While, yes, I’m well aware of the happy-face wrinkles that are around the corner, I’ve recently realized how I’m also paving the way for my furrowed-brows lines.
When Bennett was an infant-infant (I feel the need to say that twice to stress which teeny tiny stage he was in), his cries had more a tone of fear in them. His world was so new that gas could be scary, being tired could be scary, etc. And with very limited eye sight and the inability to control his limbs, there was little he could do to 1) know that he was secure and 2) comfort himself.
But now he’s passed the three month mark. Bennett’s very comfortable in our family and when he’s stressed, tired, bored, happy or angry, he can just suck away on his fists.
Now, in one month, I’m going to have to start him in day care two days a week. I don’t want him to be terrified of our separation, to refuse naps, to make himself more upset by getting worked up, etc. So what is my duty as a loving mother? Answer: To teach Bennett how to soothe himself.
‘Cause let’s face it: It’s not realistic to expect everyone who isn’t me to put him down for a nap exactly the way that I can, with all the time in the world to bop, sway, pat and coo. And say he gets to crying in the car? It’s not like I can just hop out of the driver’s seat and sling him over my shoulder while rubbing his back, right?
So if I love him, I’ll teach him that he’s okay, right? And if I want him to enjoy quality of life when we’re separated, I’ll teach him that he’s okay, right? And if gas wakes him up at night, but he’s not hungry enough to eat, and it’s best for his health for him to get good sleep, then I’ll teach him that he’s okay, right?
Well, the only way to teach him that he’s okay is to let him realize for himself that he’s okay. That he can calm down. That he can go back to sleep. That he’s still got two fists to gnaw on.
Do you know what it feels like to let your baby cry? It feels like setting your heart on fire. No matter how much you tell yourself that it’s for his benefit and he’s going to be so much better for it, it doesn’t change the fact that I, as a mother, feel like I’m betraying my child to allow him to cry instead of saving the day.
Today is day three of working this out. On day one, we began at bedtime. It took about 15-20 minutes – with intermittent back patting – to get him to fall asleep on his own. The next morning at nap time, it took about fifteen minutes. The following nap took seven, as did the next. This morning he went down for a nap in under five minutes without me having to coo, pat, rub, etc.
So to anyone who might ever babysit my darling son, you’re welcome. As much as I feel like the worst human being in the whole world, I’m quickly seeing Bennett realize that he can settle and calm himself down. Hopefully that’ll make for a very happy baby, child, adolescent and adult one day.
But pray for me. Because the misery of allowing him to grow like this is worse than natural childbirth.