I can actually ask this question of many things, but tonight I am referring to "sleep training" my son Sam.
If you look back at a previous post a few days ago, Sam has trouble sleeping. Well, that's not entirely accurate. Ever since our trip to Italy this past summer, my husband or I have been having to lay down in Sam's room until he falls asleep. That was fine for the first few months, not a big deal really. Just missing some average television. It actually gave me some time to catch up on my reading. However, lately Sam has been waking up in the middle of the night and wants us to lay down in the bed. Please understand that Sam has just turned two, and he has always been a good sleeper (we've been spoiled). Most of the time he will sleep right through the night, so these past few months have been exhausting, to say the least.
In hindsight, we should have started sleep training him as soon as we returned from our vacation. We actually thought it would rectify itself over time (WRONG!). I also have to be honest, the idea of "sleep training" made me want to vomit. I couldn't bare the thought of Sam crying himself to sleep. However, after one particularily exhausting evening of getting up with Sam through the night, I decided it was time. My husband and I read some books and articles on sleep training, discusssed which method we were comfortable with, and then chose our course of action.
This past Thursday night was THE night. We conducted our usual nightly ritual of bath, snack, brush teeth, books and bed, and then we left the room. Before I left the room I told Sam that I would leave the door open and I would be in my office (across the hall) and that I would come and check on him in a few minutes. He looked at me for a moment (I could see this processing, and he didn't look happy) and then it started. The crying. I continued to walk out of the room (with my heart sinking) and the crying turned into screaming. I went into my office and my husband went into our bedroom (to make sure I didn't crack). After a few minutes, I grabbed a tissue, went into Sam's room, wiped his eyes and nose, told him that I love him but it's time to sleep and I'll be back in a few minutes. And that's what we did for the next 46 minutes. Every few minutes, I would go in, wipe his tears and his nose, reassure him, kiss him, and then leave.
At 47 minutes, the screaming and crying stopped. It just stopped. I thought to myself "Good Lord, I killed him." My heart broke. I jumped out of my office chair and slowly crept into this room. As I made my way to the crib, I picked up two stuffed animals, his favourite blankie and his soother... all of which he threw at some point during the screaming fit. I approached the crib quietly and peeked over the rail. There he was, my beautiful son, laying quietly on his back, staring up at me. He didn't say a word. I tucked him under his blanket, gave him his stuffies and his soother, wiped his eyes and nose, told him again how much I love him and that it was time for sleep, and he closed his eyes and went to sleep.
I went to bed feeling horribly guilty and truly believing that that my son was going hate me forever. My husband told me he was proud of me, and although I truly appreciated his support, I still felt like a horrible mother.
Eight hours later I awoke with a start... I realized that miraculously we all slept through the night! I went in to check on Sam, fully expecting him to give me the cold shoulder, and he just looked up at me with those big brown doe eyes, smiled and said "Hi Mom". HE DOESN'T HATE ME! YAY!!
I am happy to report that for the past 3 nights Sam has gone to bed, on his own, without a tear, and has slept through the night. Tonight I asked myself a question: How did I not see it? Why did I not understand that Sam fully expected us to still be in the bed because that's where we were when he fell asleep? Duh! It's common sense! Now, because we are not in the room when he falls asleep, he doesn't look for us if he wakes in the night. He just puts himself back to sleep. Why didn't we do this right when we got back from Italy? Who knows... I guess some of us have to learn the hard way.
Now to figure out when to tackle the soother...