I had dinner with one of my closest friends the other day and we walked out of the restaurant into the blazing, devastating heat and slowly made our way into a Whole Foods at Union Square just to survive. While we walked around the Whole Foods, going down the escalator, wandering through the aisles, then going back up the escalator to start all over again (it was cooler downstairs than up), our conversation soon turned to parenting.
She had just spent a couple of weeks taking care of her new niece and explained one of the challenges her sister was having. Her niece, let’s call her Sara, had been having trouble sleeping through the night, waking up 3, 4, even 5 times a night. Sara’s grandmother was recommending giving her a pacifier so she could learn to soothe herself at night. But Sara’s mother didn’t want to use a pacifier for a number of reasons. And, understandably, she liked being the one that could make her little girl feel better, feel safe enough to go back to sleep. I know I love that feeling as well.
Of course, the problem was Sara and Sara’s mother were exhausted, neither of them getting enough sleep. My friend and I talked about whether my wife and I used pacifiers (which we didn’t) and what my thoughts were. Fortunately, I had one of those moments of insight and understanding. Sara’s grandmother was right that Sara needed to figure out how to soothe herself at night, but it didn’t have to be a pacifier.
When we tried to help our kids sleep through the night, we tried a number of things and finally found some that worked for each of them (because of course, it was different for each). For my girl, she used an Elmo stuffed animal, while my son used a blue woobie (a very small blanket) with satin edges and a little teddy bear in the middle. I explained that we didn’t hit pay dirt right away with both of them, though it was much easier with Lucas than with Dorit. Dorit didn’t like the woobie she had and finally we realized she felt connected to Elmo and that helped.
The truth is it is so much of trial and error. We tried something for a few nights and if it didn’t help we tried something else. If it did and they slept through the night, we didn’t change anything at all until it stopped working…we didn’t change our clothes, we didn’t shower, we changed nothing. We were so relieved when they slept through the night we would do anything to replicate it.
My friend yesterday let me know that they found a woobie for Sara and that both mommy and little girl are sleeping much better. Who knows how long it will last (I hope a LONG time!), but it was a nice reminder that parenting is so much about problem-solving and about trying to hear what our children are telling us in their own special way.
It also was a pleasant reminder that there isn’t a right way to do this parenting thing, only a way that works best for our families.