Better days will come... right?

Oh, I do try to hang in there. I really do. I know better days are coming. At 4:30 AM this morning I was holding my one-year-old trying to get him to go back to sleep, and it was frustrating, and I had no one to help me. I know single mothers have this experience all the time, and I know that my one-year-old has the same experience as well.

I finally got him down after rocking him back to sleep for 45 minutes or so, stepping back and forth in this dance that seems to comfort him. I watched some of an episode of the Wire to stop myself from dwelling on the situation that has lead to being a single parent, co-parenting with their mother. When I finally was brave enough to try lying down again,

All things considered, I got through the night relatively unscathed. He slept a solid six hours straight-through before beginning his routine of waking every hour or so. I slept about six hours in total last night, though not consecutively. Tonight, I'll do it all over again.

When I'm exhausted, I don't let myself go to the gym because I know I'll likely injure myself. That keeps me off of my training, and prevents me from getting the adrenaline high that makes me better about the way my life is turning out. The rhythm of my week becomes irregular and that makes me cranky and then the mood goes downhill from there.

I'm trying to constantly remember that things will get better. But then I'm reminded of how lousy things are right now. I had to kill some time this morning before dropping the kids off with their babysitter, and we went to Milano to get my daughter a waffle. A young woman came in and smiled at me and the kids. She was holding a "Becoming Pregnant" book and I had mentioned how "rewarding" it was when they don't quite sleep through the night.

"Oh, my husband will be there to help me," she said. And, ever since, I can't shake this feeling that I'm incredibly alone in the world. I know I have friends, and I know I have family, but I'm in this all by myself now. Sometimes I have strength to face it. Other times I have to use that strength to keep from getting knocked over.

I have faith that better days are coming, and that all of the parties involved in this little soap opera will find themselves in a better situation. I want to stop dwelling, but I live here in this moment and some times the moments aren't so great.

Other moments, though, like my son waking up with a smile, completely oblivious of how much he's affecting my mood, is worth it. He's such a beautiful little boy and I'm proud to be his dad. I just want to be worthy of him and wonder how to fix myself so that I can accomplish that goal.


Sean Tubbs said...

The answer is yes. It will get better. Even I know this. I write this stuff out on a public blog because I do feel pretty alone at the moment. I also know this feeling is an illusion. I have good friends and a supportive family.

Waldo Jaquith said...

I know I have friends, and I know I have family, but I'm in this all by myself now.

There are two realistic responses to this, which are not mutually exclusive.

1. You're right. At 4:30 in the morning, you're on your own. I don't care how good your friends are or how reliable that your family is, you've got years of this sort of thing ahead of you, and it's all you. The good news is that you're growing new people. As your kids age, they're in this with you, because you're a family. And then you're not in it alone.

2. You're wrong. Your brain is lying to you because, in this regard, it doesn't work right, telling you things about your life and yourself that are not true. This is one of them. When it tells you patently untrue things like "you're all alone," you should recognize that this is just a lie your brain is telling you.

Kevin Cox said...

You may know this but you have to get your rest and stay healthy to be the best parent you can be. It isn't pleasant to teach a one year old who demands companionshiop in the middle of the night that they must depend on themselves and go back to sleep but it sounds like it's a job you need to do for you and your child. I went through this with a one year old that refused to go back to sleep when she woke up at 3 am. It became necessary to let her scream in her crib until she collapsed with exhaustion and fell asleep. She had been conditioned to being picked up and allowed to fall asleep in her parents bed. Losing this privelege was infuriating and she got very angry. It was necessary though, my rest was critical for the whole family. After three nights the one year old accepted this new reality. After "reconditioning", when she woke up in the middle of the night, as all people do, she would realize where she was and then make a decision to accept it and willingly go back to sleep. It was fortunate that when we were having this problem we saw a TV show on dealing with it and we tried their technique. Here it is:
First night: Pick the child up and hold him for about ten or fifteen minutes and then return them to the crib. They should fall asleep in their bed and not in your arms. It is important that they learn to fall asleep in their bed. Is he being rocked to sleep every night? Reassure the child but also make them understand that they are not getting as much as they got the previous night. Don't let them get in bed with you.
Second night: Get out of bed and reassure the child with a hug and spoken comfort but don't remove them from the crib.
Third night: Get out of bed and speak to the child but don't touch them. Let the child know you are there and they can count on you coming but that they are not going to get out of the crib.
Fourth night: Don't get out of bed unless the crying and screaming continue for longer than fifteen minutes. It's really hard to deal with the anguished crying but it's best for the child and for you.
This worked for us and while there were two of us my head was alone under the pillow trying to escape the pitiful, anguished crying of my child.
I know that this works for many people but not everyone. I don't know if your son has been conditioned for some time or if his waking up is new and related to the dissolution of your marriage. I hope my experience will help you. Good luck and remember that your health and rest are critically important to your child's well being. Our child is now a happy and productive person who is preparing for graduation from UVa this year!
Keep running! Are you going to do the MJ 8k or the Charlottesville Ten Miler?
Kevin Cox with the editing and approval of my spouse.

Sean Tubbs said...

Thanks, Waldo. It is fairly tricky to keep my head straight these days due to my marital situation and coming to grips with the end of my marriage and facing the world as a single dad. The story is pretty grueling from my perspective, but this is a small town so I'll keep my mouth shut. I'm guided by the fact that I am raising these little guys, and that I'm blessed by their good health. That was the point I was trying to make - his smile as day breaks can sustain me through the dark times.

Great tips, Kevin. Unfortunately, my marital situation and joint custody arrangement sort of prevent any consistency at the moment. Whereas their mother and I are relatively civil, I am in no position to make demands over how she does things. Which means I have to make do as I can. There's no room in the house where I am renting a room for a crib, and the mother got rid of the crib on a whim when we separated. Out of respect for my roommate, I'm not in a position to let him cry it out. He goes to sleep fine at the beginning of the night, and then wakes up at about 2:30 or so.

What I might do is get a playpen down stairs here, and use it to make a comfortable night bed for him. I can be flexible. I've got him three nights a week.