Saturday, October 1, 2011

Never Judge a Parent Until You've Stood at the Crib in the Middle of the Night

“If it works for the family, then it’s a good solution.” My friend (and fellow teacher) took that stance during a brief debate we had before school on Thursday. One of our students has some challenging sleep habits, and I don’t agree with the family’s solution. Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t go into details here, but to my mind, their solution only works around the problem. It doesn’t solve the underlying issue. “If it was me,” I countered, “I would ask myself, ‘What does this solution teach my child? Is it helping solve the problem for the long run or is it a temporary fix?’” My friend reiterated his earlier statement, going on to say that being a parent has greatly increased his definition of acceptable parenting moves; that the problem will likely work itself out no matter what the family chooses to do. I wasn’t convinced that it would be for the best.

That night, Violet woke up crying at 11:30 PM, 2 AM, and 3:30 AM. One of those times, the memory of which one is too blurry to be certain, I stood at the side of her crib, trying to soothe her. I rubbed her back. I spoke to her softly, reassuringly. The words of our pediatrician and in so many of the books I’ve read ran in bold letters across my brain. Do..not..pick..her..up.. Do..not..pick.. her..up. Picking her up reinforces the behavior. It does not encourage independence.

But I was so tired. I pictured myself standing there for another ten minutes as she continued to cry, then going back to bed, staring at the ceiling, awake and listening to more crying. It might go on for twenty or thirty minutes, maybe more. Or I could just pick her up. She would calm right down, rewarding me with that most wonderful of gifts, a sleepy smile in the dark. I would lie back on my pillows with her on my chest and she would drift off in just a few minutes, and I could place her gently back in the crib and return to bed, both of us happy. And that’s what I did.

That night, both of us learned something about me.

314 days old
To all those who have left comments over the past week or so, forgive me for not commenting back until tonight. There was a glitch on the blog that would not allow me to leave comments. I believe it is now fixed.


  1. Or you could go the other way and think that picking her up encourages her to realize that you'll always be there for her.

    We never really let Macie cry it out, and while we now have an overly snuggly 2-year-old, I'm mostly ok with that. And she now goes to sleep on her own and (usually) sleeps through until morning.

  2. Amy - you are probably right. It's the behavior-modifyin' teacher in me that is always looking out for "well, if I do this, then it reinforces that."
    I figure that, when it doesn't involve sleep, we pick her up whenever she cries - and a lot when she doesn't. We give her los of hugs, too, so I'm hoping she knows we'll always be there.