The Who is in his crib, crying and I am listening to it and watching him on the monitor. Wait. Let me clarify: he is not crying. He is bitching. He is whining. He is pissed off that he is awake and in his crib and that I am not coming to soothe him. This is the same kind of pissed off he was last night, every time he woke up and was alone. He didn’t want to do the work of helping himself get back to sleep. I asked him, one of the times I went to him, where his binky was and he said, without looking or feeling around, “I don’t know.” But it was right beside him. I have seen him comfort himself and I know he can do it, but who wants to comfort oneself when one can be comforted by someone else? I know I don’t want to.
I have learned a lot over the last two years — and even more over the last month. It is my job to comfort myself. I somehow never got that before. I have been looking so hard for external comfort my whole life when what I really need is just to know I am loved and safe. I need to be able to comfort myself. I need to believe that I can. And so does my son.
There’s a belief that “cry it out” is a harsh regimen and I agree. On a baby, who is still learning to trust his parents’ stability and love, I don’t believe it’s the right way to go. And I have to say that there is something very disconcerting and wrong-feeling about sitting on my bed, listening to his crying, even now at 2 years plus. Sitting with feelings — tolerating other people’s feelings is very hard. He is frustrated that I am not coming to him. And he’s pissed. And I don’t blame him. What an unfair, utterly shitty situation.
But it’s good. I believe this. I have been in there. I have held him. I have helped him understand what he can do to comfort himself. I have reminded him where his binky is. Reminded him that I love him. That I will see him when he wakes up. That I am just down the hall, sleeping. I have even rocked him and sung to him. And now it is up to him. He will find comfort somehow. He will gather up his blankies and stroke the edges of them in the warmth of his dimly lit room. He will look at the pattern on the sheets he has been sleeping on since he was a newborn. He will remember all the things I told him. He will become tolerant of feeling frustrated and angry and impatient and perhaps even lonely. He will learn that it is ok to have all kinds of feelings without having the unpalatable ones immediately squelched by his mother’s shushing. Night by night by night, he will learn this. And so will I. Baby steps.
Tonight, we are both growing. No one ever said it would be easy.