I have three kids and every one of them has slept differently. But one thing has remained consistent: Regardless of what we did (and trust me, we tried a million different strategies), our kids don’t start sleeping through the night consistently until age 3. That means three years of bloodshot eyes multiplied by three kids. That is nine years spent up in the night, cradling a little one, rocking them to sleep as the sun crept over the horizon — along with the sinking realization that I’d be going to some daytime obligation on little to no sleep.
And always, regardless of my stage in life, whether I was in a full-time career, or attending college, or a stay-at-home dad, there was always, always, someone I interacted with who had a lot to say about why my child wasn’t sleeping. Or they were really excited to tell me about how their child was sleeping, and then compare it to the way my child was sleeping, and use it as an opportunity to make snide comments illustrating how much better they were at this whole parenting thing.
Perhaps it was how tired I was. Perhaps it was the fact that I felt cheated. I felt like my child lost some sleep lottery, and now I was left living with the consequences. The last thing I wanted to listen to was some ass-clown acting all superior, telling me that I needed to let the kid cry it out, or rub them down with essential oils.
Kiss. My. Ass.
Honestly, and truly.
I’m in it right now with my toddler, and I don’t have time for judgment. I’m tired and confused, and I know without a doubt that the next day, I will be tired and confused.
I know what to expect from a sleepless child. I have accepted it. But when I first started 10 years ago, I didn’t know. So I spent a lot of time listening to judgmental jackass parents with sleeping children try to tell me how to fix the problem, when the real solution was time. I just needed to give my children time to figure it out.
That’s the secret here.
But the worst part was I felt like there was something wrong with my child. I also felt a deep fear that I was doing something wrong as a parent.
And what I’ve learned after having three sleepless kids is that judging someone because their child isn’t sleeping is not a village. It’s being an asshole.
As a parent now, I know that all children sleep differently. All children develop differently. And while my child might not be sleeping well at the moment while your child is, two years later, mine might potty train first, or learn to read first. But you know what? It’s not a competition, so don’t be a dick about it.
Take your, “I’m obviously better at this whole parenting thing because my child happens to sleep better,” attitude and advice and shove it up your pimply little well-rested butthole.
Because here are the facts:
Parenting is hard. Parenting is exhausting. And for me, parenting has meant many sleepless nights. It’s just in our family’s genetics. I come from a family of narcoleptics and insomniacs.
But even with all that, there you are, judgmental perfect parent, standing all high and mighty, trying to make it sound like you’re better at parenting because your child can go to sleep at night.
Not helping. In fact, you are hurting. You are making it harder.
Instead, try showing empathy. Try not bringing up how great your child sleeps. Try not giving advice as if it’s some obvious truth because it works for your child, so naturally, it must work for mine.
Okay. Okay. I know. This is ranty. But I’m tired. I’m sleepy. I don’t need criticism right now. I need empathy. I need support. I need people in my life who will tell me it’s all going to be okay. I need people who help me know that if I stick it out, I’m going to survive, and my child will survive, and I’m not doing anything wrong because my child isn’t sleeping.
The fact is, having a no-sleeper is really hard. And to those parents out there up each night, holding a squirmy little boy or girl at 3 a.m., and then getting up the next morning with bloodshot eyes, I get it. You are doing a great job. You are an awesome parent. You are there for your child when they need you. So much of parenting is about being there when your child needs you. Sometimes it’s when they are sick and boogery and even though you don’t want to hold them because you might get sick, you do. Sometimes it’s when they are being a clingy turd and you just want some personal space, but you hold them anyways. And sometimes it means staying up all night because your child just hasn’t figured out this sleep thing.
None of this makes you a bad parent. In fact, it makes you an awesome parent. It makes you a dedicated parent. Screw the critics. The fact is, they might not be struggling with sleep now, but they will struggle with something else later. That’s just the cycle of parenting. But don’t take that as a point of pride. Take it as an opportunity to show support.