Ever heard of the Wonder Weeks? Yeah they’re not so wonderful. The basic idea is that all babies and toddlers go through major mental growth spurts around the same weeks and tend to be extra fussy leading up to these spurts.
This is not a topic I’ve done my research on, so I’m not necessarily promoting it as solid guidelines, but Sam has seemed to follow these mental leaps pretty closely so far. Read more about the Wonder Weeks here.
We’re right in the middle of one of these peak fussy times right now. Also, Sam has gone from army crawling to walking laps around the house along all the furniture and walls and testing out standing on his own, all in about a week... AND he’s teething. This is probably the fussiest he has ever been. Life is kinda hard right now for this little guy.
The last few nights and nap times have been a battle. Normally… Sam sleeps in his crib for naps and goes down in his crib at night. Then we bring him to bed with us when we go. Normally… we nurse and rock to sleep.
We don’t do this because we couldn’t train him out of it or because it’s the only way to get him to sleep. We do it because we find beautiful and healthy emotional connection in that bonding moment.
Normally… this is a great, relatively quick, low-stress routine for us. We nurse (5-10 min), rock a bit, I sing to him, put him in his crib as he’s groggy or dosing off, put my hand on his back for a second and he falls right to sleep. Perfect.
But this last week or so he just wants to stay latched on… for like 30-45 minutes. Then if I can unlatch him or if he finally unlatches himself, putting him in his crib has been another struggle. He’ll be out cold and the second I set him in the crib, eyes pop open and he either wants to play or go back to nursing. He’s even doing this in the middle of the night.
This morning Sam was exhausted. He badly needed a good nap. We went through our routine. I even rocked him a little longer to get him nice and asleep. Went to set him down, eyes popped open, big grin on his face and he started chatting. Did this two more times. Finally, I thought I would try just walking out of the room.
Maybe if I’m not there to distract him he’ll just go back to sleep. He is exhausted after all. After a solid 30 minutes talking to himself he decided playing in his crib wasn’t fun anymore and cried for “Maaamaaaa.” He wasn’t just calling for me. And he wasn’t being nasty or throwing a fit.
We’re talking terribly pathetic, heart-broken tears and sobbing… instantly. I don’t believe in crying-it-out. I believe that, while behavioral conditioning does happen with the CIO method, the message that you’re sending… that even if you cry Mom & Dad won’t respond to you… is significantly detrimental to a little’s sense of empowerment and ability to communicate. I believe in responding to your child.
Actually that’s one of the few non-negotiable parenting things for me… respond to your child. Regardless of what it is they think they need or if you agree with them, our children need to know that when they communicate they are taken seriously. That doesn’t mean you have to oblige every whim or diligently attempt to converse with a tantruming toddler. But it does mean acknowledging and legitimizing the attempts your child makes to communicate his/her needs.
So -- as I walked into my son’s room and saw him standing and crying for me in his crib… and found myself asking, in a rather aggravated tone that I’m not super proud of, “What do you need? What else can I do?!” And as I sighed, picked him up – and he immediately clenched his chubby little arms around my neck for dear life and buried his face into my chest… and breathed a huge sigh of relief – I realized that he has been telling me exactly what he needs. I just haven’t been listening.
He needs me. He needs me differently today than he needed me a week ago. And that’s okay. He needs me to be a little closer to him, to help him get some good sleep while his mind grows at an insanely rapid rate. He needs me to respond to him. He needs me to legitimize his need for his mama, not to dismiss it. He needs me to just be there, just sing to him one more song, just rock him a little longer. He needs mama. So today… mama’s just gonna keep rockin’.
This morning during some play time Sam crawled over to his truck…
Pushed it across the room to the mirror,
Pulled himself up,
And planted a big wet kiss on himself in the mirror.
He then looked back at me smiling
…and so proud of himself.
I need to be more like him…
A little more loving towards myself,
A little more proud of my accomplishments,
And a little less afraid to be me.