Failing, and Failing, and Failing

“I am at the end of my rope,” I think, again. The phrase has come to me at least once a day for the last two years, and with it, the realization that, in that case, I just have to find more rope. The thing about being a parent is that you can’t be at the end of your rope. Your rope never ends. You don’t get to throw in the towel when it is clear that you have made a big mistake, that you are unfit for your position, that you are not qualified for the job. There is no two weeks’ notice.

Bathing suits: never not needed

My kid is awesome. The way she throws everything down and runs to hug me when I get home from work, the uncontrollable laughter when we sing “head and shoulders knees and toes kneesandtoes,” the way she says “three” like she’s blowing a raspberry – these moments enrich my life, and brighten my every day. But I’ve come to understand that I am a failure as a parent, I can’t manage to do what seems to work so easily for others, and it’s too late. I can’t decide that somebody else would be a better fit for this position.

Sofia has this thing where she has to wear a bathing suit at all times. When we take off her bathing suit to change her, if we aren’t fast enough in putting a new bathing suit on, the freakout is impressive. Fast breathing, racking sobs, fat tears running down her cheeks, but worse is the look in her eye, unquantifiable and maybe something I am making up, a look of real panic. And I give in.

Because it’s not really a big deal, right? So she’s wearing a bathing suit. But sometimes she refuses to put anything else on over it, even when it’s 40 degrees outside. And sometimes we don’t have any clean bathing suits, because bathing suits don’t exactly grow on trees and they get dirty fast when it’s the only thing you will wear. And sometimes I just want her to take off the fucking bathing suit already, it’s been six weeks.

We’ve learned to work around the bathing suit. Sometimes it’s okay to put clothes on over her suit, like when I wanted to go to Marshall’s to pick up some things for an upcoming trip to her grandma’s. While I was looking around, she found a backpack/dog that she fell in love with, and she was pulling it all over the store, which was fine, we needed a bag like that anyway. When it came time to try a few clothes on, the dressing room lady wouldn’t let her bring the bag into the dressing room, it’s against the rules; things fell apart. Sobs. Sobs for which there were no cure. I put her in timeout, I explained to her that the lady would take care of her dog while we were trying clothes on. Sobs. I had the brilliant idea of having her try on one of the cheap bathing suits that I had found for her – we always need more cheap bathing suits – and it worked as a distraction. Even if she wouldn’t let me take off her original bathing suit to do it. It’s not like you have to take off one bathing suit to check the fit of another.

It was at that moment that the dressing room lady came and knocked on our door. Sofia’s sobs had broken her down, and she wanted to let Sofia have the bag. I opened the dressing room door without hesitation, and it wasn’t until after I saw the look on the woman’s face that I realized how it must have looked to her: here I was, after begging to take a bag into the dressing room, layering cheap bathing suit onto cheap bathing suit on my kid. She didn’t outright accuse me of trying to steal, but I could see it in her expression, and how am I supposed to explain it? That I can’t say no to my kid, that we can’t go anywhere unless she’s in a bathing suit, that I don’t know how to be a parent? That my two-year-old gets her way about the stupid bathing suit because I’m not strong enough to put my foot down? That I am not fit to be a mother?Despair

Sofia wasn’t the only one sobbing in the dressing room that day.

Sofia doesn’t sleep. She hasn’t slept, ever. When she was 22 months old, she was still waking up and screaming for hours multiple times a night. She’s now 26 months old, and she won’t fall asleep most nights until after midnight. She wakes up with me, at 7:30. She naps for 1.5″“2 hours. This means she is getting something like 9 hours of sleep per day, maybe as much as 10.5, when the average kid her age is getting 13. According to this site, 96% of 2-year-olds get between 10.8 and 15.6 hours of sleep per day. 96%.

Me? I am averaging 6.5″“7, because I have shit to do once she gets to sleep, and I don’t get to take naps.

I hate talking about this in public. Everybody has the answer: “Have you put her on a schedule?” She’s been on a schedule since she was one day old. “What about letting her cry it out?” You know what happens when you let Sofia cry it out? She stands up in her crib so that when she eventually falls asleep from sheer exhaustion (after something like 3 hours), she falls down and it wakes her up, which starts the cycle anew. And if she does fall asleep even then, the rest of the night, and the rest of the week, is 6 times worse than it was before. We tried co-sleeping, which didn’t work, because she would only sleep if she was latched on to me the entire night, which meant that I actually slept less and she did, too, because every time I moved it would wake us both up. We tried Ferber. We tried Babywise. I’ve read every book about child sleep problems that I have heard of, and tried every method that people peddle. And you know what? None of them have worked. Not one. What does happen, though, is when we break from the routine that we have established, things get much, much worse for about a week. And then I have to claw my way back to where we were to start with, even though that starting point is miserable. It’s less miserable, though, than all of the tried-and-true guaranteed methods that experts and well-meaning friends tell me about.

