Our first child, April, had terrible sleep habits as a baby! She does to this day. As first time parents we would do anything to get her to sleep…so we could sleep. We made the rookie mistake of patting her gently in her crib to calm her. It seemed to soothe her, but even though she appeared totally zonked out, she would start crying as soon as we stopped. What to do?
So, okay, I’m a smart guy. I decided that I’ll pat her bum--but I’ll start out firm. Then I will s-l-o-w-l-y pat her lighter and lighter, until I’m barely touching her, then she won’t notice when I stop…. Whaaa!
Okay, maybe I was impatient and slowed my pace too quickly. So, the next time I bent over the crib with my forehead resting on the rail, blindly patting. PAT,PAT,PAT, then Pat-Pat-Pat, then paat—paat—paat, then and paaat---paaat---paaat, barely touching her. I then stopped for a moment. Then another paaat---paaat---paaat, assuming I could confuse her timing mechanism for expecting pats.
I stopped patting again…and patiently waited. QUIET! I raised my head off the rail--I’m sure I had a red mark on my forehead--and thought, with possibly a little smirk of pride, that I had done it! But I waited a little longer. Easier to resume patting a half-asleep kid than to start over with a screaming one.
I must have stood there over three minutes, making sure April was sound asleep. Too many nights Kathy and I had not gotten the rest we needed. Since I was often gone a week at a time while I was on alert duty in the Air Force, I felt it was my turn to get her to sleep when I was home. So did Kathy!
Well, April was breathing in a nice deep rhythm. My weary body was imagining the coziness of the fetal position I would soon be in! With a fluffy pillow and warm blanket! It was time to s-l-o-w-l-y walk out of her room.
Now I had been through this before, and I knew the creaks in the floor. Those creaks that you never notice during the day but sound like a Gabriel’s trumpet in the quiet of the night! She had been awakened by these creaks before. The loudest creak was about four slats from the doorway. I would stay away from that slat the same way I would stay away from rattlesnake on a hiking trail!
To get to the hallway was my goal! It was about four tippy-toe steps away. But with that creaky slat in my path, I would take three small tippy-toes, then one big one over the slat from Hell! My first tippy made a small creaky noise. I froze! She still slept. I took another tippy, all okay. The third tippy and I was getting slightly delirious with relief. Now the big tippy, over the fourth slat from the doorway. I reached for the wall to steady myself. No way did I want to lose balance and make a noise of any kind.
One last balanced tippy-toe step and I was free! In the hallway, I was making the same motion with my arm that a locomotive engineer makes when he pulls the rope to blare his horn. I went to the bathroom but I didn’t flush--too risky. I crawled in bed and it was Shangri-La! I fluffed up my pillow, closed my eyes and then……Whaaaa- whaaaaaa! Ten minutes later, still wailing!
This is how kids are! They have no sympathy for you and they never give you a break. They know the sound of a hard candy wrapper from the next room. They can see the look in your eyes when you are trying to hide something. You can’t whisper low enough when you’re talking about something fun or tasty; and you can’t talk loud enough when you want them to stop doing something. Finding tempting hidden treats is just child’s play to them. But they can’t find their shoes! Its normal behavior and you will live through it.
Every mom and dad has a story like this. I’m sure as experienced parents read this, their heads nodded up and down. Yep!
But WOW! April has paid us back a million times over with her accomplishments, her love, her notes of thanks, and the beautiful grandchildren she gave us! Each of our three children gave us challenges, but every challenge we faced with each child has brought us rewards beyond our comprehension.
So go forth young parents! Do your duty and you will get your rewards! They seem to come slowly at times but patience will be rewarded! It’s a lot of fun if you do things right!
PS. We stopped that ‘patting them to sleep’ thing with our second child!