Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wherever they lay their heads

As I was explaining to my Little Bro recently, our baby is a little over four months old now and that puts him directly in a gray-zone developmentally, specifically as it pertains to his evolving sleep habits. He’s no longer a newborn (we no longer refer to his age in weeks) and thus he no longer needs to wake up every two to three hours to feed. But he’s also not quite old enough to be consigned to a crib wherein he must cry it out until morning and thereby learn to settle himself and sleep through the night; that approach is not APA-recommended for babies under six months of age. So he still sleeps in a little sidecar bassinet next to my wife’s side of the bed, and sometimes he wakes up twice in the course of the night, and sometimes only once. Sometimes he is legitimately hungry; sometimes he just wants to be held. Sometimes the first wakening comes in the are-you-kidding-me-we-just-fell-asleep window (approximately ten to midnight), and that’s not so good. Sometimes it doesn’t come until 4-something in the morning, which thanks to the weird perspective-warping of parenthood is so good, the closest we’re going to get to a through-the-night snooze at this point.

We took a shot at laying the baby to sleep in his crib (which used to be his sister’s crib, and is still in her room, with her in the toddler bed in the opposite corner) early this week, but it was a complete no-go. The baby woke up the moment he hit the crib mattress and was not particularly happy about it. He sometimes naps in the crib, so it’s not like the strange and unfamiliar surroundings threw him off. But then again, it was very dark in the room because the little girl had gone to bed hours before, well before the baby got his nightly bath and final nursing and whatnot, so maybe that was the difference-maker. We’ve never had kids share a room before, so when the other two were just a few months old they always had quarters to themselves where we could shut the door and muffle any wailing required by the adjustment process. But the plan is for the two youngest to be roomies for a while, which means we have to time the implementation to make sure baby isn’t waking up two-year-old. And clearly we’re still figuring out how to do that.

The little girl, for her part, doesn’t really have any problems sleeping through the night (again, assuming there isn’t a howling baby eight feet away from her) but she is developing a serious aversion to going to bed in the first place. As with just about everything consternation-causing she does these days, I chalk this up to her being two. (My wife worries that it’s all due to her acting out about being the middle child, but I sincerely hope that I’m right, if only because one doesn’t grow out of one’s birth order.) So bedtime has become a tiny bit more harrowing, with the one saving grace being that the little girl has not quite figured out that she could make things a lot harder on us. It’s hard to wrestle her into pajamas, and it’s heart-breaking to turn my back on her and turn out the light and close the door as I leave when she’s sobbing hysterically and incoherently, but as difficult as all that is it only lasts for a matter of minutes before she throws herself across her bed, sucks her thumb miserably and drifts off to sleep. It’s not as pleasant as tucking her in and kissing her forehead and whispering “I love you” and having the sentiments returned, but it could be worse if the little girl ever figured out that she could riotously protest bedtime by, you know, actually leaving her room. Her older brother twigged to that trick early and employed it often, but so far it hasn’t dawned on her. She also waits, wide awake, in the mornings, never leaving the confines of her toddler bed (let alone her room) until a parent comes in and gets her. I’m crossing my fingers that this pattern holds a while longer.

And just to round out the sleep study report, the little guy sleeps like a champ, which if nothing else encourages my belief that if you (the parent) hang in there and enforce the bedtime protocols on a consistent basis for several years, they will be ingrained in the child and no longer challenged or even questioned. Patterns can be formed, and eventually patterns stick. Anyway, lately the little guy has been talking a lot about sleepovers. Last fall he and his sister had a sleepover at their grandparents’ house, which allowed my wife and I to swing by our college Homecoming for an evening. He’s been talking about wanting to do that again, and also about maybe sleeping over at the house of a friend who lives on our street. I’m all for it, I think that would be tons of fun for both our little guy and his friend, and my wife is gradually warming to the idea after the initial panicky gut surety that she would never be able to fall asleep herself if all her children weren’t under the same roof with her.

In fairness, I don’t think this recent interest in sleepovers is any indication that our firstborn is ready to spread his fledgling wings and fly. A few nights ago it was particularly hot in the upstairs of our house and we suggested to the little guy that he sleep in just a pair of underwear, and the ones he chose were dark blue with orange basketballs, which brought the University of Virginia to mind and my wife speculated aloud that maybe the little guy would go to UVA someday. The little guy thought about this for a moment and asked, “Is A-V-A close by?” and we said not really and he informed us that he wants to go to whatever college is closest to our house. Obviously many, many countless changes are in store between ages five and seventeen (or sixteen? whenever the college selection process will be underway?) but it’s still sweet that right now our boy just can’t see himself leaving home (or us) for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

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