Every method I try is another failure. It’s a failure because it doesn’t work, but it feels like more than that. Every other parent manages. The books promise that if I do things right, I will see results. The problem, then, is with me. When I break down in tears because the method isn’t working and I haven’t slept a full night in years, when I hit that point where I am at the end of my rope and I give in, that is me, failing. That is me, teaching my daughter that she just has to hold out a bit longer and I will give in. If this were a regular job, I’d be fired. I’d have been fired years ago. Instead, I fail, and continue on because what choice do I have, and fail some more.

It feels like a failure to give in. It also feels like a failure to hold out forever. When Sofia is sobbing, really panicking, I feel like a monster if I am not able to make that okay. I’m not talking about “No, you can’t have any juice right now” kind of sobbing – the kind of sobbing where comfort from me would make things okay, would make the panic subside. And yet, it feels like a failure to give in, that I am so weak, that I can’t teach my kid to be self-reliant.

A friend of mine, whose child was sleeping 12 hours in a row per night at eight weeks, posted that she had decided that they wouldn’t have a TV because “I just saw so many people with kids who have trouble sleeping and I was like, ‘well, yeah, your kid is overstimulated.'” Sofia never watched TV as a baby. The lack of a TV didn’t make her sleep. But the update stung, because it made clear that my private failure is being judged by those who aren’t failing; my misery is just proof that they are doing it right.

“You should cut out TV before bed.” We don’t have any TV channels now, just Netflix, and Sofia watches some educational programming during the day. Turning it off hours before bed doesn’t help. “You should have a calming routine.” Like the family walk, the nighttime bath, the stories in dim light, and the soft singing that we’ve been doing every day since she was born?

There are so many books about sleeping, and all of them have different Guaranteed Solutions. You know why? Because some kids will sleep. It comforts the parent to think that it is because they are following a Method, but in my world, the method has never worked. None of them. And if there were one tried-and-true solution, there would be no books, because anxious parents wouldn’t be desperately trying to snatch sleep from the hands of those in the know; it would be simple. Instead, experts sell sleep to parents whose kids would eventually sleep anyway. The method might make a smidge of a difference, get a kid to sleep at 12 weeks instead of 14, but they are not magic. For some kids, they will not work.

This is how I feel when I am angry. There is another emotion, though, and that is complete and utter despair. I am so bad at this. 96% of kids are getting more sleep than Sofia. 96% of parents are not complete failures. I need to be more strict, I need to let her cry it out for hours and hours and hours every night for weeks and weeks, and then she’ll eventually give up. It is my fault that she cries – she manipulates me into giving her what she wants. My mom said to me, “What I am hearing is that Sofia always wins.” The words hung heavy over the phone line. Yes. Sofia always wins. I always lose.

In the battle for sleep, in the battle for the bathing suit, I am weaker than a 2-year-old.

A friend of mine suggested we get her evaluated for sensory issues and anxiety, which we set up an appointment for. I’m afraid to tell people that, too. Afraid that they will say that I am making excuses for my own bad parenting, that I am seeing a “problem” where there isn’t a problem (other than me). That I need to be more strict, that I need to be less forgiving. That if I just rip that goddamned bathing suit off of her and refuse to listen to her cry, it will make her stop. And they do say that. Or imply it. “Every kid goes through this.” Okay. But I’m at the end of my rope and it’s not getting better and so what you’re telling me is that every parent manages to deal with it and I am the outlier. I am the one who has hit a breaking point when other parents manage just fine. I am a failure.

Other people support an evaluation, tell me trust my gut – as though my gut has ever been trustworthy. My gut told me I was almost certainly pregnant when I was a 12-year-old virgin, my gut convinced me that I had Multiple Sclerosis which the MRI and spinal tap proved to be untrue.

I’m hopeful that something will come of this – that if there is an underlying anxiety problem or sensory disconnect we can work on those, which will help with the sleep. That’s how I feel when things are going okay, when it’s noon and I’m exhausted but making it through the day, when I come home to a laughing toddler. Around 11:30 p.m., after two hours of sitting in the dark with a hyper and/or screaming child, I believe that this is all me, that I’ve ruined my kid with my ineptness. Sofia always wins. I always lose.

So here I am. Vacillating between feeling like a failure who can’t manage to be strict enough, and feeling like an evaluation is a step in the right direction. And then feeling like I’m just trying to get some sort of medical label on my kid to make up for my own failings, and then feeling like at least an evaluation will give me some insight.

And mostly feeling like I’m at the end of my rope, and afraid of what will happen when the rope really does run out.

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I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

53 thoughts on “Failing, and Failing, and Failing”

  1. I don’t really know that I have anything more to add that someone else hasn’t covered and covered eloquently, so I will say something about your writing instead of the situation you find yourself in with Sofia: this is beautiful writing, and I think the fact that you have battled your fears to publish this will end up meaning a lot to other women who feel as alone and overwhelmed as you do right now. The knowledge that someone else has gone through the same thing is going to help the woman who comes across this later. This is beautifully written, and I admire your vulnerability.

    Also, you are not a failure. Never, ever, ever.

  2. Don’t judge yourself so harshly.  My son doesn’t sleep through the night yet.  Therefore, I haven’t slept through the night.

