I’ve never gotten a Mother’s Day card. I’ve never had labor pains or contractions. I’ve never sat outside my baby’s door while he cried and prayed for him to soothe himself to sleep.
But I have comforted a scared baby in the middle of the night while the thunder rolls. I have rolled groggily out of bed in the wee hours to take care of bathroom needs. I have inspected poop and discussed bathroom habits at length. I have had a tiny head (or a heavy head, in recent weeks) fall asleep on my chest; I have also woken up with small feet in my ribs. I have taken my baby to sitters’ houses and to the doctor’s office and driven away while she cried and didn’t understand why I was leaving.
She didn’t come from my own body and I didn’t carry her for nine months, but she is no less my baby than someone else’s two-legged human child. And she has and is teaching me many things about how to be a good parent to those human children if and when they hopefully come along.
She has phases just like human children – she throws tantrums, she listens well sometimes and not at others, she is smart one day and sort of dumb the next. I have phases too; phases where I love her so much one moment and want to lock her in a box the next. I feel like that’s probably normal.
The phase we are in now is wanting to sleep on the bed at night, and I am learning a lot from the successes and failures of this phase.
She is allowed on the bed during the day, but has learned that she must (A) be invited, and (B) stay on the blue part of the comforter. These two things have been successful, although I don’t know how they stuck so well, but we at least have that.
In St. Kitts, she slept in the floor but would spend the last hour (between potty time and real waking up time) sleeping on the foot of the bed. When we came back to America, we decided there would be no dogs sleeping on the bed at all. This worked for a while and we didn’t have any problems. Then came the winter, when it was cold and I wanted to avoid taking her out to potty as long as possible. I found Meera would sleep longer and more soundly if we let her sleep at the foot of the bed; so we did. This also served the double purpose of keeping our feet extra toasty. When the summer started, she made us too hot and had to resume sleeping in the floor.
Well, she didn’t like that so much.
At first, she would give us the horrible pleading puppy eyes at bedtime and we wouldn’t have the heart to make her move. She got her way for a while. Then, she would start out in the floor but later disregard the “must be invited” rule and sneak onto the bed in the middle of the night when we either wouldn’t notice or would be too exhausted to bother trying to correct her. She won again. Now, most recently, she starts out in the floor and tries to sneak onto the bed. I make her get down and tell her to be quiet. She settles back into the floor for about 10 minutes before taking up a post near my head and groaning softly until I acknowledge her presence.
“Hush, Meera! Lie down!”
She resumes her silent staring. A few minutes later, the groaning starts again. “NO, Meera!” Silence. Then she’ll go around to the foot of the bed and try to make another sneak attempt where she doesn’t have to climb over me and might get away with it. The Mister wakes up irritated at this point.
“Meera! Get down! Shut up!”
This cycle repeats itself throughout the night.
On the one hand, I’m always tempted to just pat the mattress and let her win. It’s faster, easier, and I can go back to sleep without further incident. That little head curled up on my legs is so comforting. But there is always the inevitable moment hours later when I try to move my legs and can’t – there’s a very large, very solid object in the way. Said object is more than half my body weight and very, very warm. Said object is also, probably, snoring. You see, she observes the “stay only on the blue part” rule very well, and at night, when the comforter is pulled up around the Mister and I, the entire bed is the blue part… and she wants it all.
Down she goes into the floor again and the routine resumes. I don’t feel like we’re getting much sleep.
On the other hand, I can stay strong, be firm and say no. It won’t kill her to sleep in the floor or in the armchair in the living room. This, while painful for me now, is ultimately for her own good. Parents have to be the bad guys sometimes. If I let her win, she will run my life. I am her mother, not her friend. Be a parent, not a peer. Stay strong!
The voices in my head repeat these and other such cliches throughout the cycle.
In the morning, she’s always by my feet. I don’t know how this happens. We’ll try again tomorrow.
So, in summary, parenting lessons learned:
- Don’t let the babies start doing things you don’t want them to do forever, because it’s harder to change the habit than to prevent the habit.
- When you say no, mean it. They know when you are weak. Be strong!!
- Just because she doesn’t like it doesn’t mean it’s hurting her.
- Punishments must be consistent and predictable. She has to know that when she gets on the bed or knocks over the trash or doesn’t come when she’s called she will get a predictable, unpleasant result every. single. time. Not just sometimes, because she’s willing to play the odds. (See #2.)
- I am a total pushover.
I think everyone thinking of someday having human children should have to train a dog first.
What do you think?