I have two children; a 7yo daughter and a 3yo son. With both my children my biggest goal before they turned two was to give them the gift of being able to put themselves to sleep which would give them the ability to sleep all night and develop sound sleeping habits. My hubby and I were very clear that no kid was going to crawl into our bed in the middle of the night. On the nights that they did wake and needed comforting, one of us (me!) would crawl into their twin bed and lay/sleep there instead. In this way a few nights of discomfort have avoided many many nights of one too many bodies in our bed.
My daughter was the epitome of ease and grace in all the baby training areas…we had her sleeping through the night within a week. She never entered our bed and always enjoyed her sleep. She potty trained in 5 days and it took 5 days for her to begin to enjoy school/daycare.
My son on the other hand is a different story. It took us 11 months to sleep train him! For 11 months we struggled with him not willing to fall asleep without a parent (me!) there. So the night time routine would take 90 minutes! My kids share a room and my poor daughter had many many nights of me putting her in my bed temporarily because of him crying bloody murder as we would leave him for minutes at a time to try and make him independent. Because he was old enough to get out of bed and just open the bedroom door – I would have to stand on the other side with my hand on the knob so that he couldn’t get out- all the while talking to him and trying to soothe him so he didn’t think we had abandoned him. I would literally set a timer on my phone and then go back in there, hug him for a minute and then walk back out again….all while he’s begun to cry again, and again, and again, and again. One of the hardest things in the world is to walk away from your baby as he’s crying. My husband would often be so upset that this was going to mar him for life…but I just knew – that if I consistently sent him the same message- that he was loved, and that he had to learn to do this by himself- I would be giving him a tool for life to help himself. Why it took 11 months– well we would get to a relatively good place and then either he would get sick– we didn’t maintain this when he was sick…or he would just revert to wanting me to be there till he fell asleep. 11 months after we first attempted to get him to sleep independently I’ll never forget the music to my ears when he said “mommy, turn out the light, I want to sleep.” And he turned over, looked the other way from me and didn’t say a word as I quietly left the room with tears of joy in my eyes and such happiness in my heart to have gifted him the ability to sleep soundly. Today after our little bedtime routine which includes rolling a hula hoop, a little bit of ball, a little bit of reading, my singing three nursery rhymes, sharing one thing we are grateful for and dozens of kisses and hugs and then more flying kisses, I can leave their room with a smile on my face instead of having to be in stealth mode praying that the door doesn’t creak as I try and sneak out without him realizing.
Potty training took 6 months!
Getting used to going to daycare/pre school took 2 years! (My daughter took 5 days) Two years of painful drop offs. Two years of him clinging to my leg not wanting me to leave him there. Two years of me often needing to peel myself away from his baby arms which were powerfully trying to stay around my neck or leg. I’ve had to steel myself a lot with this kid. He has taught me a new strength about myself.
As the title of this blog indicates he’s taught me a lot about patience, consistency and trusting the process, even when I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I just had to keep doing the do. Trusting that one day he would eventually come around to it just because of the sheer consistency of the behavior. So here are my top takeaways from this episode of mommyhood:
1. Brace yourself and stay the course: settle in for the long haul! What’s that old song verse “when the going get tough, the tough get going” — no matter how challenging it appears to be, just stick with it. Doing something consistently over a period of time will bring about the desired result! The pain of regret is far greater than the pain of discipline. I have heard stories from my friends who’s kids 7 and 8 years old who are still crawling into their parents beds at night, or don’t have a healthy sleep pattern because they haven’t developed the habit earlier on. Payoff will come– just don’t quit before pay day! If you feel like quitting, think of how amazing it will be when you get to the other side of where you’re trying to be.
2. Be kind to yourself: its far too easy to beat ourselves up that we aren’t doing a good job, or that we should have already ‘got this’ by now. As leadership guru Robin Sharma says, change is hard in the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. It takes time and the journey is the journey. There are no shortcuts.
3. You can only eat the elephant one bite at a time: no, I’m not in the habit of eating elephants and I have no idea where this phrase came from but it illustrates the point perfectly. It’s majorly overwhelming in the beginning to take on a new project, business, endeavor that’s going to lead to massive shifts in your own life and those of others. And those are the moments worth striving for. All we have to do is put one step in front of the other consistently. When I run a race and I’m hitting a wall– the old phrase from Mother Teresa rolls around in my mind- ‘the ocean is made up of drops’ I say this over and over again to myself till I cross the finish line. Small actions done consistently over time will indeed lead to the desired result. So stay with it and don’t quit. The the only way to truly fail is to quit!
4. The world needs your brand of genius: you’re the only one who can be uniquely YOU! No one else can do what you do just the way you do it. So by quitting early, by not staying the course, by not being quietly consistent and patiently persistent you’re depriving the world of seeing your true genius! Imagine if I had quit trying to help my son sleep through the night by himself, imagine if he had quit trying to be potty trained, imagine if I had just pulled him out of school and said it’s too hard! What a disservice that would be to him. There are people who are praying for you, that don’t even know they need you and the moment they lay eyes on you, or hear you speak, or read your article, or your blog post, or use your product or service they will know that that was meant for them. And they will thank you, and they will bless you, and you will know that you’re fulfilling your purpose. So don’t quit.
5. Trust the process: even if you don’t know what the outcome will be. Just by doing what you need to do daily, consistently, patiently and knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel…you’ll get there. “Faith is taking a step when you can’t see the whole staircase”– Martin Luther King Jr. just keep putting a step in front of the other…you’ll get there.
So take it from someone who’s grateful everyday that she had two beautiful children who not only sleep well at night, but love to sleep in till 8am or 9am on weekends that the patient persistence pays off and is well worth the pain I felt and the tears they cried. They won’t remember the tears, but they will sleep well forever…or at least until they’re parents themselves.