    I’ve read every book.  Had him put through various tests with various specialists.  Listened to every parent advice.  Heard great advice.  Heard the most horrible advice imaginable.  Cried.  Tried to let him cry.  Tried attachment parenting.  Co-sleeping.  Various foods.  Media bans etc.

    Nothing worked.

    It’s been nine and a half years.  Yes.  Years.

    He’s simply not a sleeper.  I’ve had to accept that.  Some nights I’m better with it than others.  Can take him hours to fall asleep.  Wakes up multiple times a night.  Is usually the first one up.  We’ve built a nest of pillows and blankets next to my bed.  He crawls in there every night.  EVERY night.  Has to hold my hand.

    Sooner or later it will end.  I hope.  I can’t imagine a 16 year old curled up on the floor next to me.  But then I couldn’t imagine a 9 year old.

    It simply is my life.  And I used to think I was a failure.  I couldn’t do the most simple thing that every other parent seemed to be able to do and they would throw sentences at me starting with “just”  Just do this.  Just do that. But then my second was born.  And I did nothing different.  And she sleeps.  Beautifully.

    She has hard nights.  She has bad nights.  But she simply sleeps like they advertise a child will sleep.

    You aren’t a failure.  You are severely sleep deprived with a child that is uniquely herself.  Uniquely yours. Listen to everyone.  Read everything.  Pick and choose what makes sense.  Don’t listen to YOUR gut, listen to your child.  She will tell you what she needs.  As she gets older she will listen to you as well.  I can tell my son that I need a break and he understands and will work with me so he can get what he needs and I can get what I need too.

    It’s a hard time.  Be kind to yourself. You aren’t failing.  You are learning what you need to get through.

  3. Seriously, anyone who doesn’t think that parenting is sometimes a giant barrel of emotion-sucking shit is lying or amnesiac. And I say this as someone who isn’t a parent. Or, in the words of the late Maurice Sendak:

    Childhood is cannibals and psychotics vomiting in your mouth!

    If anecdotes help, my uncle once slept on his 9-year-old’s bedroom floor for months and months because the kid wouldn’t sleep otherwise.

    It sounds like you and her dad are doing the best you can for her at the moment, and I doubt anyone else could do it as well. I hope the evaluation is useful. And also it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent if you do sometimes put your needs – sleep, needing silence – above her need for you.

  4. As I read this, I kept thinking my own relationship with my mother.  I was a colicky baby which meant constant crying and no sleep for anyone.  My mom has since told me that she thought about smothering me many a times. She found the only way to get me to shut up was if (after she would take a sip of beer) allow my to suck on the rim of the can where there was some leftover beer.  My close friend also had colic, and her mom told the story of this one night the crying got her sooo upset/irritated that she was contemplating throwing my friend out the window.  At that point she called her husband and said you need to take her NOW because I’m contemplating murdering her, and right now my murder plan makes perfect sense.  I know that colic is different from what you are experiencing, but I told these stories in the hopes of portraying the fact I think it’s completely normal to be overwhelmed with parenting/difficult kids.  I think you’re at a difficult stage, and like all parents, are trying to cope as best you can. That’s really all you or anyone really can do, and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad parent!  I hope all of the tests come back helpful/positive, and that the dr’s are able to find something to help you gain a little more rope to deal with things.  *internet hugs*

  5. I’ve only skimmed the comments, so if I’m echoing other people, that’s fine. Reinforcements. You are not a complete failure. That you care as much as you do is testament to that. Anyone who thinks it’s sunshine and awesome from birth is either delusional or not actually a parent. Though I haven’t had kids with sleep issues to that degree, there are certainly other things that have made sob in that “WTF am I doing?” sort of way. And do not feel ashamed about seeing if there is an underlying medical issue. Find the right, most compassionate doctor you can, and see what happens.

    Extra internet hugs. And a solidarity fist bump for good measure.

  6. If it helps, I highly doubt 96% of toddlers are getting between 10.8 and 15.6 hours of sleep a night. I think 96% of parents are claiming their kids sleep that much because they don’t want people judging them. Lexie’s bff frequently stays up until between 3:00 and 4:30 in the morning and still wakes up early and only naps for a couple hours if at all. It’s taken three years for Lexie to settle reliably into a bedtime, and she still wakes up and climbs in our bed every single night and tries to push me off the bed.

    All the hugs.

      1. Exactly what Hillary said.  Gabe is getting MAYBE 12 hours of sleep in a good 24 hours.  Sleep is one of those things that parents use on other parents as a subtle judgement, and every single one of those judgey motherfuckers can jump off a pier.  Sofia loves you, she loves her daddy, and YOU ARE DOING ALL THE RIGHT THINGS.  Life is a big task, and Sofia’s trying to learn it as fast as she can, just like everyone else in the world, include her parents.  We’ve taken Gabe to our primary care doctor, two allergists, and may now set up an appointment with a dermatologist or a pediatric pulmologist to figure out what’s going on with his sleep.  I understand the despair and hopelessness, and I can’t offer any suggestions because I know when people offer them to me, I want to coldcock them.

