I have always wanted to be the flexible mom. The mom who takes impromptu trips to the zoo, laughs when her son brings a frog inside from the backyard, shrugs over spilled milk.
I was told that with babies, if I were flexible, my baby would be flexible too. I was told that if I was relaxed, low-key, and unscheduled–my kids would follow suit.
And then came Waylon.
From the moment he was born, this kid has been the opposite of flexible. First there was the colic, and then the teething, and now he’s just plain stubborn. Sure, he’s happy and sweet and a perfect angel when he wants to be–but when something upsets him, there’s no middle ground. He screams, claws, arches his back, and flails his head forward to let the world know that I AM NOT HAPPY. Some might call it spirited, I call it Jack Nicholson. Cute and talented when he feels like it, but a huge drama king when his water isn’t Fiji.
Often I worry that I’m doing something wrong. Maybe all that feeding on demand and rocking him to sleep wasn’t in his best interest. Maybe I should have let him cry it out when he was three months old. Maybe I’m holding him too much. Maybe he would have been better off raised by wolves.
I’ve mentioned more than once that I think putting babies on schedules and letting them cry is for the birds. Now I’m sitting here eating my words. One too many late nights and nap battles later and I’m reading him a story, singing him a song, and then laying his sweet little body down into the crib and walking away. “Time for sleep” I say, tears in my eyes. I know he’s going to cry and let me tell you, it is awful. But it’s what I have to do; I have to get some sleep, I have to do something else all day other than try to get him to nap, and most importantly, he is tired.
It’s been a long week of trying and failing. More often than not, we go up and get him. Austin has proved to be the ultimate pushover, giving me sad puppy eyes while our son screams upstairs. And then last night at 2am, I finally had enough. I wasn’t angry or upset, just exhausted. I picked up his tiny, tired, screaming self from the middle of our bed and carried him to his room. I kissed his forehead, laid him down, and tried to go back to sleep.
Two hours later, the three of us finally fell asleep in our own beds until morning. When he woke at 7 to eat, I brought him into bed, whispered “good job,” and we snuggled and slept in.
I still don’t know how I feel about the whole thing. I do know that something needs to change because I may just lose my mind.
Thank you to my mom friends who said “I know it’s hard” and “You’re doing a great job” and “Your baby loves you and is not going to be brain damaged if he cries a little.” Thank you to one mom friend in particular who received a desperate late night e-mail asking if some mammals eat their young, because that would make me feel better about letting him cry.
I guess I’m not as flexible as I thought.