I do not know where this exclamatory additive originated. You have all either heard it, used it, or both to provide an exasperated emphasis to some opinion or observation. For example, “For crying out loud, I suppose I am the only one in this house that knows how to replace the toilet paper roll!” Or “Who left the back door open again? Were you born in a barn, for crying out loud?”
This phrase took on new meaning this week as we let the last of our four children go through that excruciating rite of passage known as “crying it out.” Now, in my experience, you are either in the let-em-cry camp or you have dismissed it outright as cruel and unusual punishment. Whichever position you hold, it has worked very well for our family over the years. When we let our first child go through this routine at the age of ten months (nine years ago), it was just like Dr. Spock described. Crying the first night for thirty minutes, twenty-five minutes the next night, five minutes the next night, and then not a peep thereafter. What a blessing it was to have a full eight hours of sleep every night! When you are in the throes of sleep deprivation, you don’t notice how blurry and opaque your world can be until you awaken bright eyed, with clear skin, to the clarity a morning can provide.
Danielle will never remember the screaming and crying during those three nights. I will, of course, take every wail to my grave. I would either go and hide in my closet when the crying would start or go out for a run with my walkman turned up to maximum volume to drown out the cries that I carried with me on my three miles. My husband, Tom, always the logical, practical one, would console me “It’s the best thing for her. She’s not sick, she’s not in pain, she needs and we all need a good night rest.” He was right, of course, as he was when we let Travis, Sabrina, and now Caroline cry it out. Tom can listen to the kids fuss and cry and tune it all out as somehow I think most men can.
Another cliché of unknown origin that I, as a parent, see in a new light is “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” That is certainly true letting a child cry his or her way to better sleep. Danielle was the text book case—our other children’s experiences were quite another story. Travis had night terrors and terrible sinus trouble that kept us on sleep therapy with him for years. Sabrina, aka, #3, did not have much trouble falling asleep but Caroline is now giving us a run for our money. She used to be the best sleeper—put her in her bed, turn on the fish tank, turn off the light, see you in the morning. Now, our tiny tyrant, will kick and scream for two hours (literally—sometimes five minutes of crying can seem like two hours, but in this case it is actual clock ticks). She throws her precious blankie, sippy cup, and Elmo out of the crib in anger and then cries harder because her lovies are out of reach. Meanwhile, as I cannot sleep while my babies are in torment, cower under a blanket at 2 a.m. listening to the wind howl and my Caroline wail. On occasion, I will give in to my impulse to comfort and pick her up but this is the worst thing I can do (as my husband always points out). The screaming will begin anew as soon as I put her back down and last significantly longer than had I just let her fall asleep on her own because I gave her hope that someone might come if she just screams and kicks long enough
I have another new favorite parenting phrase. A dear friend, who is about to have her first child, passed it along. “Disciple requires effort.” Amen to that. She was once a sassy adolescent, criticizing her own parent’s efforts when she came up with this gem at the tender age of fourteen. Ah, the wisdom that comes out of the mouth of babes.
I can be the most logical parent in the world when it comes to setting rules for my children but when they cry, I can fold like a cheap card table. In my head, I know they are better off when they adhere to our standards but my heart’s wiring causes the blood flow to constrict and rational decision making to be suspended. I am so thankful I have my husband to keep me from giving in to these impulses that will render our efforts null.
She’s our fourth child and I have been through this before. You think I would be used to a bit of crying by now. Caroline will probably cry a few more nights before she gets used to falling asleep on her own without the theatrics. I tell myself, she’s not sick, she’s not hurt, she’s just spitting mad. She’s twenty-two months old, happy, healthy, and we could all finally use a good night’s sleep, for crying out loud!