  7. I just wiped away some of my tears, so now I can type. I wasn’t in the exact same boat as you 6 years ago, but I was pretty damn close.  Reading this post< I felt like I was reading a piece of my own past.  My oldest was a self-imposed, strictly regiment baby.  From the moment of her birth she had her own schedule, and fire and brimstone would rain down on us if anything messed with it.  She would have those sobbing, panicking, crying bouts you describe and it would take her HOURS to come down.  My friends always told me I had to “not give in to her tantrums” and would almost roll their eyes when I tried to describe the severity of the aftermath of messing with her nap time or bedtime routine.  I felt like I was shackled to her schedule but it was my fault we couldn’t break it.  As a toddler she was very shy and did not handle change well (and I’m pretty sure you know what I mean by that).  I always felt like I was to blame.  Somehow I had formed her to be so difficult to manage.  I was too strict, or too lenient.  I wasn’t engaging enough, or I was hovering.  Something I did or didn’t do was causing this to happen.  I was a failure as a mom because my little girl did NOT come close to resembling those sweet cherubs in the parenting magazines (filthy rubbish that they are).  And I could not catch a break.  Nothing I did worked.  When she got to be preschool age, she started showing the first concrete signs of anxiety.  I have had anxiety since I was a child, so watching her, I felt like I was watching me.  She had nervous habits like chewing her nails until they bled and plucking her lip until it bled.  She wouldn’t play with kids she didn’t know and always hid at the back of the class.  Once Kindergarten started, I finally took her to a psychologist for evaluation because she would wake up with screaming nightmares 2-3 times a week and make herself physically sick. Getting ready for school was a battle.  I would try to get her dressed while she was kicking and screaming and she would often say things like “my friends will think I look hideous” or BEGGING me through tears to let her stay home from school.  In kindergarten!  Her teachers never saw any of it at school (except that she was “very quiet”) and treated me like I was ridiculous for suggesting there might be something more going on, and being “too lenient if she was being difficult at home”.

    When we went to the psychologist, I really was hoping that he could tell me what I was doing wrong so I could fix it, and finally try to be a good mother.  It was obvious to me that I didn’t know how to be a good parent or my kid would not have so many “issues”.  My daughter ended up scoring at the top of the charts for indications of anxiety from all the tests and evaluations.

    We ended up starting her on Proxac, and will be starting play therapy this summer in preparation for 3rd grade (the start of standardized testing and the end of childhood around here).  In the end what I learned is that I didn’t make her the way she is.  My daughter is who she is.  In her case she is a child that offered more parenting challenges than a lot of other kids, but I didn’t make her that way.  She was dealing with things the best she could, and so was I.

    This is a novel of a response – but I wanted to tell you, you are NOT alone and you are NOT a failure.  I believe parenting is one of the hardest jobs a person can do… It is especially difficult if your child doesn’t fit into the mold.  But if I can offer a piece of advice – not about Sofia, but for yourself – trust yourself, and cut yourself some slack.  Just the fact that you care enough to be concerned means that you are a better parent than a lot of the others out there.  And DO NOT feel guilty for doing what you have to do (like letting Sofia wear the bathing suit) in order to maintain your own sanity.  And when all else fails and someone doesn’t understand your struggles or tries to judge, tell them to fuck off.

    1. Thank you, a lot, for this response.  I see anxiety all over her, and I have since she was about six months old.  Family history, blah blah blah.  My therapist said I was projecting, that somebody that young doesn’t go through it.  The child psychologist we went to today said that Sofia was probably picking up on our uneasiness and responding, even though we are both treated and managing and don’t react anxiously most of the time – it’s not “oh she seems anxious” that I was trying to say, but “oh she is exhibiting signs of an anxiety disorder,” but I wasn’t heard.  And I don’t know when to push and when to say “no, they are the expert.”

      And out and about, she doesn’t exhibit these signs – she’s so careful and reserved around other people.



      1. I feel your pain!  When Katie (my oldest) was a baby I I really struggled with the idea that I was projecting my own anxiety on her.  It wasn’t until Annie (my middle child) was born that I really saw the difference between Katie’s temperament and that of her peers.  Annie was nothing like Katie.  Annie “rolled with the punches” and adjusted to changes much easier.  I started to think that maybe parenting wasn’t the root of Katie’s struggles.

        Katie was also extremely shy and reserved around anyone but my husband and I – even close family and friends.  Teachers and care providers thought Katie was a perfect student because she was quite and never acted up.  They refused to believe that she wasn’t actually simply being “well behaved” – that she was in fact so reserved and fearful that she couldn’t speak out or be social.  They also refused to believe that she turned into My. Hyde at home.  Thankfully, we are blessed to have a kick ass pediatrician.  When I finally found the courage to talk to him about my struggles he totally validated my concerns and told me there many kids who are diagnosed as having anxiety as early as 2 years of age.  He sent us to a psychologist who back-up what our pediatrician said.

