Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Crying Game

I've been on paid vacation from my teaching job since January 1st and one of the things I most looked forward to, aside from the obvious of hanging with my husband and toddler, was getting more sleep. I have to be at work at 7:30am even though the kindergarten children do not arrive until just before 9am. I'm far from school so each day, I must be up no later than 6am to get ready and catch my ride with Hu Shufu.

Now I could sleep. Sleep, glorious sleep.
Only it wasn't like that. At all.

Since I no longer had to wake up while it was still dark outside, Raelynn no longer woke then either. Her entire schedule shifted, making nap time and bed time pure hell for Jeremy and me. More me, really, since Jeremy has never been the one to put her to bed. I was becoming more zombie-like than ever. Something needed to change and fast, before I would go back to school and be even more drained from playing the roles of mommy PLUS teacher, chef, police woman, seamstress, artist, MacGyver, grammar cop, actress, maid and detective.

I put out a plea on my Facebook page. I was counting on my other friends and family members with children to lend me their expertise and experiences. And I just want to take a moment to thank each of you (you know who you are!) for sharing your trials and tribulations with me. I'm not sure which of my friends said it, but one of them told me to go with my own intuition; that whatever works for my family should be what I do. So simple, yet it was so far from my grasp.

Most of my friends were urging me to let Raelynn cry it out in the crib. I'd been through this problem before and because I am still a breastfeeding mom (and for those of you who have never breastfed or think you should stop breastfeeding well before the age Raelynn is, please shut your stupid mouth before I shut it for you and go read about breastfeeding on La Leche League's page) I have to admit I cringed at the thought of leaving my daughter to shriek endlessly. I'm sorry I ever passed any judgement on anyone for that, even if I never told you all. I totally was. That wasn't very cool of me.

But I think the circumstances for every parent are different. Another friend of mine said parenting was a crapshoot. She's right on. And not only are circumstances for every parent different, but those circumstances CHANGE with your kid making it even more exhausting to keep up with. I took a long hard look at our family. Raelynn is almost 2 now. She is very independent in that she wants to feed herself without your help. She wants to do things her way and she is a total diva too. Just like her mommy of course. I realized that the first time crying it out was suggested to me, Raelynn was smaller and not yet manipulative. But now, she's a totally manipulative little princess. Somehow, she'd made it impossible for my husband and I to sleep next to each other anymore. Or for us to really even sleep period. She was constantly waking up and screaming. Part of it can be attributed to teething but the other part, I knew I had to be honest, was her trying to manipulate us. In essence, she was playing us as her pawns in the crying game. She'd cry and we, desperate for sleep, would give in to these demands.

I had to do this my way though. I felt it was cruel to just, out of the blue, shove her in her crib in her room and trot away. So I began talking to her about it during the day. I told her she was a big girl now and that she was going to sleep in her room in a few more nights. I also started taking her to her crib to read her stories. I was told the first night would be the worst. Well, duh. Of course it is! I tried to stay positive, lest she read my fear through the mask of my smiles and laughter. I bathed her, I breastfed her, and then I put her in the crib for stories. And then, I turned on her sound machine and star light and went to leave. That's when the freakout began. She screamed and cried, sounding more like a stuck pig than a precious toddler. With each shriek, my heart broke more. Jeremy and I could hear her in our room even before we turned on the baby monitor. He was my rock that night. Finally, after what seemed like forever but was actually about an hour, she went to sleep.

For a whole week, we've been doing this. Each night, I could see more progress which enabled me to stay strong. And last night, after I read her stories to her and left, she didn't make a peep. That's right. She went to sleep almost immediately.

Some people suggested to me to not check on her at all once I put her in there but I couldn't do that. When she wakes, I go in there and check on her if she hasn't stopped crying by herself after several minutes. I'm glad I did because one night, she'd uncharacteristically pooped during that time and I don't think she would have been very comfortable trying to sleep with a huge pile of shit smudged onto her ass, do you?

While we've been doing this, I've made sure to show Raelynn how much I love her and how proud I am of her. I've also told her that the bed is for Mommy and Daddy to sleep in, but when we're not sleeping, she can always snuggle with us and play with us on it. I think it helped her to know this. She's one smart cookie, but hey, she's got me for a mom, right? *wink*

As Jeremy and I enjoy having our bed and our evenings back to ourselves again, I've noticed all of us have been sleeping better and are happier too. I know I am. The happiest one of all is Raelynn who has won herself ice cream for her good behavior. We're so proud of you, Raelynn! You are our little Raelynn of sunshine and we love you!
This ice cream moment is from Jeremy's birthday dinner at the Shangri-La. It's just too cute.

The following photos are of Raelynn enjoying her ice cream treat today! Awwwww!

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