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Friday, June 17, 2011

On Bedtime, The Ferber Method and "Go The F*@! To Sleep" by Adam Mansbach

This week the Internet and media was all abuzz with reactions to Adam Mansbach's adult language laden children's book "Go The F*@! To Sleep". I am actually writing this post on the fringes of my own sleepy time, but as parents we learn the hard way that quiet, grown-up time is difficult to come by. The book is an honest (and hilarious) tale of bedtime battles from a frustrated, if profane, parent's perspective. This is not to be read to children, adult amusement only! For those of you who haven't heard about the book or listened to the Samuel Jackson narrated version on YouTube, I've embedded the clip below. I think my favorite line is "Hell no you can't go to the bathroom. You know where you can go?..."

I saw the Nightline segment about Mansbach's work on the heels of a chat about bedtime and the practice of letting infants as young as 6 weeks cry it out in the wee hours of the night. I have a 7 week old baby, consequently sleep is elusive. My 4 year old has an established bedtime which he misses at least 3 times a week. Folks often ask if my bay girl is sleeping through the night yet, and if we let her "cry it out"? She's doing pretty well, sleeping about 5 hours straight, and nope no "crying it out" in my house. I don't know how parents can stand continuous wailing at ungodly hours all in the name of teaching a baby to self soothe. I have a theory though, I don't think parents take this approach to teach an infant to be self sufficient (that notion is a little crazy in itself, it's oxymoronic). I also don't think parents impose strict bedtimes on toddlers solely in hopes of making sure they get 12-14 hours of rest. It boils down to parents needing just a few hours an evening for themselves, to do something alone - or for intimate time alone with their partner. No drooling, no whining or dirty diapers, I get it! We need our romantic comedy, our book club read, our occasional glass of red before bed. Wrangling tired, wound up kiddies does not make for a relaxing evening, especially when one has work in the AM. I'm not criticizing those that institute Ferber's method, or who stick to a rigid bath and bedtime schedule. I just want us as parents to be honest, to transcend political correctness, and like Mr. Adam Mansback, tell how it is. We are tired, by 9:00 PM zonked. We love you, but have had enough of parenting for the day. Mommy's got an important meeting in the morning; Daddy has a meeting in the bedroom with Mommy so...Please, go the f*@! to sleep!

I'm anti-Ferberization as a counselor and as a current stay at home Mom. Since I have no boss and no company time clock to punch, my greatest responsibility is to care for my children. That does not stop at 10:00 PM. I could not in good conscience ignore the piercing cry of my baby girl. Once she gets going, it's seriously heart wrenching. I get a headache if I cry for too long, can you imagine a cry headache at two months old? :-( So guess what? I go check on her when she let's out the littlest whimper. I feed her, change her, rock her. I do whatever I can think of that might make her feel calm and comfortable enough to fall asleep again. And you know what? She loves me for it. Hence the parent/child bond is secured. Baby has a need, Mommy supplies comfort. Baby believes the world is a safe place and her parents can be trusted, healthy development begins. Studies have shown that the degree to which a child attaches to their primary caregiver determines their level of sociability. Kids need "good enough" parenting for at least the first 18 months of life to turn out OK, and prayerfully not become antisocial psychopaths. What is good enough? If you respond to your child's needs at least 7 out of 10 times you're making the grade. I've also been professionally trained to think that an infant cannot be spoiled. How is it possible to give a baby, that you carried for nine months, TOO MUCH LOVE? Really?!?!?! I'm sure the day will come when I won't be the only shoulder for her sobs. She will have plenty of opportunity to soothe herself after disappointments that are an undeniable part of growing up. But for now it's my pleasure to sacrifice a little sleep and start my DVD later than planned while my little ones finally drift off to land of the Sandman.