Have you ever made a decision that caused your child a lot of discomfort and upset? Did you feel like you should be putting your head through a wall?
I’ve done things before that bothered Smooch. Like that trip to visit his grandparents… he really didn’t enjoy the 12-hour drive. He cried and fussed in the carseat, and I sympathized, I really did. I don’t like long car rides, either. But I’d decided to go, and once we got there he loved it. So I didn’t feel any long-term guilt about making a choice that was hard for him, because in the long-term it was for everyone’s benefit. He & the grandparents got to bond, I got that indescribable pick-me-up of time with my Mom (not to mention a few little breaks when she took Smooch out for a walk, or to the mall, while I was blissfully alone!), and Gruff got to work his insane hours without feeling guilty about neglecting us. It was a win-win.
Last night, however, was a lose-lose-lose. Smooch has been showing some signs -at least, I thought they were signs- that he might be ready to transition out of the crib and into a toddler bed. I’m not a big fan of toddler beds in general, but our crib is convertible so it wouldn’t cost me anything. He’s had some wierd sleeping patterns, he has been trying to climb into and out of the crib all by himself (without success, but the effort is there), and yesterday when he woke up from his nap, I found him “stuck”. He’d tried to pick up his little piano by reaching both arms through the crib slats, grabbing the piano, and hoisting it up into the crib. He didn’t have enough leverage to toss it over the top rail (thank goodness, really, since he’d probably have beaned himself in the head) and he wouldn’t let go, so he was just standing there, both arms between wooden bars, clutching his beloved piano.
I decided it couldn’t be that hard to convert the crib, and got out the manual right then. While Smooch had his post-nap snack, I played around with the hex screw and bolts and various crib pieces. When the bed was done, he was thrilled! He spent most of the afternoon playing on his bed. He’d climb on and off. He’d lay down and say “Nigh, nigh!” and pull his covers over his head. He put all of his baby dolls and stuffed animals to bed and then woke them up vigorously. I felt like a parental genius! I’d read his cues, I’d followed his lead, and look how happy he was!
Then bedtime rolled around. We usually put on his pajamas and diaper, and then have a family cuddle on the big bed before putting him down for the night. When we got out his PJs last night, though, he grabbed them and ran to his bed! We decided to go with it –again with the self-congratulations, of course– and changed his diaper and clothes in his room. He lay on his bed, clutching his sippy cup of milk, and his father and I sat cross-legged on the floor and murmured to each other how grown up he looked. We finally patted his head, kissed his cheeck, told him night-night, and left the room.
This story is too long already, so I’ll try to condense it a little bit. He got up. A lot. He cried at his door. I went in and he led me to his bed, got back in by himself, but didn’t want me to leave. We tried sleeping in the big bed. We tried Smooch in his own bed with me on the floor beside. We even broke out the pack & play and tried sleeping in there.
My kid, who usually sleeps 12 or 13 solid hours, got about 7 hours of sleep all told last night. He was a wreck. He was crying and upset every time he woke up. This morning, he’s been a basket case. He has circles under his eyes, and everything -everything!- makes him cry. I put him down for a nap at 9:30, and he fell asleep at 10:00. It’s been months since he last took a morning nap.
And I? The sleeplessness isn’t so hard on me, since I usually get 8 or 9 hours. Plus, I can have coffee to get me going. What’s killing me is that all of that? All of the tears, all of the upset, all of the disorientation last night, all of the desperately-tired-but-can’t-get-to-sleep? That was all. my. fault. Because I made a decision that affected my little boy in about three seconds, without doing any research or even much deep thought. I just went with it – it seemed like it would be easy to do, it seemed like it would be fun, and I think sometimes he looks so big to me, that I forget he is younger than most of the kids his size. The mommy guilt, it is strong. I feel like an idiot, and worse, I feel like an idiot who made her baby cry.
I’m sure I’ll do it again at some point. I will make a decision that will hurt his feelings, or embarrass him, or upset him or make him angry. I apologized to him last night, and again this morning as I put the crib back to its normal configuration. I hope that I will always be able to apologize, and fix the situation, but I’m sure I won’t be able to do it every time. I just wonder, will it always hurt this much?