09 November 2011

Big boy

So I realize I just wrote a post but I've got to write more! It's a banner week not only in that I sent off my dissertation, but in that Gabriel is...drumroll please...finally sleeping through the night.

After nearly 21 months of waking up multiple times every night, and more recently, of sleeping with a restless, hair-pulling, kicking child, we have managed to get him to sleep, and stay asleep, in his own bed. Last night he slept for 12 hours. I cannot get over it. I might be more...gobsmacked by this fact than I am about the dissertation.

It's all entirely thanks to my mom, who was here for a three-week visit (and my dad, who was here for part of that time as well). I don't think we could have stuck with it if it weren't for her actually putting Gabriel to sleep on the first, hardest nights, and encouraging us to keep going.

Wait, let me back up and describe what we had been doing before that. Every night, we laid down with him in or beside his bed (uncomfortably, on the floor) for usually an hour or so while he got still enough to fall asleep. We were exhausted, and invariably one of us would fall asleep during the process, wrecking the evening in terms of general alertness. He then usually woke up an hour or two after falling asleep, requiring another long process of soothing, and woke up again as we went to bed or shortly thereafter, at which point we would bring him to our bed. If we were lucky, he stayed relatively sound asleep all night and we only got an occasional kick to the kidneys or pulled covers. But most nights, he woke up several times, and getting back to sleep required pulling my hair as a soothing technique or grabbing and fiercely squeezing my head as if it were a stuffed animal. I would pull away, which would make him more awake and more mad...rinse, lather, repeat.

So. First we worked on the bedtime. After stories, prayer, songs, a goodnight kiss and then we leave. He screamed, of course. Called our names. But each night less and less. We would hear him flop down on his mattress and just...go to sleep. Wow. Pretty quickly he was crying for less than ten minutes. But he was still coming to our bed in the middle of the night.

After one particularly awake-all-night night, I said he can't come to our bed any more. That's it. So we let him cry when he woke up during the night. And he cried, but more quickly than I ever imagined possible (over the course of just two or three nights) his crying went from 10 or 15 minutes two or three times during the night to one brief, barely one-minute cry, to...nothing. Sleeping all night. Like I said, I can't get over it. He wakes up happy, alert, and noticeably more well-rested. Twelve hours! Unbelievable.

Also! He started his new, permanent daycare last week. It seems kind of bad timing to have started that as well as sleep training, but I think somehow they have reinforced each other. He really likes his new school, looks forward to going, waves "bye-bye" cheerfully in the morning, and gets all good and tired out during the day. Plus, his first full day there was yesterday, and he even NAPPED there. I was sure he would cry and they would call me, but no. He just...fell asleep. Crazy. (Naps are yet another story...I should not even admit this on a blog but I have been putting him to sleep for his nap by walking him around in the stroller every day since we weaned two months ago. So yeah, I didn't think he'd lay down and nap at school.)

I must make a few disclaimers. I know all of the sleep stuff is different for every kid, and I know cry-it-out is controversial, as is the family bed, which I've loved for many reasons (I even told M. last night that I kind of miss Gabriel sleeping in our bed...but I don't miss the hair pulling, kicking, no sleep thing). I myself was pretty against cry-it-out, and the few desperate attempts we made when he was younger--as an infant, at 12 months, at 15--were all disasters across the board. I am not even sure why this worked, and why it worked now. But it did. Part of is that he is older and able to process and understand more...along with all of the actual nighttime stuff, we've been doing a LOT of talking to him about it, telling him throughout the day and as we go to bed in simple terms what would happen at night, how he's such a big boy and will sleep in his bed all night long, that mom and dad are right here and he's safe and can go to sleep. He listens with wide eyes, very still. He gets it. He likes this "big boy" idea, says "buh (smushed barely there word) BOIeee." He says it when he points to himself in pictures.

I say: yes. A big boy. A very big boy indeed.

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