Ugh. It’s two hours past bedtime and my child is still awake. I’m exhausted, I’m frustrated, nothing is done, and I don’t know what to try next. I can only focus on why she just won’t go to sleep.
This is part of what I call “in the trenches parenting,” the times when you have to dig deep and hang on. Another example of being “in the trenches” – cleaning up stuff you would never imagine coming out of your child at 3 in the morning.
It’s so easy to get angry at your child when you are deprived of your own needs. It can be hard to think beyond your needs to meet the needs of your child, especially when those needs are at their peak, like when you haven’t eaten or slept or done anything else in hours except tend to your child.
As I sit in sullen silence, staring at my fully awake little darling, it hits me. I can’t “just go to sleep” either. So why am I expecting her to?
She may be just as frustrated as I am, lying there in the dark staring back at me. She can’t go to sleep because I want her to; she has to go to sleep for her own benefit. I can’t make her go to sleep. Even though I am there, she is still on her own when it’s time to go to sleep. Barely awake, I realize she needs my help, not my anger.
I calmly reassure her that it’s OK if she’s having trouble falling asleep, and that I am there to help her. Then I used a tried-and-true method that some childcare centers use: I rub her back, hum a bit of a tune, and she slowly begins to relax. And so do I.
Theresa Davis is a former early childhood educator and has worked in childcare centers for more than 15 years. She is also an adoptive mother, living and taking care of her family in the Capital District.