Monday, September 20, 2010


As a parent I have found that few things get me into action faster than the sound of crying. Whether intense and desperate, whiny and insistent, or plainly bloodcurdling, the cries of my children run up my spine and force me to the situation at hand.
This reaction, I would imagine, is true for most parents. We are hard-wired to react in just this way to insure the survival of our young. If our children are in danger their cries alert us to that and allow us to rescue them. If our children are hungry they use their cries for the same effect, to be fed. Even older children's tears are a flag that something is wrong and we need to step in to offer assistance, a strong shoulder, or support of some kind.
But having raised two other children I know that not all cries should be answered. Some cries are simply habits that manipulate a parent to respond. At some point the cries need to be ignored (as long as the child is not sick or in danger). A baby who has all of its needs met and is old enough to do so, should be sleeping through the night. I know this. My two sons were trained at the "right time" to sleep through the night and my husband and I utilized the "crying out" method. Although this method is it's own kind of torture, it is only tortuous to the parents. Sure the children cry like they are never going to stop, but they do stop, and sleep. And when these children awaken at a decent hour they are well rested, happy, and have no earthly idea they put you through such an ordeal!
So when I was questioned by my loving husband and father of my 3 children why our youngest child was still demanding a middle-of-the-night feeding at 11 + months old, I had no answer. Calorically she did not need to awaken. She rarely ate much and she would go right back down to sleep. I had even employed the crying out method earlier in her infancy to terrific effect, but for some reason when a cry came after that time, I rushed to her side and nursed her. I used excuses like not wanting to wake the rest of the house, she didn't eat well the night before, and the weak she just needs me. But the truth is, I needed to be needed. This baby is most likely the last baby we'll have. That's a decision we made together and we are very at peace. But that doesn't change the fact that it is hard to adjust to the idea that my role as a mother of a baby is ending...forever. Although still very young and dependent, the early stages of babyhood are completely behind me. I now have a toddler who can maneuver around her world on foot. A child who sits at a high chair, eats table food, and is able to understand if not yet communicate through words. Her cries now are a higher form of communication: I'm hungry is plaintive, I'm sporting a dirty diaper is a rather disgusted cry, and the whiny cry belies her tiredness. But the little cries that come out in the overnight are endangered species. Other than an occasional illness that will keep my little girl from sleep, she is ready and able to go the distance and sleep all night. 
We resolved last night that when the cries came I would stay strong and stay clear. With the first cry I went to her, settled her down, told her I loved her, and explained that I would not be coming back and that it was night time so she should go to sleep. Babies don't reason. I left. She cried. I curled up in fetal position in my bed. My husband reached out a supportive and comforting hand to me. She cried on and off for an hour or so, but nothing too bad. She is long past ready to give up the overnight if last night is proof positive. 
So now I start a new stage of parenting, the one where I regain my sleep to restore some brain function. Because although the nighttime cries are ceasing for the most part, the daytime cries still come from all of the children. And, hey, they come from me, too! And for that I am proud. Teaching my children to sleep through the night is a wonderful gift I have given them. But I also want to express to them that crying is a very healthy way to deal with life's hardships and joys. That crying, not as an only coping mechanism, but as a release of stress to clear one's mind to move into action, is a great tool to have as one is moving through life. That being in touch with your emotions and feeling to that depth is a positive not a weakness. So as I listen to a silent baby monitor that indicates my little girl is sleeping peacefully, I cry for the end of an era and I rejoice for the start of a new chapter. 


  1. She'll sleep through the night tonight. And maybe so will we. Great blog as always.

  2. Interesting to compare the #48 power down, think Texas last year, and the #29 expletives wilder than the rivers of Babylon, think NH last night, methods of coping and releasing stress :-)

  3. Oh my gosh I love your blog!! Keep it up!!

  4. Thank you Ryan and Art!
    Crystal, thank you so much! I hope to see you around some more. :-)