“He needs to learn to self-soothe.”
“You just have to let him cry it out or fuss a bit.”
“It’ll be hard, but it’ll be worth it.”
Do they think this is easy? I am exhausted. I’m sleepy. It’s a strain. And with the constant criticism, I’m sometimes overwhelmed. I get frustrated. Sometimes, I want to be selfish. I want to shower in peace. I want to eat alone. My back hurts. My arms get sore. (I have an actual brace on my arm from straining my neck and shoulder. No joke.) I want uninterrupted time with my wife. I want to enjoy my coffee or lunch without him in my arms some days. I don’t want to play all the time. I’d rather read or finish my show when he wakes up early from a nap. I want to sleep in past 7or 8am. But I look over at this little person depending on me, and I follow my instincts on what works for us.
All I know is that I never want him to feel certain ways.
I can’t protect him from everything.
I understand that reality.
But right now, in his very small and limited world,
I control a lot.
My own emotions,
My own reactions,
They greatly shape his experiences each day.
And a huge part of that for me is responding to him, even when I’m at my wits end.
His comfort, his emotions, his fears, his frustrations, they matter to me. Period. No, I will not let him cry it out. The jokes, the “advice”, it really gets old. I get that it “works” for a lot of people, but I guess my goal is a little different. I could not care less if he sleeps through the night. Heck, few adults I know even do that. Eventually, he’ll sleep. So, that’s really not my focus, and quite frankly, I don’t understand the obsession. I’m tired, but he’ll learn on his own. CIO is not practiced in every family, and I’m sure there’s not a herd of adults who wake up crying every few hours because their moms never let them cry until they learned to self-soothe. It’ll happen with time.
My main concern though, is that he trusts me, in everything, to be here always. And just because he can’t communicate clearly doesn’t mean his emotions mean any less to me than when he’s 5, 10, 17, or 32. No one just walks past a tearful friend or family member because they need to “self-soothe.” No, you “cheer them up.” You ask what’s wrong and figure out what you can do to make them better. Why are babies or toddlers different? I listen to him, always. He wants to be held? That’s fine. He wants to eat in my lap instead of in the high chair? Okay. He wants to sleep in my arms and not alone? Let me move over. I can’t always accommodate him, and yes, he does fuss sometimes. But if I can do it, I will.
He likes to explore from the comfort of my lap, and that’ll always be okay. As the months pass, his curiosities will lead him further and further. And he may come back and go as he pleases. He knows I’ll be right here. One day, he’ll be fine without me. But I’m in no rush to detach him. I love our little cuddles just as much as he does. It’s healing.
And it’s understandable that there are those who don’t agree with my parenting methods. You have your reasons, and I have mine. But I do ask you to be respectful of my choices. I don’t need “help” making him self-sufficient or teaching him to self-soothe. I think arguing my parenting choices has become more exhausting than his unpredictable sleep schedule. He will learn to trust himself and his limits without me pushing him out there before he’s determined that he’s ready.
I’ll always choose exhausted cuddles over willingly letting him cry. Sorry, not sorry.