Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why crying it out suddenly got hard.

Ever since my child was born, I've secretly prided myself on being a bit of a strait-laced mom. According to the Mary Poppins-type British lady in my mind, I "tolerate no nonsense whatsoever." If my daughter is overtired (which happens frequently since she's so sensitive to any kind of stimulation), then she gets to cry it out. There will be no rocking the baby to sleep for hours in this house, no sirree.

(I have nothing against attachment parenting when other people do it--it seems to work marvelously for lots of moms. But I know myself well enough to know that that kind of parenting style would drive me insane.)

When I was pregnant, some women insisted that even if I thought I was going to let my baby cry it out, everything would be different once I had the baby. I would want to run into her room at the slightest whimper. I would be powerless against my baby's cries.

There was a part of me that thought they might be right. How would I know, anyway? I'd never had a child of my own. Maybe I would want to hold her every time she whined a little.

But so far, it hasn't been much of a problem. I mean, lest you think I'm a neglectful parent, of course I don't let my baby cry for more than a few minutes (but a few minutes will almost always be enough).

However, in the last week or so, my "no-nonsense" parenting style has been seriously challenged.

I guess it was only so long before my baby started figuring me out. She finally learned to do something that would make me absolutely melt.

She started saying "mama."

At first I didn't even think about it; I assumed it was just babbling. But at a family reunion, two of my sisters said they thought she was really trying to call for me. And then I started hearing it. When I would put her down for a nap, in between whines I heard a plaintive little "ma-ma-ma!"

And I couldn't. I just could not. 

It used to be that when I heard her cry after I put her down for a nap (and by the way, she often doesn't cry at all when I put her down), I would just think serenely, "She's not crying for me; she's crying for sleep." But hearing the little voice crying "mama" changed the game. "She's not crying for sleep! She wants me! She's wishing her mommy would hold her!" I started thinking.

Suddenly, I realized that she has thoughts going on inside her little brain. She's not just always thinking about puffy clouds of glory and stuff. She is picturing my face. And she's feeling lonely. Her mother just left her all alone in this scary place (okay, technically it's her crib that she has spent more than half her life in, but still), to fend for herself! Will Mommy ever come back? How can she be sure?!

If I didn't have seven months of experience that has taught me that letting her cry herself to sleep is the best way for everyone, I would most definitely be running into that room before my husband could stop me.

I guess it's a good thing for me that she wasn't born with the ability to say "mama."

By the way, I'm trying to teach her how to say "dada." Let her pull at his heartstrings...


  1. I'm interested to see what will happen when you and I have more children. I wonder how much our parenting styles are determined by the children we have! If I had a baby like yours and you had a baby like mine, would we change parenting styles significantly? I think I would be willing to let a baby "cry it out" if it only took a few minutes and seemed to be the best option for the baby. But with Summer, trying to make her cry it out would have been an effort to break her will.

    1. Could be. It wasn't always as easy as it is now, though. I think it helped significantly that we actually figured out what was keeping my baby from sleeping (gas caused by a tongue tie) and we were able to resolve it. If we'd never been able to resolve that, our lives might look a lot different now. Also, we were able to make a slow transition to the crib. If my baby had resisted that transition as much as Summer did, I might still be holding her a lot. I think it definitely depends on the baby, but I think we also all have different priorities...if I had Summer instead of my own baby, I think I might have tried harder to sleep train her simply because I would be so crazy. But I think I would probably have ended up in the same place as you--except I would be more stressed than you!

      Also, did you know that introverts are better at functioning when they're sleep-deprived than extroverts are? Maybe that's why you're so much more patient than I am when our kids don't sleep well... ;)

    2. Remember when you were about 9 and I was about 20 and you always came into my room and woke me up and asked me to take you places? I'd tell you I was tired, but you didn't believe me because you said I didn't LOOK tired! But it was always worth it to get up and spend time with you. I guess I do function pretty well when I'm sleep-deprived, thank goodness.