Ed Cyzewski takes his role as peace-maker, encourager, and writer-friend seriously. When you get to know the guy, you realize that of course he would be the man to host a year’s worth of guest posts from women sharing their experiences in ministry. He cares deeply about the Church. Also, he’s a stay-at-home-dad trying to juggle fatherhood and writing. I so appreciate having him here and learning from him.
I was deep in the middle of moving when his most recent book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus released so I didn’t chat about it much here. But today, I’m excited to say Ed’s giving away a free copy. To win the Big Hazardous Prize, just leave a comment with your best “putting a child to sleep” story. (It could be your kid, the kid you babysat once, etc.) I’ll pick a winner! Woot! Woot!
Thank for being here, Ed.
I don’t want to write some of the words I’ve said during our son’s sleep struggles over his first six months. By most measures I know of, he had a rough time falling asleep for naps and at night.
By every measure I know of, I sounded more like a hockey player than a well-behaved parent.
Ethan’s loud, sharp, “ETCH! ETCH! ETCH!” would wake us up from sleep routinely, and naps were nothing short of a battle. Throughout the swaddling and then each new sleep routine where we gradually removed everything which wasn’t working—which basically involved removing everything except the baby—I caught myself in a range of emotions.
There were the long nights where I took a shift rocking Ethan. On those nights I felt desperate, “Just fall asleep child!”
There were naps where I’d rock, bounce, and cradle him just right, watch him go limp, and drop him gently in his crib, only for him to bounce awake minutes later. Those were the times I got angry. “I did everything perfect and it’s still not good enough!”
Parents can put a lot of pressure on themselves. We can believe that it’s ALL up to us. I’ve believed that on far too many nights and afternoons.
I needed to see that Ethan is a brand new person who needs to learn the most basic things from scratch. Sleeping on a schedule is not something you’re born with—a critical design flaw on the creator’s part if you ask me.
On top of that, Ethan is an individual. He’s picking up sleep at his own pace. There’s nothing we can do to speed up his pace, but we can accept it and stop beating ourselves up for it.
And that brings me to my “good phrase.”
On the nights and afternoons that stretched into an endless series of re-swaddling, re-rocking, and re-bouncing, I started to say something to Ethan when he started to cry: “Daddy loves you.”
This is nothing profound, mind you. However, at the most frustrating, helpless moments, I needed that reminder that I loved him no matter what. I couldn’t let my expectations, insecurities, or need to “control” his sleep cloud what is most important about our relationship.
As his sleep has improved over the past two months, I’ve gotten used to him falling asleep on his own. We just put him in his crib at night and his swing during the day. Either way, he usually falls asleep.
Of course, there are exceptions. And those exceptions happen with more frequency than I would like. So we take turns rocking him back to sleep. When a sleep attempt fails, I can catch myself feeling really disappointed, as if I’d been robbed of something I’d been owed.
I walk into his room where he’s either whimpering or in a full on roar. He’s old enough to roll around in his crib, so there’s no telling where his head or feet will be when I walk over. I lean over and can finally see his mouth gaping wide open as he cries. His arms flail.
“Daddy loves you.”
That snaps me out of my self-pity and controlling ways. That takes me from frustrated, inconvenienced parent who can’t read a book or wash the dishes or fold the laundry and places me back in my role as a nurturing parent.
Sleep is never as hard as it used to be for Ethan. Most nights we’re free to do what we like after he falls asleep. However, if Ethan resists sleep in any way, I at least know the first thing I’m going to say.
Ed Cyzewski works as a freelance writer in Columbus, OH. He is the co-author of Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus and author of Creating Space, Coffeehouse Theology, Divided We Unite, and A Path to Publishing. Ed blogs about imperfectly following Jesus with a hint of sarcasm at www.inamirrordimly.com.