Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Does (s)he sleep through the night yet?

I have always thought this a very odd question.

I do not sleep through the night myself. Sometimes I wake to go to the loo, or I wake because I am thirsty or need to blow my nose. Sometimes a particularly vivid dream will wake me, and I have to waken enough to realise it was only a dream before I can sleep again. I am aware that some people are deeply, log-like, unconscious right through the night, but most are not (just about any men over about the age of 50, for example, with their prostate-related need to pee)

So really the question is

"Does your child still disturb you when they wake in the night?", with the implication that being independent at night time is something to strive for as quickly as possible, with sleep training manuals to assist one in achieving the glorious goal of not being disturbed by one's offspring for a solid 11 hours every night.

And my response to this would be: at what times of day is it acceptable to ignore a child's needs and desires? If they want comfort or company or nourishment or help, is there a time after which a parent should be thinking "nope, that's your lot till 8 a.m."?

I would always help a child in the night if they needed help. In that help, I would be hoping gradually to give them the skills, knowledge and confidence to manage whatever the thing is - going to the loo, having a drink, whatever - on their own. But that would occur when they were ready, not when I suddenly decided on their first birthday that that's it, no more broken nights thank you. As I have said before, being a parent is a 24-hour job.

And just to put this in context. I have several recurring dreams, which I generally get if under stress for some reason. They might occur several times a year, or may disappear for two years at a time. When I awake from these dreams - which are frightening, involving precipices or poisonous snakes or similar - I continue to hallucinate. It can take up to an hour for the hallucinations to subside entirely, and it is very much helped if someone is with me, holding me, comforting me, turning the light on, reassuring me that I am not actually on the edge of a cliff.

When we refuse to help our children if they cry at night, how can we be sure that their dreams are not as vivid and terrifying as mine?


sharleen said...

I agree with you entirely. Their 'reality' is just as real as an adults. Comfort and care is what I would want. I guess it is some of that 'do unto others' saying.

Gill said...

I never sleep through the night either. And then I'm really glad to have a selection of 'interestingly-scheduled' people to chat to here!