this is the question that torments all parents just before they drift off at night. it haunts them in their dreams. a little monster by the name of self doubt sits with us on our shoulders, whispering in our ears, “hey, psst. hey, you.” you try to ignore him, but he’s always there with a little smirk on his face, prodding you. eventually, you take the bait, in a moment of weakness. “what?! what do you want from me?!” this makes him smirk a little wider. he’s getting to you. “hey,” he says, “you fucked up your kid.” “I DID NOT!” you yell back, outraged. he only smirks in return. how could i have fucked up my kid? you think. look at all i do for him/her, all i have sacrificed! i’ve rearranged my entire life for him/her. never have a moment to myself. everything i do is for my kid. but still, he sits there, self-assured on your shoulder, smirk and all, and whispers in your ear.
take ruth, for example. yesterday morning. sleep has always been a demon for ruth. she hates sleep like it’s the devil trying to possess her, stealing precious moments of consciousness away from her, tricking her into submission. there is rarely a time when she wakes up from any kind of sleep in a good mood. mostly, she wakes up totally upset, betrayed, as though she had to fight her way, tooth and nail, out of sleep’s grasp in order to wake up. it has always been this way. as a baby, she would stay up until midnight, slapping herself awake, doing anything she could in her power to escape the throes of sleep. it is only now, since she’s turned two, that we have a nightly routine and a normal bedtime. there are some people who are proponents of attachment parenting who don’t believe in bedtimes, that think their kids should have the freedom to sleep when they are tired, get up when they’re not any more. it sounds fine, sure, but there is no way, at this point, that i would fuck with getting to bed at a decent hour with ruth after months, nay, years, of struggle and sleep-deprivation.
her naps are a thing of the past, but, in general, things in the sleep department are running smoothly, for the most part. that doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t certain relapses. yesterday, for instance, she woke up at 6:30 am (normal wake up time being between 8 and 9 am), realized she was alone and cried until i came and lay down with her. that happens from time to time, nothing odd there. however, this time, whenever i went to get up, after i was sure she was dead asleep, she would sit straight up in bed again, sensing the warmth of my body leaving her, and start in with the crying again. this went on for a good forty minutes with me attempting to get up from the bed four different times, all with the same results. finally, i called it quits and we were both just up for the day (don’t even ask about a nap later. you would assume, right?)
now, i can type that just fine, but if you could have been inside my mind while it was going on, it is a whole different story. hell, that’s the best way i can put it. lying down, when i’m not tired, when all i want to do is have a couple hours to myself before she wakes up to shower, read, write, watch a movie, with my neck cricked, counting the minutes away until i think she’s asleep. it felt like i was on the brink of insanity lying there for nearly an hour. i kept going over and over in my mind, “why is she doing this? she’s tired! why isn’t she sleeping? what kid does this? why won’t she just go to sleep? is it me?” ah, there it is, my familiar friend. self doubt. of course he would show up at a time like that, right when i feel like i can’t take it any more, he’s there to point the finger directly at me.
at the time, when she was a baby, we thought letting her cry it out was cruel. were we wrong? is all of this because we never let her self-soothe? is this crippling, oppressive dependence on me self-created? because i always picked her up too fast, was too overflowing with comfort from an early age? with praise? did i somehow do this? or was it one of the few times i lost my temper at greg in front of her? did i rupture something very fragile deep in her psyche, place an image there that will haunt her forever? make her insecure, never able to trust others, doubt the consistency of everything? all because i have a bad temper and lost it and scared her?
or is this, as i reassure myself constantly, just “who she is”? is her temperament such that crying it out never would have worked with her anyways? would she be like this even if i wasn’t so full of praise and feedback from so early on, even if i was more lax in my timing concerning picking her up when she cried?
or is it her personality and mine? take we two, place us in a bottle and shake, and soon, you can’t tell one substance from the other? we connect on so many levels, seem to understand each other on so many levels. is it just who we are together that creates this crazily strong bond?
i love ruth. she is great, and, for the most part, i consider myself to be very lucky to be her parent. however, that doesn’t stop me from secretly wishing, hoping that joel has the complete opposite personality of her. not because i don’t think her personality is great. i do. just for sheer vindication. something concrete to throw back in self-doubt’s face. there, see? it wasn’t me. raspberry. so there.
it’s all very childish and insecure of me, i know. in reality, it’s probably a mixture of all of these things. her personality, mixed with mine, a particularly intertwining combo, and the way we’ve always responded to her, interacted with her like 24/7 since birth, and the fact that we are not always the most consistent people, in our moods, behaviors, etc. but seriously, it would be great to have a son who slept like he was in a coma, woke up happy and rested, liked greg more than me, wasn’t so connected with us, sensitive to our moods and thoughts as though psychic at times.
for those of you wondering, i am much bigger now. my belly is already beyond the point of novelty and is already feeling cumbersome and just a bit too large. here i am at 24 weeks.