What seems sensible to parents doesn’t always make sense to a 5-year-old.
I was leaving my 7-month-old baby to cry.
All three of my other children had learned the art of a 2-hour midday nap, why shouldn’t he? All three of my other children still took a 2-hour midday rest, while I took a 2-hour midday nap, why shouldn’t he?
I was tired of his 40-minute cat nap, his loud yelling to be fetched from his cot, just as I had finished a satisfying chapter in my new book and had nestled down for a dreamy, dozy, hard-earned snooze.
I had to take action – a few minutes, all the baby books assured me, and he would reset that 40-minute alarm clock and go straight back to sleep; a few days and he would be relishing his midday nap.
So I was leaving him to cry. He had woken as usual after 40 minutes and I was leaving him to yell.
‘Mom, where were you?’
But the yelling was getting strangely closer. And now the yelling was turning to sobbing; and the sobbing to whimpering; and the whimpering to a kind of muffled sniffing right outside my room. Then the door burst open and hanging precariously, down my 5-year-old son’s leg, was my 7-month-old son’s body.
‘Mom,’ Joah exclaimed, ‘he was crying! Didn’t you hear him? Where were you? I couldn’t find you, so I fetched him right away. Mom, he was crying!’
What Joah was really saying was, ‘Mom, do you know what you’re doing? Are you actually fit for this job? Maybe we should review your position and find someone more suitable.’
‘Yes, Joah,’ I replied, ‘I know he was crying. He was meant to be crying. It’s called sleep training.’
Three children later, I definitely wasn’t expecting to fight this battle again. I thought it was over. The avid routiners saying: if you give your baby a finger he’ll take the whole arm; you have to show him whose boss before it’s too late.
And the just as avid non-routiners saying: if you leave him to cry you will scar him for life; he will have self-esteem issues for good.
I’d been through it all and finally decided that you should do whatever served your child, your family and yourself best. That might be cuddling your baby to sleep with you at your own bedtime or it might be leaving them to yell at their bedtime. I had resolved this problem 3 children ago. But somehow it was an issue that was a magnet for opinion. And my 5-year-old’s opinion was written all over his face.
He eyed me suspiciously and lugged his brother protectively down the stairs.
A few days later I tried again. ‘Mom,’ 3-year-old Anna said, ‘why are you leaving the baby to cry?’ But before I could answer she said, ‘Oh is it because he's trying to go to sleep but doesn't know how to?’
That’s exactly right, Annie, that’s exactly right. Can you explain that to your big brother?
Do your children keep an eye on your parenting skills?