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Sleepless in New York

Yesterday, the New York Times tossed a story onto the front of their living section, "Whose Bed Is It Anyway?", featuring chic and privileged New York couples who are struggling with their children encroaching on their bed space.

Oh, I so sympathize.  The article, however, doesn't.  Nor do lots of people commenting on the article.

The article talks about "sleep specialists", who charge a pretty hefty fee to see parents and their children.  The article proclaims:  "Ms. Kunhardt and others suggest that parents, stung by the sometimes arbitrary boundaries set by their own parents, are concerned to a fault with the emotional well-being of their children."  Another says, "Mostly the origin of the problem is the difficulty parents have in setting appropriate limits", and then blames the fact that parents just can't say "No."

Many of the comments are the same:  "It's easy...don't put them there in the first place!"  "Why hire a sleep specialist when all you need to do is set limits?  It's just basic Parenting 101."  "...all these stories of kids who just won't go to bed until midnight, and so forth, drive me crazy. Come on, people, parenting is not a democracy. It's *your* job to teach your children behaviors that will help them be successful adults, not just to be their best buddies..."  "Let 'em sleep on the floor!"  "In addition to ensuring nobody sleeps well, the family bed just screams major codependency issues."  "BABIES DO NOT BELONG IN YOUR BED."  "...either the parent trains the child, or the child trains the parent..in this case, it looks like the children are winning the battle..."  "Another disasterous example of insecure, weak willed, and incompetent parenting!"

The implication--or even outright statement--is that any parent who does this is unable to say "No" to their child at all, that their children have no limits, that their children will be forever psychologically scarred by having them in bed with the parents, yadda, yadda, yadda.

My only wish is that each and every one of these people has a child like OmegaDotter. 

We weren't trying to "be her buddy".  We weren't codependent.  Our dotter wasn't "winning the battle"--hell, no.  She was losing the battle.  She was terrified.  We're not talking a child who cries quietly for 8, 10 minutes, then sniffles herself to sleep--we're talking a child who went into full-fledged, terrified hysterics at being left alone.  Period.  Who did the same thing if she woke up alone after a nap.  Who did the same thing if she woke up in some place different than where she fell asleep.  The times we tried the standard advice of putting child to bed, going in at 5 minutes, then after 10 more minutes, then after 15 more minutes--by the time we reached the third go-round, she was hysterical enough so that none of us got any sleep at all those nights.  And it didn't change, night after night after night of this.  The nights that she did go to sleep, she would wake up two hours later (you could set your clock by that) in night terrors.

Sorry, all you parenting experts out there.  We weren't going to let our child scream herself into hysterics night after night after night forever.

One comment I read was from a child development psychologist who said that kids needing to sleep with their parents was a sign of anxious attachment--hear, hear.  Then, he ruined it by stating categorically that it was the parents' fault that the child had the anxious attachment, and, once again, that parents who do this are setting the child up for Damaging Psychological Problems as adults.

B.S.

Y'know, some kids are just born like that.  Some kids are premies who spent the first few weeks of their lives in incubators, separated from their parents.  Some kids are fine up until they reach a certain age.  Some kids need it for just a while, while they're going through transitions.  Some kids are dealing with childhood trauma (like our dotter).  Some kids need a long, long, slow, gentle process.  And some kids do just fine sleeping on their own from the very beginning, and actively resist sleeping with their parents.

OmegaDotter sleeps in a nest by our bed.  It's not perfect.  But she has started talking about wanting to sleep in her bedroom--a little bit.  We're not going to push it this time--the nest is okay with us.  We get to sleep together, without the writhing, squirming, arms-akimbo, foot-kneading child in bed with us, and we sleep the night through; she sleeps all night through and is a happier, healthier child as a result.

OmegaMom wanders off, grumbling about interolerance...

Technorati:

posted by Kate @ 3/02/2007 09:19:00 PM  
7 Comments:
  • At 3/02/2007 11:22:00 PM, Blogger atypical said…

    And may I give you a rousing, "Amen!"? If having six kids has taught me anything, it is that each one is different and needs to be parented according to his/her bent.

    Thank you for always making me think. And on those lines, I have tagged you for the Thinking Blogger Award meme. I know I just lurk here, and I should let you know at the time, but your words are always thought-provoking to me.

    -t

     
  • At 3/03/2007 06:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh PLEASE - Both of my bio sons co-slept as I was nursing them and I firmly believe babies NEED to be near their mothers to develop healthy attachment. Neither sleeps with us now. Our daughter (adopted from China) sleeps in a little bed next to our bed but still comes into our bed every night. Why? Because she didn't get that consistent early nurturing and still needs it. All of the sleep nazis should be quiet. Believe me -- even though my kids co-slept, they had bedtimes, ate their vegetables, learned manners and not to hit. That is, I had the ability to set appropriate boundaries in every area and chose to co-sleep.
    DS-L

     
  • At 3/03/2007 09:45:00 AM, Anonymous Jen said…

    Let me just give you a "WORD!" and another "AMEN!" Kids need what they need. Helping them deal with their needs is not bad/indulgent parenting. The people who commented on that article (and the person who wrote it), I'm willing to bet, have never dealt with a kid with anxious attachment, childhood trauma, or any kind of special needs. Bah.

     
  • At 3/03/2007 07:22:00 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    I certainly couldn't let a terrified child "cry it out". Its heartbreaking.

     
  • At 3/04/2007 10:10:00 AM, Blogger Kate said…

    ATypical: Thanks for the Thinking Blog award!

    DS-L: Yeah, I like the conflation of "kids in bed" = "inability to say no, ever." It CAN mean that, but it's not a one-to-one relationship, by any means.

    Jen: That was my thinking.

    Miss C.: I could do the "cry it out" if the crying were angry, or short. Neither of those were true with the Dotter. Most folks who trumpet the value of CIO and provide anecdotes also show that their kids are the type who cry for a short while, then fall asleep. None of that escalation/terror stuff. I hate the tendency to paint with a broad brush: If my kid did okay with CIO, then all kids should do okay with CIO. Sort of like, "I adopted from China and we loved it, so everyone should adopt from China." Pffft.

     
  • At 3/04/2007 03:42:00 PM, Blogger Space Mom said…

    Ugh! I could go on and on about this. My oldest could never cry it out. She slept in her own room, but she had sleep issues. She is now finally m 4.5 sleeping through the night most nights.

    Sigh...

    I also agree that you make think!

     
  • At 3/04/2007 04:45:00 PM, Blogger L. said…

    I was going to blog about that article, too, but never got around to it.

    We became a co-sleeping family out of necessity, not choice: when the two older kids were small, we moved to a tiny Tokyo apartment. We all slept in the same room, in futons all lined up, that we rolled up during the day. The other small bedroom (only 2 bedrooms) contained all our toys and clothes, and there was literally no room for futons.

    We got used to living this way -- and even had another baby. Even after moving to America, my kids still most often sleep in sleeping bags in our room. We don`t think this a problem, and are amazed when people (like, um...my mother) tell us what we`re doing is unhealthy.

    (Oh, by the way -- sorry, I haven`t done your meme yet!)

     
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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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