Sunday, September 14, 2008

I've Created a Monster

Some people use that phrase figuratively, like they've created something that has slightly monstrous qualities. But I mean it literally. Let me describe my monster for you.

My monster is only seen in the dead of night. It has tiny, sharp teeth and claw-like fingernails. It's worst feature is it's voice, which is piercing when it screams and grating when it cries. It has an insatiable appetite and smells of urine. It's appearance is so frequent at night that I have nightmares about it, and I rarely forget to pray that the monster will not awaken and attack me at night.

Oh, and it wears Spiderman pajamas and has a favorite blankie.

Yes, Zack is the monster on top of the bed, not under the bed. At night he undergoes a radical, Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde transformation, shedding his nice, happy boy image for the crazed lunatic that cannot be controlled. I've never read Frankenstein, but I'm guessing it ends with Dr. Frankenstein's monster driving the poor doctor crazy, until he either has to chop him back up in a million pieces or hire a live-in nanny so that he'd at least get some rest at night. Am I close?

There's an ongoing discussion whether the Zack-Monster came about by nature or nurture. All of our boys woke up every two hours to eat for the first 7 or 8 months of their life, until I finally couldn't stand it anymore. They didn't need to be eating, so I weaned them from nighttime feedings and then Ryan and I embarked on a cry-it-out routine to get them to learn to sleep through the night. Ryan's role was to go in every so many minutes to reassure the baby that we were still there and loved them, but it was sleeping time now. My role was to lay in bed and cry, listening to my poor, suffering baby who I was sure was going to absolutely hate me for this. The beauty was that it only took one or two nights and then they got it, and as far as I know, they don't still hate me for it. (I just checked with Brad, and he said, no, he doesn't still hate me. It might have taken him a long time to get over the resentment, though, I'm not sure.)

Darcey, fortunately, has been a perfect sleeper since day one, which I never would have expected and am endlessly grateful for. She apparently likes to sleep. A girl after my own heart. I'm glad I got her last, or else I would have been utterly ruined for life with the rest of my kids.

The problem was with Zack. Crying it out, for him, just didn't work. Ryan would do it for two days, or three, and he just wasn't crying any less. I had to go sleep in the basement so I couldn't hear him, and I had nightmares every single night I was down there. I finally had to tell him to stop the cry-it-out program - I couldn't handle it anymore. I had to temper Ryan's justice with some mercy. And wouldn't you know, Zack ended up with an ear infection. Figuring that was the reason he wouldn't stop crying, we waited until he was better and then tried again - same result. Endless crying. It was horrible.

Eventually I had to say enough. Ryan disagreed with me on this - he wanted to keep going until Zack started sleeping through the night, and told me that if I made him stop, then I would be on my own for dealing with Zack in the middle of the night. I agreed. Maybe my heart was too soft, but I just couldn't make him cry anymore. I just loved him so much, you know?

Fast forward four years. I still love the kid, but four years of bad sleep have left my heart substantially harder. Ryan sticks by his "you asked for it" theory and as a result, will only deal with Zack at night when I make him. And none too cheerfully. I have done several teach-him-how-to-sleep theories, and they work (without the crying) for a while. He went through a phase a year or two ago where he would wake up progressively earlier, until he was getting up at 4 in the morning and watching PBS. If he ever lost his binky, I would have to track it down. If he needed to go to the bathroom, he'd scream in his room until I got up and took him. He has growing pains in his legs every couple of weeks. I have come to believe that this is a child who is just a bad sleeper. That's why crying-it-out didn't work for him like it did for Brad and Noah. And why after so many other sleep techniques, he still wakes up so often. I was to the point that the monster would rear his ugly head about once every two or three weeks, and he slept through the night otherwise.

Until two weeks ago, when we decided that it was time to abandon the binky. He is four, after all, and it's a little ridiculous to still have a binky. It's also a little ridiculous to still be waking up in the middle of the night with a four year old, too, but apparently that doesn't matter as much. Noah gave his up with very little fuss, and we expected the same with Zack, but like I said - he just is not built to be a good sleeper. With no binky, the monster has taken up permanent residence in Zack's room. I can count on being thrust from my bed by the sound of twenty wild banshees that he's invited into his room for a scream-a-thon. It's turning me into a wild banshee myself.

In the last two weeks, he's had three "accidents" requiring new sheets. He's demanded water in a sippy cup (hence the accidents). He has had nightmares about the clothes in his closet being skeletons and one about his very best friend Jonathan and a pair of shoes. Every night there's something and I am very quickly losing my mind.

So my new theory is this: let him cry it out. If you ignore the monster under the bed, doesn't it go away? That's all I can hope for now. I tell him, just before I put him to bed, that I won't be coming in when he screams anymore, if you need to go to the bathroom, just go. Or if there's an emergency, come in my room. But I am completely done reacting to the monster. If this doesn't work, I'm giving him the binky back, which Ryan will be completely against, but what does it matter if he's not the one dealing with him anyhow? And besides, at some point he will give it up on his own - he won't be using it on his mission most likely. Or maybe we can just leave this problem for his wife to sort out.

Regardless, I am done with the monster. I am going to start wearing a large steel cross at night, string garlands of garlic around my room, buy a can of moster-repellent. And if that all fails, I'm moving back into the basement. The crying-it-out nightmares I had are nothing compared to the reality of the monster in the room next door.


Michelle said...

Go get the book - "Sleepless in America" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It is absolutely fabulous. Liam has been the worst sleeper of ours. But Aylish is the "night-owl hates to bed one" and Maeve is the "super-early bird up no later than 6am no matter what time she goes to bed" one. We will have to see with this next one - I made the Lord promise to send me one that would sleep.


Cash_Killa said...

I hear your better off with a wooden cross. Just incase you have to impale his heart during a late night attack. Garlic true though, it works on my roommate.

The Wilkins Family said...

Well, I happen to know a little about this. And to you I say, "good luck". Jackson has never been a good sleeper and has always had an excuse. Lately, he can't even go into his room for bed without coming out on and off for about two hours. We simply ignore him and tell him that we are off duty. Even with the incentive of getting to go out and buy his heart's desire, a bike, all he has to do is not get out of bed for ONE night. He hasn't been able to do it for three weeks, so he may just be the only missionary who doesn't know how to ride a bike without training wheels. My advice to you: stick with the paci and get some sleep. Life is too short and if it is only with him in bed it's not hurting anyone. If I had something like a paci that worked, I'd be all over it.

The Wilkins Family said...

I don't know where my comment is to this. I left such a long one a few days ago. I guess it wasn't meant to be.

Good luck, though. I say give the boy the paci, just don't let him have it in public.