Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sleepless in Philadelphia


I kind of knew this phase would come. Aaron has terrible self-soothing skills. When he gets worked up about something, he is almost completely unable to get himself calmed down. He'll throw something in protest, and then almost instantly demand it back, and be too upset to physically walk over to it and pick it up. Or he'll desperately cry out for something he sees in front of him (a toy if we're playing, or a food item if we're at meal time), and then when you try to hand it to him, he'll recoil from it with equal vigor.

And yet, somehow he would sleep through the night almost without fail. You might hear him wake up in the middle of the night, so it wasn't like he was actually sleeping all the way through; but with rarely so much as a gurgle, he would fall back asleep until the morning. My kids are a handful when they're awake, with special challenges that tax Amy and me; but they have slept like champs, and if given the choice, I would tell people, I would take our situation rather than the reverse.

But for the past two nights, Aaron has woken up in the middle of the night and not been able to get himself back asleep. He's cried uncontrollably until one of us went into his room, got back into his hands any items he needed, and helped him get horizontal and under the covers. Two nights ago, bedtime was normal, but he awoke in a panic because his Spiderman action figure was caught in his blanket. That actually wasn't that painful; all I had to do was extricate Spidey, and Aaron was good to go.

But last night's bedtime took 90 minutes: Aaron wailing, us going in to soothe him, him recommencing the wailing shortly after we would leave the room. And then, in the middle of the night, he awoke again, unable to get himself back to sleep even after repeated helps, his cries each time getting worse and worse.

The books tell you to be calm, firm, and quick about going back in, and to lengthen the time between trips if it's one of those nights that requires multiple trips in. But the books don't tell you what to do when your son's cries are so fierce that you fear a neighborhood will call Human Services on you. They also don't tell you how to deal with someone who apparently does not know how to calm himself down, who will just stomp and cry about a stuffed animal or pacifier thrown overboard that he simply cannot fall back asleep without, who will protest with such vigor because he does not know how to just let go and lie down.

So I am frayed from starting consecutive days at 2:30 and 1 - two nights ago I stayed up because I usually wake up at 4, so I saw 2:30 as just 90 more minutes of awake time to catch up on stuff, and last night's fiasco took well over an hour to finally defuse. I am worn from hearing Aaron at maximum cry for 5, 10, 15 minutes on end, frustrated that when I finally go in and fix whatever is the problem he recommences that maximum cry almost immediately after I leave. Most of all, Amy and I are at a loss: what to do for and about a child who seemingly cannot get himself calmed down without our help, especially now that that help apparently is needed over and over again in the middle of night.
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