Saturday, July 23, 2011

The North Pole

When you are standing directly on the North Pole, any direction you walk is south.

There is a similar parenting phenomenon, wherein any choice you make is WRONG.

I've been dealing with this lately as it relates to sleep. We had decided some time ago not to use the Cry It Out method. I don't have the stomach to listen to LO crying, and I feel like it's not fair to him to ignore the only form of communication available to him. I was comfortable with this decision until recently.

Then, we noticed that he seems to be forcing himself to cry when he is put down for a nap. There are no tears in my little Olivier's eyes. The screeches get louder as J or I are in view. (The child seems destined for a life in the theater.) So, okay, maybe I can do Cry It Out when I know that the little mastermind is trying to manipulate his tender-hearted mama.

Except, except...!

Some days, he'll cry piteously for 10 minutes. Though I have clawed several holes in the armrest of the sofa, I can stand the howls of rage and despair for 10 minutes.

Then there are the days he'll scream for 45 minutes. Herein lies the North Pole conundrum. I feel like a terrible mother who lets her poor, sad little baby cry. Each screech is harder to hear than the last. Sometimes, he'll seem to be slowing down or getting drowsy, only to renew his efforts after a short break. So, with the sense of guilt that only the product of generations of Jewish motherhood can suffer, I pick up the child and calm his cries.

WRONG! He generally will then give me a look of purest triumph as he lays his head on my shoulder and throws his arms around my neck. I have been manipulated. Quite expertly, I might add. And I've just taught the little boy that persistence pays off. Dammit!

After 15 minutes of nursing, the child is rubbing his eyes, still clearly tired. But instead of sleeping, he keeps using my legs as a jungle gym. (There's a strikingly familiar look of triumph on his face as he manages to get to his feet on my stomach). So, after rocking him for a bit, I put him back in his swing or pack-n-play or hammock or bat perch. He looks at me happily for a few moments, then begins to wail.

You know George W. Bush's famous saying: "Fool me once, shame on--shame on you. Fool me--you can't get fooled again." Keeping that firmly in mind, I allow LO to cry this time. I work listlessly on my sofa armrest demolition while I listen to the horrible cries. I will not fold this time.

WRONG! When I get up to check on LO, I see that he is weeping bitterly, sobs wracking his tiny body. While I know that the young man is quite an accomplished actor, I also know that it takes years to perfect the ability to cry on cue. This appears to be the real deal. And now I have taught the young man that I don't care about his suffering. Dammit!

Thankfully, once the young man (finally, finally!) gets some rest, he wakes up smiley and joyful to see the world right where he left it. It assuages my guilt somewhat to know that no matter how many wrong choices I make, the kid is still happy to see me in the morning.

Even if there is a mischievous glint in his eye.

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