was one of the best things we could have done. (Hmmm, best choice = hardest road. Who knew?)

Tristan, always my good sleeper, was outraged at being left to cry for the first few nights but was happily falling asleep on his own within a week. Simon, who taught me what sleep deprivation really means by not sleeping more than three hours at a stretch well past his first year, was a lot more reluctant to be 'sleep trained'. The first few nights that he cried himself to sleep, he continued to do that post-hysterical-crying hitching thing long after he fell asleep, and it took many days of heart-hardening resolve to convince him to fall asleep on his own.

I give a lot of credence to our eventual success with the infamous "cry it out" method to Richard Ferber's classic sleep book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. I hated the idea of letting the babies cry at the time (anybody remember that episode of Mad About You on this? I thought they were nuts.) but after reading everything on the market at the time, Ferber was the only thing that made sense, and it worked for us.

The weekend Citizen carried a great reprint from Slate magazine (click through and read it, it's a great piece) about the re-issuance Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, where Ferber clarifies his position on sleep training. I loved this article, mostly because it perfectly encapsulates everything I learned from Ferber. And I'm hugely relieved that he has not, in fact, recanted his original advice. In retrospect I realize that my own personal discipline style is strongly rooted in his "you might not like it but I'm the boss and I know best" style. From Ferber I learned to stand up to my children's willfulness, and that's probably one of the most valuable parenting lessons I've learned.