One of the most frustrating things you learn when becoming a parent for the first time has got to be a child who won’t sleep when you want them to.
This seems to be pretty true no matter what age the kid is. Whether it’s an infant who is only taking 20-minute naps or won’t go down when they are supposed to and instead, just scream cries. Or a toddler who sits in her crib for a solid hour and a half just stalling until she MIGHT finally fall asleep. Both equally annoying and extremely trying.
I’m pretty sure this is what tests my patience more than any other parenting thing I have had to deal with in my short time of being a parent (potty training is a close second but will talk about that gong show later on).
Currently, we have a toddler who has been deciding for herself that she isn’t going to nap on some days anymore and instead, will sit in her crib for two hours just singing, playing or talking to herself. We seem to be very lucky that she hasn’t tried to get out of her crib yet as we just leave her in there if she’s hanging out all happy, while we continue to be super annoyed downstairs because we know if she doesn’t nap, it’s going to suck for us later on.
We also have these other two things called twins who would give me constant bed-time anxiety as they sleep in the same room. Sometimes, we get lucky and put one down who passes out rather quickly and then sneak the other one in and they do the same. More normally these days, we put one down for a nap and wait out their whiny noises or cries before acting like a ninja and quietly sneak the other twin in. Usually, the second twin decides that his crib is a rave and starts squealing and slapping his “whale tale” down hard on the mattress. (Whale tale: while lying on his back he lifts his legs up to the sky and smacks them back down onto the mattress in his sleep sack). This doesn’t just make a little bit of noise but usually the whole house can hear it. Super cool.
Other times, one of them will just start losing their shit and we just sit there biting our nails staring at the monitor downstairs whispering sweet things like “go the fuck to sleep” or “why the fuck aren’t you sleeping” or “if you wake your sister, I swear to god…” This could last anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes at which point, the other twin usually decides to wake up about 5-10 minutes later. Again, super cool.
Patience is tested non-stop when you have babies. This also goes hand-in-hand with the fact that being a parent means that even the smallest noise sounds like a heard of elephants that will wake the baby. I’m not sure if it’s my hormones or if my ears are really more sensitive since ejecting these kids but if my husband walks up or down the stairs while the kids are sleeping, I clench my teeth so tight because his giant man feet stomp on the hardwood floor so aggressively, as if he is doing it on purpose like a child having a tantrum. The constant noise that is a partner when they come home just as you get the baby down for a nap, it’s as though they don’t hear noise at all.
I am not joking when I say that my husband had to change the way he sneezed after having our first child. He used to yell-sneeze. Picture the loudest yell you can imagine and then pair it with a slobbery loud sneeze and you get my husband. I would always tell him that it scared the baby (he thought I was nuts), and then one day he did it in front of her and she freaked the F out and started crying hysterically. This is when he started to work on his “quiet sneeze”.
It’s also pretty much a sure thing that as soon as a kid falls asleep, a police car, ambulance or fire truck decides to stroll on by and throw on the ol’ flashing lights and loud siren. Or maybe it’s the teenager next door who thinks that 7pm is a great time to learn how to aggressively bounce a basketball right outside the twins’ window. Amazon delivery guys are pretty cool too when they drop off a package and knock on the door like they think my house is 8,000 square feet and that I must be very far away from the front door or hanging out downstairs in our emergency bunker. I used to have a sign on my door saying “no need to knock, just leave the package at the door” because of it. Maybe I was a wee bit on the crazy side?
My favorite one has got to be when our dog, Hank hears any sort of noise (most likely the wind or the whale tale upstairs) and starts growling or barking at said noise (nothing). That’s a real treat because it’s the spiritic “woof” that’s loud and seems to make babies jump.
At the end of the day, there’s always some sort of noise that seems to stress out the mom more than anyone else but when you really think about it, you do want your kid to be able to sleep through some noise because it’s never going to always be completely silent… and I don’t want them ending up like me who has to wear earplugs every night while sleeping. I think the biggest issue here is the anxiety it creates for mom. You want to do everything in your power to ensure the baby gets the longest nap/sleep possible so that you can have your “me time” and not lose your mind every day.