        I’m actually shocked the doctors you have talked to haven’t been more responsive to your (absolutely valid) concerns.  Every doctor (7 in total) that I have talked to about Katie has confirmed that very young children can have anxiety disorders.  If I can again offer unsolicited advice:  Believe in yourself and stick to your guns.  You are obviously and intelligent woman who cares about her child.  This struggle is obviously having a negative impact on your entire family.  You are Sofia’s mother and NO ONE knows better than you if there is a problem.  Do NOT let any make you doubt yourself, have faith in your “mommy instincts”.  If you say there is a problem, there is a problem…end of story.  And just because you suffer from anxiety also DOES NOT mean you are delusional or irrational.  It DOES mean that you have an intimate understanding of the signs of anxiety that Sofia is presenting.  I think you should push back and try to find a doctor with more experience with young children and anxiety.

        You ARE a good mom, and you are NOT a failure!  You are doing the best you can with the hand you have been dealt, and, in the end, that is the most important thing.

  8. Oh so many hugs to you. Sleep deprivation is the absolute worst. I have one kid who is a beast to get to sleep (but stays asleep, mostly), and one who goes to sleep like an angel, and then proceeds to wake multiple times during the night. There have been weeks and months where we have two sleeping bags on the floor of our room for the kids, where we joke about playing “hotel” because all four of us are together, and there are nights where both kids end up in bed with us and one of us ends up sleeping in the kids’ room with the door locked for sanity’s sake. I hope it gets better soon for you.

    As for the rest of it, you are not a failure. Anyone who doesn’t get completely frustrated or second-guess themselves is either lying, or in for hell during the teenage years. That’s what I tell myself, anyway!

      1. There was a day when I tried to get it together and just couldn’t. I showed up to work one day, completely disheveled (I’d been crying and crying and as much as i though appeared reasonably together, I didn’t)- my boss took one look at me and sent me home to bed. I slept the entire day, until it was time to pick both kids up. It stands out as my low-point, and as one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me.


  9. This is silly, and maybe a little off topic but if it makes you giggle I’ll feel like a winner!

    As a child I was very much afraid of the dark. I can still remember seeing scary things coming to life and coming towards me. Gah. (Oh, wait, this still happens sometimes..) Anyway, besides the terrible nightmares I had a hard time getting back to sleep if I woke up in the dark because my imagination is super-powered. So, when I would wake up almost every night to go to the bathroom I would always (seriously, always) have to force myself to be brave enough just to get to my moms bedroom door and wake her up, so that she could put me to bed again afterwards. No imaginary monsters could overshadow the presence of my mom! If she didn’t respond I would break down, freak out, to terrified to turn around or look around.

    Back to the point though. Eventually I got brave enough that I would just wake her up, hear her voice, tell her the same ritualized lines “Mom? Mom? Hi mom. I love you. Sweet Dreams. Talk to you tomorrow.” ALWAYS. I mean, she was still being woken up, and I felt really really bad about it, but I NEEDED IT and at least she didn’t have to get up and everything (this was age 12 or 13 btw). I still can feel these emotions like they were yesterday!  But I evolved a little, and eventually changed. (ok I still say those lines at the end of our long distance conversations)

    I mean, when your daughter is a preteen in middle school I’m sure she won’t be in bathing suits anymore because she’ll be more worried about her appearance in ways she can’t possibly be now. Right? haha So, I mean, kids are pretty ridiculous and adult logic doesn’t apply (unfortunately). Maybe my mom can tell you what helped her hold on to sanity?

    But basically, I think you’re awesome (which counts for something) and caring this much is what really matters.

        1. I was always creeped out by the darker darkness under the bed.  I had an irrational fear of something grabing my legs as I got in or out of bed.  Sometimes still (at 36) I get the hebbie-jeebies climbing into bed after the light’s out.  Yes, a middle aged mother of three has to jump into bed sometimes then shake my feet to get the icky tingles off.


  10. This is a giant Internet hug. I am childless and none of my close friends have kids, but from what I’m reading in the comments, every kid is different and you are not a failure as a parent in any way. You love your kid. You try. When I was a kid, I only ate white food for years. And I wore a diaper long after I was potty trained just because I decided it was far easier to pee my pants than interrupt my play time to go to the bathroom. And I’m sure my mom felt awful and like a failure.

    Also, my grandma dropped me on my head. I turned out okay.

    I think just worrying and trying things until you find what works proves that you’re a good mom.

    Be kind to yourself.

  11. Honey, you aren’t a bad parent. You are a parent who was presented with a very serious challenge. You don’t blame Sofia for her sleeping behavior and bathing suit obsession, do you? It’s clearly out of her control. Why should you blame yourself?  Your daughter is not a garden-variety child, and prefab “systems” and simplistic solutions simply aren’t cutting it.  You are truly having to come up with a solution  yourself, and that is a very tough gig, which you persist at despite being exhausted and disheartened. That makes you more than a parent, it makes you a champion.

      1. Dealing is hard. People who act like parenting is a snap are either lying to you or to themselves, whitewashing their memory of all the fucking hard rough spots. Mini had a period when she was a baby where I could not soothe her or get her to sleep. I’d have to call Beau, who would drive home from work, get her to stop shrieking at me, and then go back to work. We called it daddy magic. And it made me feel like shit.

