Being a mom is all about on the job training. Sure, you can attend some breast feeding classes, learn infant CPR and the proper diapering techniques before your baby arrives. But the day-to-day stuff of survival? You gotta learn as you go.
And you have to be hyper-aware to see all the signs. Baby’s cranky. Experience tells me I can be cranky for a myriad of reasons ranging from not enough caffeine to a rude check-out lady at the grocery store. But a baby? Only a handful of culprits: hunger, environment, sleepy? Toddler’s throwing toys across the room. He’s just being spiteful? Tempting, but more likely I was on the phone/sorting laundry/preparing dinner too long and need to sit down and work on that puzzle/building/coloring book for a bit to restore the balance.
Overall, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about this parenting gig from peanut. He lets me know through his words, actions and attitudes how I am doing at any given moment. Even when I’ve let it get out of control, I know I can restore order with a quick disciplinary timeout and reset the course of the day through my own actions and behavior. I’ve taken a lot of my cues from him about when to ditch the high chair for the booster, the sippy cups for the regular cups (dinner only, apparently) and a moderate interest in potty use (before bath only, apparently).
So, after Christmas, I had gotten it into my head that he was ready for a big boy bed. We talked about it. He sounded excited. We worked up to it for a week. We took off the rail. We had success for nearly two weeks. And then, it all fell apart.
Getting up constantly was a new game. He giggled. He taunted. He threw his toys down the hall. One at a time. I rallied. I researched. I implemented the back in bed technique over and over and over again at least 100 times in two hours at nap time and again at bed time. I removed everything from his room. I cried. I pulled my hair. I fell over exhausted when he’d finally fall asleep. I’d groan at 5am when was bounding out of his room after only seven hours of his own sleep. We were all sleep deprived, irritable and spending our waking hours gearing up for the bed time struggle.
There was no improvement after six different bed time attempts.
We put the rail back on. He’s back in the crib. And after two nights in a row of good sleep for both peanut and myself, I finally have made peace with it.
I thought if I did, I’d be admitting that I was a bad mother. That I had made a bad decision for my child. That the naysayers in my life who’d told me it was too early would be right. Or that the champions in my life who said I was doing the right thing would think I was a failure and had given up too early. I didn’t want the implied “I told you sos” or the “tsks-tsks” of try again, try harder.
I finally realized that sometimes being a good mother means realizing you need to back track on a decision. I finally realized that success is often a gray area. We had success. He’s not afraid to sleep in a big boy bed and can physically sleep in it. The problem was his self-control when it came to staying in it. Our child has always been super active. We’ve joked since we brought him home that he has two speeds: full-steam ahead and off. The temptation of being able to get out and start the day was too much for him. He just HAD to! Rolling over and dosing off again wasn’t an option when there were books to be read and trains to be pulled and balls to be bounced.
When he started falling asleep in the car at 9:30 two mornings in a row, I knew we had to make a change. This wasn’t just about teaching him to stay in bed, this was making sure he had the rest he needs to learn, function and grow. Right now, that’s simply more important to me than being “right” or “winning.”
So, we’re putting the big boy bed on the back burner. We’ll wait a little bit longer and see what it’s like after we’ve passed the dreaded half-year mark. We’ll give him smaller challenges to teach self-control and responsibility to build him up for it again.
And I’ll take a few deep breaths and work on letting go of judging my own performance. Instead, I’ll take my cue from the extra snuggles, instead of struggles, we’re having before nap time again.
If I’ve learned anything since becoming a mom: Happy Baby = Happy Mommy.