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
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
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
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
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