        I have a distinct memory of many weeks into this when neither of us had had much sleep (I worked 3rd shift, Beau worked days), when I knew, I just knew, what drove some mothers to kill their children. I didn’t feel aggressive towards the baby at any means, but I had this moment of clarity where I understood how some parents just snapped. It’s one of the hardest things you’ll do in your life.

        You are dealing right now. Getting her the appointment is the right step. Managing her behavior the best you can is the right step. Getting up every morning and putting one foot in front of the other is dealing. You’re got lots of friends around here who are happy and eager to support you — use us. Don’t let the rope run out.

        1. And that support means so much.  And yes – I’ve thought, many times, that I understand why parents murder their children.  Not in a fit of anger – just in a fit of understanding.  I know it wouldn’t ever come to that, or even come close to that, but sometimes it gets to the point where I can understand it, which  is hard enough to even admit.

      2. (I am a little drunk, so apologies in advance for the probably unhelpful ramble.)

        I was a really fucking weird kid. I behaved strangely and was hard to love. I think my mother felt it was her fault, and her guilt made it harder for her to cope. I think it would have been better for both of us if she had figured, “That’s just how Bryn is. We’ll deal with it the best we can, and it sucks, but it sure as hell isn’t my fault.”

        You’re not doing anything wrong. Sofia sounds like an original, and I’m not surprised–she’s your kid, after all. I can imagine (sort of?, I’m not a mom) that it can be pure hell, and I bet that she will grow up and be ridiculously amazing.

        Moms don’t talk a lot about ongoing problems with their kids. They have so much pressure to be so fucking perfect! It’s terrible! One of my dear friends has a brilliant daughter battling severe OCD. Is it my friend’s fault? Hell, no. One of my nephs used to vomit a few times a day, and no one could figure out why. I think it wound up having to do with anxiety, but it went on for a long time, and I know my SIL felt bad that she couldn’t just get an answer and fix it. They are both fantastic, amazing moms. But moms are under so much pressure, and nobody talks about this stuff, and everyone compares her reality to others’ facades.

        On a practical note: could Sofia stay over at a friend’s or relative’s house once a week or so, so that you could sleep a bunch?







        1. Sofia might be able to stay somewhere else.  We don’t have any family nearby, nor (to be honest) any friends that are close enough that I would be comfortable pawning her off.  Because she would be awful.  She’s stayed with my parents before, and it was really bad.

          I think you hit the nail on the head with “everyone compares her reality to others’ facades.”  Everybody else just seems to take it all in stride.

  12. So 3% of kids are getting even less sleep. And you know what? Maybe the evaluation doesn’t provide a handy diagnosis complete with “ah, yes! This, then, is what we will do to fix it.” But if it doesn’t you’ll have weeded something else out. And finally, something that has already been touched on: you’re not the only one who has ever reached the end of your rope. And truly reached the end of it, not in the cutesy “every parent goes through this” way.

    Fine. Those folks want to tell me that “every parent” has gone through damn near a month where they did not have it in them to do the regular evening bath/read stories/tuck child into bed routine? Oh, not because they didn’t know they “should,” or because it simply could not fit into their schedule. But because it’s all you can do to get the kid home and fed and safely into their room before you collapse. For all I know, every parent has gone through that, or something analogous. But where it’s “cute” to talk about a one-time parenting hardship, or even something the kid does that’s persistent but miraculously has no impact on the parent’s coping ability, anything beyond that ceases to be ok to acknowledge.

    1. Right.  I think there is a danger in admitting it – in admitting that it’s not always amazing.  Because to do so feels like you are saying “I wish I weren’t a parent, I wish you were never born,” which isn’t what you are saying (or at least, what I am saying) – but it feels like a monstrous thing to say, to admit that you don’t love every second.

  13. Thanks for this. I know your pain and know it well. My son is two months shy of turning three, and he still has sleep problems. I have been sleep deprived for over three years, if you count my sleep problems during pregnancy. It took until my son was almost a year old to get him to even drift off to sleep properly. For the first year of his life it took him 45 minutes or more to even get him to close his eyes, no matter how much singing and gentle night time routines we did. And once he was asleep, he’d wake up every hour on the hour and getting him back to sleep would take another 45 minutes. It didn’t matter how many naps he took, whether or not he watched television, or what he ate – the problem was always the same.

    Around 14 months old he finally stopped waking up every hour and settled into the routine of only waking up twice a night. Then he regressed for a while. Then it got better and I sighed with relief. Around the two year mark, he started tryign to climb out of his crib so we went ahead and gave him a toddler bed. He slept through the night every night for a soldi four months, and I finally exhaled. He cut out his daily nap, and slept even longer at night, and I thought we’d finally gotten through it.

