There were three posts on Facebook yesterday that jumped out at me and seemed so connected. (Just so you aren't worried that I am breaking my Lenten Intentions with God, I will fill you in - yesterday we visited good friends in South Florida. It was a 3 hour drive from my parents. The kids did great on the rides to and from and they had so much fun playing at our friends' house. Plus they went to sleep on the drive home. So even though it is Lent, I was able to peruse Facebook last night and catch up on my newsfeed. That is why I didn't make a "rule" that I should not read Facebook, but made clear intentions of cutting back. So far it is going really well - there's been meditation, exercising, post-card, bible reading, writing and general "being" going on here like you wouldn't BE-lieve!)
Anyways, now you know that I'm staying true to my word. ;-P
Back to Facebook. First I had a sleep-deprived friend post asking for advice on getting her little kids to sleep better. Then I had another friend post this article.
Finally there was a free viewing here:The Connected Baby: a film conversation — an exclusive streaming event
Here is a quote from the beginning of it:
“Babies arrive already connected to other people. That’s what a range of sciences is now telling us: that they have brains already tuned in to other people’s body rhythms and vocal tones and movements. It makes them much more communicative and sophisticated than we often realise. In fact, it turns out that their very brain pathways are shaped by the kinds of responses that they receive from other people. “So, to build the kind of society that we all want, we need to pay more attention to the way that we relate to our youngest children. I guess you could say that science is helping us to understand why it is that the way we love our children matters so much.” Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk
I have had so many thoughts zinging around my head today I hardly know where to start. I guess I will start with my own reactions. I've been thinking a lot lately about triggers and noticing when I feel triggered. The advice that my friend got on Facebook really brought up a lot of feelings for me and I have been examining why all day.
First I want to be clear on a few things. I am not surprised that the majority of the advice she got to get her children to sleep better was to let her children cry, scream, or general training ideas. And I'm also not saying that people who do that are wrong, bad or in general trying to make anyone feel guilty. Most of my favorite people in the world, including my best friends and closest family, have used some form of sleep training or cry-it-out with their children. So this post is not about *my* way being the right or better way.
Here are some of the things that really get me though. The use of the words, "have to" in reference to what the parents or the children need to do. The mom has to let her kids cry it out a few nights and then they will sleep. The children need to learn to self-soothe.
The truth is that the parents and the children don't HAVE TO do any of those things. There are choices and alternatives. To make a choice that you feel good about you need to be clear in your mind and the language you use is very important in achieving that clarity. There are probably some families whose situations are such that some form of sleep training is what is best for their family. But they should choose it knowing that it is that, a choice.
Another comment that really got under my skin was, "Motherhood is not for wimps," coming from another person advocating for crying it out. Why did this bother me so much? I looked very closely at it. Well, I don't let my kids cry it out, so what does that mean? I'm a wimp? I know I'm not. So since I know I'm not, that statement should not bother me. After realizing that and doing some deep breathing I feel better about that. In fact, I know that whatever choices we make as parents there will be advantages and challenges to every path. We all need strength.
Finally, I want to address the idea that sleep training is not mean and that children need to learn to self-soothe. Let me ask you to think about this. If a friend or sibling or parent were crying in the night and you heard them - would you leave them alone to "self-soothe"? (I remember a time in college when one of my friends - who was actually two years older than me - was going through a very rough time. Her sister had died. She called me in the middle of the night crying. I walked across campus in the dark and cold to be with her. I had forgotten that till thinking about this today)
If someone feels guilty there is probably a reason for it. If something feels mean it probably is. Our babies are at their smallest and most vulnerable and depend on us. Yes, most will "survive" sleep training. Yes many will be "fine" if they cry to sleep sometimes. But is it the best way? Is it the *only* way? No, it is not. I have written about our sleep journey before on my past blog, if you have time and want to search through it. It has not been a smooth, easy ride but I have learned a lot and I am very passionate about it. Personally, I believe that the way our society is now, with families being very isolated and parents without a lot of immediate support, that methods like sleep training feel necessary. For single, working moms, families with many small children, and other situations it may be. But I also know that there are other cultures that look at our sleep methods as cruel (how do I know? I read it sometime, somewhere - sorry I can't find it to reference it now!) I also believe that we can make choices that disconnect or connect us to those we love. Over time these choices compound and become part of patterns that make up our relationships. I want to be careful in my choices and the patterns I am helping create with my children.
Personally, I try to reconcile the world I was born into with the ideals I hold close. I make choices that help me stay as close to my values as I can - even if that means being sleep deprived for a few years. I often yearn for my "tribe" so I could have more help, and when I *do* have support to make our sleep time peaceful, rejuvenating, and copious enough for everyone, I treasure that time.
If anything I have said here hurts you, triggers you, or strikes you as plain crazy I invite you to look very closely at your thoughts and feelings. If what I've said doesn't apply to you then it shouldn't matter. You can walk away and not think about it again.
I called this post, "Our children are people (and animals!) too". I hope that many people have a "well, duh! Of course they're people!" reaction... Unfortunately, the way we view and treat babies and small children sometimes does not line up with the belief that they are people that deserve the same things that adults do. I'll leave you with these two clips from the movie, "Born to Be Wild". You can see these baby animals being loved to sleep by humans. I wish all of our human babies were treated with such tender care.