I have three kids under 8, and all three of them have been horrible sleepers. Different levels of horrible, naturally. My oldest was “I can’t sleep more than two hours without you holding me” horrible, while my youngest is “Let’s get up between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and party” horrible. My middle child was a mix of both. I’ve had a lot of people look into my bloodshot eyes with compassion over the years and bless me with a mix of baby sleep advice.
Most of this advice has come from people without kids or from people who think what worked for their kids is universal. I always respond gracefully, but after a few sleep-deprived nights, I want to tell them to kiss my ass. Here are a few nuggets of advice I have received over the years, and how I would, if I wasn’t such a nice guy, love to respond:
1. Take her to the doctor. I’m sure they can give her a pill, or something.
You dumb-ass. If you actually had children, you’d know that doctors wouldn’t give a kid shit until they are 2. Before that, a parent has two placebos: Tylenol and ibuprofen. Neither does much beyond making you feel like you are doing something. You know what a doctor is going to do? They will look at me and shrug, as if a sleepless child is out of the reach of modern medicine. Then they will collect their fee as if they did a damn thing, but they didn’t, friend. They didn’t. Then I will drive home, half awake, doing everything I can to stay between the lines, bitter and pissed off, and longing for a vasectomy.
2. Don’t let her nap during the day. Then she will sleep through the night.
Why don’t you just ask me to not use the restroom for 12 hours, because that’s about how uncomfortable and irritable not letting my kids nap will make me feel. I need those naps—more than she does. I need a break from that drooling, gummy-mouthed, little clinger. I need a couple hours without someone attached to me so I can wash my hands, sit down, spread out, and not feel sticky, or wet, or wonder if someone is poopy. Naps are my lifeline.
3. Just let her cry it out. It sucks, but it’s totally worth it.
Check it out: I did that once, and I will never do it again. The crazy thing about letting my first child cry it out is that it felt more painful than not sleeping.
4. Get in a routine. Make sure she has a consistent bedtime.
Really? A routine? F-you. That might have worked with the first kid, if I wasn’t in school and working full-time while my wife worked full-time, both of us employed at places with swing schedules. I couldn’t even get myself to bed at the same time every day—how the hell am I going to get a kid to bed?
Now that I have three kids, bedtime is a mix of screaming, scrambling to finish homework, tears, manipulation, pleading, and last minute, well after bedtime, drinks of water and longing for snacks. I don’t know what magic spell you are using, but I’ve never been able to get my kids to bed on time, or perhaps your doctor gave you a pill.
5. What we did was wait until the baby was drowsy but not falling asleep. Then we’d be sure to put her down immediately.
Oh…yeah…brilliant. I’ll just watch my kid’s face like a hawk, as if I don’t have other shit going on. Kid’s drowsy, better stop cooking dinner and get that little turd to bed. Or better yet, I finally got my two older kids to stop bitching and do their homework, but we need to wrap that up and get someone to sleep. Listen, life doesn’t have a pause button. I can’t just put the whole house on hold because a kid’s eyes are starting to droop. I’ve got shit to do.
You know though, it’s not all bad. Every once in a while, all the kids sleep through the night, including the little one. And I wake up after eight hours of glorious uninterrupted sleep, only to be struck with the sudden realization that the only way all my kids could sleep through the night would be if one of them died. So I leap from bed and check for breath, and as I do, I almost always wake at least one of them.
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