    Until a couple of months ago. He’s almost three, and he wakes up EVERY SINGLE NIGHT around 2-3a.m. and has to get in bed with us. Once or twice a week, he has a huge tantrum/fit before he’ll go back to sleep, complete with banging his head on the floor, screaming at the top of his lungs, and refusing to be consoled. Once asleep, he takes up the entire bed, tosses and turns, kicks us repeatedly and usually my husband or I end up having to get up and go without sleep because the three of us simply can’t all sleep together. So here we are. I have a three year old, and I still never get any sleep.

    You aren’t a failure. All kids are different and some parents have those special dream-kids that sleep through the night and always have. And some of us get the gremlins. We just happen to have a couple of gremlins. Just keep your head low and keep charging. Enjoy sleep when you can get it. And you and I will laugh about this when they are teenagers and we can relish in making them get up realllllllllly early on a Saturday to do chores.

  14. Susan! I’m so sorry you’re feeling this way! If there’s anything I’m learning as I muddle my way thru parenting it’s that kids are just who they are and there’s actually not a lot we can do to affect that. We are lucky to have an “easy” baby, but it has nothing to do with how we parent–he’s just super chill.  But that doesn’t prevent me from second-guessing myself whenever I read baby advice for how we’re setting up his future habits (attachment parenting! baby-led weaning! co-sleeping! augh!). Each family figures it out for themselves.

    There’s one blog I read for a while and this mama had a really “high-maintenance” daughter and then a really chill son. I remember that she struggled with some of the same issues as you (daughter not sleeping, anxious, melt-downs–but also inquisitive, always moving, excited), I remember one reflection she made–that many of the same things she finds frustrating in her daughter as a child now are actually things she values in adults (independence, having her own opinions & personality, the ability to speak for herself, etc). So although it may be frustrating as a parent, you are guiding Sofia to be an awesome adult.

    I really really feel for you. I wish I had advice for you, or a day (night?) of free babysitting. You are not a failure (you’ve actually been quite awesome in helping me so far!). If there’s every anything you need, let me know! Hugs from Seattle!!!

    1. Oh, thank you, a lot.  I’m feeling somewhat better, so that’s good.  Sofia’s still not sleeping, but – we slept until 9:30 a.m. the other day, so the world looks way different.

      We are heading to the motherland this summer.  Anything we can get you?  Books for the wee one?

  15. I’m not a parent, but I babysit a bunch of small children at various times…every once in awhile, they have a meltdown and I don’t know what to do until they’re a) done sobbing their eyes out or b) consent to be cuddled or c) talked off the proverbial ledge. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to do that 24/7, instead of one day a week every so often. For what it’s worth coming from non-parent, the fact that you are trying everything in your book (and other books) to make sure that your child is happy, healthy, and safe makes you a good parent.

    I vote that there should be a ‘HUGS FOR YOU’ vote. Or a hug donating system, like how you donate the points. Except to donate the hugs.

    1. Thanks.  I didn’t fully realize it when I was writing this, but I was on the brink of a Massive Depressive Episode (which is so clear to me now).  I’m feeling somewhat better, although I still don’t know how to adjust to the constant feeling of “I don’t know how to do this right.”

  16. I’m not a parent, but I’ve been along for the ride as a caregiver and a teacher, and if I know one thing, it’s that unless your kid can read them, parenting books are hogwash.

    My experiences also tell me that I think you may be on the right track with the sensory evaluation. The kids I know with sensory processing difficulties love tight tee shirts or weighted vests, because it makes them feel secure. We had the neatest thing in the classroom, it was a kid sized bag made out of stretchy fabric (much like a bathing suit) with a velcro opening. It had the combined benefits of creating a tiny safe space and offering plenty of opportunity for muscle resistance. (You can see something similar here.)  It’s a little more expensive than a bathing suit, but I have a feeling Sophia would love it. Hell, I want one in my size. The best part – if it is a sensory issue, there are so many (easy!) things you can do that will help. Little bodies are complicated things, but we know so much more about them than we used to.

    And you’re not failing at all. I’ve known hundreds of fantastic moms, just like you, and they all have these stories. By posting this, you’re making it easier for all the other moms who struggle in silence and in fear to know it’s okay. The same lady-mag culture that tries to make all of us feel fat, splotchy, unfashionable, not the right kind of sexy and in need of lots of products does a really good job of trying to undermine moms, too.

    1. I think the thing that gets me is that there aren’t any do-overs.  I mean there are, every day is a new day, but I can’t just say “you know what?  This isn’t for me.  I’m going to waitress for awhile until I figure out what I’m good at.”

      I want parenting to be sunshine and rainbows and awesome and fun.  And sometimes it is.  But not always, not by a long ways.

  17. Oh goodness, Susan.

    I need to be more strict, I need to let her cry it out for hours and hours and hours every night for weeks and weeks, and then she’ll eventually give up.

    I appreciate that anything resembling advice may be the last thing you want to hear, so apologies if this falls under that. What I wanted to say though is that a happier parent and child is not about being more strict. At least, from my experience (that is the epic-ness of a mere five years), creating more stress does not increase happiness. Especially when one of the people involved is still figuring out what it is to be human.

