Ayoub will be 3 years old, God Willing, in less than 10 days. We are struggling with sleep in a very real way: bed time takes anywhere from 40 minutes (I’m talking about post story, Quran and prayer, bathroom, teeth-brushing, “at-the-point-of-goodnight-kisses-and-tucked-into-bed” bed time) to 2 hours. He doesn’t stay in bed; he cannot be cajoled or bribes with promises of treats and rewards in the morning; he wants nothing more than to stay awake, or, short of that, to hang onto me, tentacle style with his arms and legs, while I lie beside/under him, my arms slowly losing feeling as the blood flow to them decreases under his weight.
With Daoud, we ‘cried it out’ around his first birthday. It wasn’t easy, in fact some nights it was utterly heart-wrenching, but it was definitely easier than this has been. I still remember one night, having friends over and sending him to bed when the evening wore on, and everyone hearing the cries through the bedroom door into our living area. I remember comments like “I couldn’t do that”, “you are made of sterner stuff than I”, “how is your heart not breaking right now?” and my heart was breaking, but I felt less guilt with him, and he was trainable, and it worked. Most importantly, it worked.
We’ve been trying various iterations with Ayoub for 2 years. And he’s been a bad sleeper his whole life. I’ve been chronically sleep deprived for 3 years now, so that might have something to do with the increase in my guilt too. About a week ago, I confessed to hubby that I felt horrible every time we waited for him to cry himself to sleep outside our room, the door locked so he couldn’t get in. That I didn’t want to deny him anymore. That this felt different; that I knew Ayoub’s crocodile tears but these ones were coming from a wound I didn’t want to open, that there was a real need. We changed our plan.
I’m with him every night when he sleeps now, and it takes a long time, but having dropped the expectation that he should be able to do this by now makes it easier. I looked at his face the first night he realized I wasn’t going to leave when he asked me to sleep next to him, and the surprise and delight on his face was both satisfying and heartbreaking. Like he’d felt he had to fight for my attention and my time before that. I want to do this until he knows he doesn’t have to fight for it. That it’s his. Then we’ll worry about applying a system. In the meantime, bring on the coffee.