A close friend recently told me she was reading something that said to “be curious” as a parent and it seemed to resonate with me. We all have our “things”. The noise machines, blackout blinds, perfectly heated rooms, routines, etc. But what happens if we stray from any of them? Will the baby still sleep? Will he sleep even longer? Should we try and put them down to sleep at a friend’s house without any of their “things” to see what happens? This is a very small part of my takeaway from this “be curious” stuff but it was the start of what has been going through my head lately and I have been trying to adopt a more curious attitude with the twins. I am taking the word “curious” as another form of “branching out” or “experimenting”.
Most of us don’t want to experiment with too much because we know our usual routines work, so why mess with it if it ain’t broke? I think we would all surprise ourselves though as some of these things aren’t necessarily always needed and it tends to be something that WE think we need more than what the baby really needs. It’s like we need that noise machine more than the 6-month old does.
One of the major stressors I thought of when finding out we were having twins was “how the hell am I going to have two babies sleep in the same room?”. I didn’t think there was any way it would work. I thought about how our oldest would scream from her crib occasionally and that it would definitely wake the babies at night. I thought about how one twin would cry and wake the other and wondered how I was supposed to get them to learn to sleep through the night in the same room if one slept and one didn’t. It didn’t seem possible for me to even comprehend it all until I was in the thick of it and had to experiment a little. With our first-born, we could afford to tiptoe around and cater to what we thought she needed. It changes big time when you add another child to the mix.
We realized that if one of the twins woke up screaming, the other didn’t necessarily always wake from it and vise-versa. This would all depend on timing of course but they really weren’t as sensitive to noise as we had thought. We learnt along the way and were more “curious” this time around because we really had no choice other than to try different alternatives. There were some brutal nights, as there are with any child (singleton or multiples) but I learnt a lot from it. They don’t need their noise machine every time they go to sleep and the world won’t implode if the room isn’t dark enough. Turns out, they tend to figure it out and still fall asleep without those things but we wouldn’t know that if we didn’t try it out once in a while. Has anyone ever put their kid down somewhere other than their own home and realized you forgot the noise machine or those blackout blinds that stick to the window? Did you panic a bit because you were certain that your child wouldn’t fall asleep? I can honestly say that I’ve done that in the past and can also say that it didn’t seem to matter to the child. She still fell asleep. I can also say that at times when she didn’t fall asleep, I automatically said “oh it’s obviously because we don’t have the noise machine” or “the room is too bright for her” or “she was probably cold”. Then, the next night, she slept and suddenly I started to realize it wasn’t because of any of those things.
I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes at me right now saying that your child 100% needs those things and that I’m wrong, and that’s ok. I’m just saying that sometimes being curious forces us outside of our comfort zones and when this happens, you realize that certain things may not be as necessary as you once thought. Not just talking about noise machines and blackout drapes… this is just what I am using for an example.
The funny thing is that when my husband stomps his giant ham-hocks by the baby’s room when they’re asleep, it actually doesn’t wake them up at all. I think I will always cringe every damn time when this happens but again, I seem to be more sensitive to it than the babies are.
With our first born, we would sit so quietly when she was napping and would do all these things to keep from making any noise at all. The dishwasher is full? Well, don’t even think about emptying it while she’s asleep. Don’t even get a glass from the cupboard because the door will slam and wake her. Coughing? Cough into your pillow please.
Now that we have a toddler running around while the twins are asleep, all these rules have gone completely out the window (probably for the better) and the twins seem to still sleep just fine. We had no choice but to be “curious” and test different tactics and live on the edge a little.
Don’t take this the wrong way. If you feel better when you keep your house completely silent while the baby sleeps and the thought of changing anything makes you panic, then you should continue to do what works for you or do what keeps your anxiety in check because that’s a real thing – I feel you there! I still take extra time to unload the dishwasher because I gently place every plate down to minimize the noise. All I’m saying is that these little creatures don’t seem to be as sensitive to things as we think they are and that sometimes being “curious” and experimenting a little can come in handy and open our eyes to something we never knew. This may help us relax a bit more and enable us to not give our partners such a hard time when they turn the TV on and it sounds like it must be at level 1000 when really, it’s at 19 and the baby is still asleep.
In conclusion, when a sleeping baby wakes up when they aren’t supposed to, it fucking sucks. No matter what. I am fairly certain that my newly found grey hairs are 100% from the anxiety of non-sleeping kids.