Sleep has been ROUGH around here. I mean like sacred. I mean like nobody is getting any sleep. For days. And weeks. Months. Even maybe years?
Sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. It is clear to me why. Sleep deprivation can turn a saint into a devil. It can make you crazy, literally.
Egan has not been sleeping. Thirty minutes at a time, all night long, and very short naps (15-30 minutes) once per day. It’s been wearing us thin. Paul, mostly, because he is a superhero, deals with the night waking. He isn’t affected as badly as I am with lack of sleep and it is better for everyone this way.
When Gannon was around the same age as Egan is now, we went through a similar situation. We are against sleep training, though, as I’ve mentioned in the past, we have used it in a desperate moment and knew we wouldn’t do it again. It was the worst twenty minutes ever. So we were told about a book that had insight and recommendations that worked for us and our values.
The book is called Tears and Tanrums: What to do When Babies and Children Cry by Aletha Solter. The book really shines light on the necessity of crying. Crying is a way for children to process emotions. It doesn’t seem like they have much stress but when you really break down what happens in the typical day of a toddler, there are so many instances of frustration or things beyond their reach. They are incredible beings at this age, especially, and they need to decompress all that they accomplish (or can’t) in a day.
I loved this book because it was written for people who practice attachment style parenting. It felt so right. You let your child cry their little hearts out without distracting them (no rubbing backs or patting bottoms, no rocking or singing) and simply BE WITH THEM. It’s supporting them as they go through their process of crying and emotions. It’s comforting them with the words “it’s okay to cry” and talking about strong and big emotions.
I knew it was time to do this with Egan. He wasn’t falling asleep nursing. He wasn’t staying asleep for any length of time and he didn’t want to be held like he normally would. So three nights ago was the first time I let him cry. It was 3:00 in the morning. Paul had been up with him all night. He fell asleep after crying for an hour and a half. The process was long. He would want to be put down. He would hit me and bite me. He would slam his head into mine. He was raging. He would want to be held. Then put down. Then held again. When I finally held him as he wished around 4:30, he put his head on my shoulder, let out a deep breath, and fell asleep. Last night was about the same length of time and he fell asleep for Paul after we both took turns comforting him. But then he slept for SIX HOURS. Tonight was better. He cried. He yelled. He hit me a few times. The entire thing lasted maybe a half hour. And right before he fell asleep he looked at me and smiled a huge, beaming smile that made my heart turn to mush, then he placed his head on my chest and he was asleep in seconds.
This is similar to what happened with Gannon as well. There are pent up emotions from events that had taken place from the moment of birth that it can take a few days to really get it all out. But being there for them, telling them it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to have big emotions, is the connection piece that was so important to me.
It really works. I recommend reading the book to all new parents and especially those who want to get some sleep and stay connected emotionally. It’s so important. That huge smile I mentioned is how you know they’ve completed the process for the night. Sometimes Gannon will still need to have a good cry and at the end he always hugs me and tells me how much he loves me.
I’m glad to have had this resource handed to me so I feel that it is my duty to hand it to you. Crying is a normal part of life and we are quick to make it stop when it starts, which truly is unfortunate. Repressed emotions are toxic for our wellbeing. It can make us explosive, negative, and so many other things. I’m thankful for the knowledge I have, now, to do what feels right with our wants for our family. I hope that you will find it helpful too.