    A friend of mine suggested we get her evaluated for sensory issues and anxiety, which we set up an appointment for. I’m afraid to tell people that, too. Afraid that they will say that I am making excuses for my own bad parenting, that I am seeing a “problem” where there isn’t a problem (other than me). That I need to be more strict, that I need to be less forgiving. That if I just rip that goddamned bathing suit off of her and refuse to listen to her cry, it will make her stop.

    I can appreciate some of the feeling over being afraid of telling people about evaluation. Juniper Junior has had speech therapy for the past couple of years, and I have only found it something I can talk about freely in recent months, with the somewhat decreasing feeling that it is because I’m a bad parent that he needs speech therapy, and realisation that he does have actual issues.

    It feels like a failure to give in. It also feels like a failure to hold out forever. When Sofia is sobbing, really panicking, I feel like a monster if I am not able to make that okay. I’m not talking about “No, you can’t have any juice right now” kind of sobbing – the kind of sobbing where comfort from me would make things okay, would make the panic subside. And yet, it feels like a failure to give in, that I am so weak, that I can’t teach my kid to be self-reliant.

    Everyone does things differently – and every child is different – so I’ll try to stop rambling in a moment. What I would say though, is that “giving in” is not a failure. It’s acknowleding that your (very young) child has needs, and that moment, their need is their mother. It’s possibly a weird analogy, but the WHO recommends breastfeeding until age 2 (I know this is something you’ve been dealing with too) and even until age 4, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable that when a child is still young enough to need their mother’s milk, that they need their mother, too. Self-reliance is something we learn our whole lives, it isn’t solely dependent on how we slept in our toddler years.

    Goodness, I really have rambled – apologies.

    1. It isn’t rambling, at all, and I appreciate it.  I think because nobody wants to say “I am afraid I am doing a crap job at this,” nobody talks about it, and it makes me (at least) feel like parenting is supposed to be this wonderful awesomeness and every day should feel like a blessing, and it just doesn’t.  Some days do.  Lots of times within the days do.  But there’s just so much that I am no good at.

      1. After I commented the first time, I kept thinking about Desperate Housewives. I only watched season 1, but I remember one episode where Felicity Huffman’s character had a breakdown and semi-ran away from home. When the other ladies found her, she tearfully told them how she didn’t think she could keep it together anymore, because she just couldn’t be normal and perfect like everyone else. All the other ladies said something to the effect of “Are you fucking kidding me? My life’s a mess!” and they all confessed their imperfections. Felicity Huffman ended the scene asking “Why don’t we tell each other stuff like this? Why do we all have to pretend to be perfect all the time?” and everyone learned a valuable lesson about friendship. It may sound cheesy as hell, but I have come to believe that every tear we confess to makes someone else feel less alone in the world.

  18. Oh Susan. How I wish I could come and take Sofia so you could sleep for one night at least. You’re not a failure though, not at all. You are wonderful and Sofia is lucky to have you as her mother.  I’m the oldest of three. Apparently I was a brilliant sleeper as a baby, fell into routines like a charm. Mum was all “Alright, if they’re like Cesy, can handle that”. Then my middle sister came along. She wouldn’t sleep, she wouldn’t eat, right up until Sofia’s age. Mum and my sister spent a lot of time in Karitane Family Homes, basically a respite care for mums and babies where Mum could get help to deal with my little sister. She couldn’t cope at all. Dad at this stage was working in an area that meant he wasn’t home much to help. I know she felt terrible about it all, but the big thing here is- you are not a terrible mother. Far from it. The situation might be, but you are not.

    Lots of love hun.

  19. Oh Sweetie, lots and lots of hugs to you. You’re not a failure, I promise. MiniB was not a good sleeper when she was a toddler, but it got better. I nursed her till she was almost two because it was often the only way to get her to sleep and I was afraid to give it up in case she never slept again. And if I could find them, I would show you the pictures of her wearing her Christmas dress over a Dora the explorer shirt that she wore for a week, until I could find her a different one to change into. That was when we made the “You can’t wear the same thing more than three days in a row” rule, so I could at least get her to switch out every few days for the months that this phase lasted. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the screaming tantrum that ended with with the suspicious agreement to wear the dress over the shirt, or of me at my wit’s end and near tears myself because the whole fucking family was there to witness the Dora Shirt Debacle, to make you feel less alone in this. I also have pictures of my friend’s daughter in her purple chaps and riding helmet that she wore for at least a month. My friend was cheerful about the whole thing when we were hanging out, but I could detect the memories of failed and frustrated pleading under her smile.

    We’re all fucked up, and we all feel like failures sometimes (OMG, let me tell you about the night I spent staring wide awake at the ceiling, trying to cry quietly because I was 100% convinced that I had failed at potty training my daughter and she was going to be messed up for life, but I didn’t want to wake anyone else up with my misery), we just get better at pretending to be fine. And then things get easier, and they really are fine (most of the time).

    1. Thank you.  A lot.  I know it will get better, it has to, right?  And I know that no parent is perfect.  It just seems like everybody else is so much better at it than I feel like I am.  Which is probably more of a reflection of what it’s okay to talk about in public than reality.

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