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For the last three nights, we’ve been trying to break Theron of the habit of falling asleep.

Well, okay, what we’re actually trying to do is get him to sleep by himself. Before we started this, he was sleeping just fine: we’d stretch him out on top of his mom, in the big ugly pink chair in the living room. He’d eat, and then he’d go to sleep.

There are some advantages to this arrangement. The main one is that when he wakes up hungry in the middle of the night, the Beautiful Woman can feed him without having to get up. He also sleeps very well like this… well, usually. The disadvantages of this approach are twofold: 1) my wife has to sleep in the big ugly pink chair in the living rooms; and 2) if the podling has trouble sleeping (because, for example, he’s sick and his nose is clogged) then the Beautiful Woman doesn’t get to sleep either.

The time has come. My wife has come down from the chair (rather like Moses coming down from the mountain) and proclaimed that the baby will learn to sleep in his crib. He will be given a regular sleep schedule, and as a reward for these holy labors the Beautiful Woman will once again be able to sleep in our bed. Amen.

There’s just one small problem…

Sometimes there is no good strategy
Parenting books offer a wide range of approaches to getting children to sleep on their own. If you’re feeling charitable, you might say that this is because there are all different kinds of babies, so no single approach will work for everyone. If you’re a bit more cynical, it might occur to you that it’s because parenting books are mostly full of [expletive deleted].

Their ideas break down to two basic approaches. The first one is just to let the child sleep with you until he or she grows out of it. There’s something to be said for this, if you don’t mind being awakened in the night by a six or seven year old climbing into your bed. Or being kept awake by a baby who can’t sleep, and won’t stay still.

The alternative is to suck it up, put the child in a separate bed, and let the kid scream until overcome by exhaustion. If that sounds a little too inhumane, well… there are several variation to this approach, designed the reduce the ratio of screaming to sleep. They generally involve a slightly more gradual approach. You can, for example, start with a chair beside the baby’s bed, and move it a little farther away each night. It doesn’t really matter, because the child is still going to scream until he’s either bored or exhausted. Then, if you’re lucky, he’ll sleep.

If you use this approach, I highly recommend that you purchase a good pair of professional’s shooter’s earplugs. You may also wish to wear a pair of the sound-damping headphones over them. And if you can get a good layer of cloth over that, so much the better.

A screaming baby operates at roughly the same decibel level as heavy artillery, except that babies can sustain that volume for a long, long time. If you aren’t deaf already, you’ll wish you were. And it’s not just the volume: baby screams are carefully tuned to overload the human nervous system. It’s been scientifically proven. Trust me on this.

Unfortunately, if you put enough ear protection to bring the screaming down to a tolerable level, you basically can’t hear anything else: your wife talking, for example. Or the tea-pot whistling. Or the smoke alarm, for that matter.

Okay, so why are we doing this?
Well, basically, the baby rewards us with incremental changes as he struggles to become a real human being.

And yes, I realize that by most standard definitions – medical or religious – he’s a human being already. It’s just that I have a hard time thinking of the Podling as human… because his brain is still basically tapioca. Hard-working tapioca to be sure, but still tapioca. I don’t think I’ll consider the baby full human until he grasps those fundamental abilities that set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom: the ability to use language to negotiate, and the ability to pick up a stick and hit someone with it. Those are the fundamental skills of humanity.

I have just come to the depressing realization that I hold my child to a higher standard than most Americans hold their politicians.

Anyway, Theron continues to develop in dozens of tiny ways that are only apparent if you’re watching him very, very closely. He can tip himself forward with a great deal more efficiency than he could previously. His targeting ability has improved; when he grabs something and shoves it in his mouth, he usually connects (with both targets: object and mouth) on the first try. He seems progressively more frustrated by his immobility.

And when he does start moving, I’m ready. All the weapons are put away; I’ve managed to get them into a pair of lockable storage cabinets. The only thing left to do is put a layer of padding on every surface in the house.