One Good Phrase: Daddy Loves You (Ed Cyzewski)

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 SpaceCoffeehouse TheologyDivided We Unite, and A Path to Publishing. Ed blogs about imperfectly following Jesus with a hint of sarcasm at

Photo Credit: thejbird on flickr
  • michaboyett

    No comments yet??? Okay, I’ll start.

    Ed, what I love about this is its simplicity. I feel like in the moments of my greatest frustrations with my kids, when I lose my temper, I’m forgetting the simple good thing. All I can do is react to my own selfish needs. I need my kid to Do What I Say. I need my kid to sleep so I Can Sleep. I need my kid to stop screaming in the store so People Won’t Think I’m a Bad Mom. But if I bring it back to the small, true thing: I love this child. I remember that he’s still learning the world and himself. He’s trying to learn what it means to control his emotions, to trust my guidance. (And, let’s face it, I’m not always trustworthy.) Thanks for the reminder that the simple thing is usually the good thing.

    Also, I want a copy of Hazardous! So maybe I’ll pick myself: Best putting kid to bed story. There was that time my oldest was four weeks old and I got up in the night to change him. And, I’m mean, everyone has this story, right? The poop explosion all over the door and wall? The laughing/crying/I’m so hysterical I don’t know what I feel process of cleaning it up. Now he’s in the I’m-4-and-I-think-poop-is-hilarious stage so he’s been asking for that story lately. Ah, boys.

    • ed cyzewski

      There is a t-shirt I no longer wear because I got nailed right across the chest in the middle of the night. I never stand in the line of fire any more. Lesson learned. Stand on the side of the crib, not the end! I think he also peed on me and spat up on me that night. Wow, I’m suddenly really grateful for his current sleep patterns!

  • HopefulLeigh

    Such wisdom here, Ed. I’m not a parent but I’ve had plenty of practice putting babies to sleep through all my years of babysitting and nannying. Last fall as I was close to finishing my novel, the baby’s naps didn’t always coincide with my inspiration. I tried to channel any frustration into gratitude for her, as taking care of her allowed me to focus on my writing. We’d bounce around the house or sway to the Spotify playlist I created (the one that she now requests every day). We figured out a way to make it work.

    • ed cyzewski

      Music really makes a huge difference for kids. I don’t know what that’s so surprising to me! I’m glad you figured it out.

  • Michelle

    Thank you Ed for reminding me to take it back to basics when life (or kids) feel like they’re spirarlling out of control. My word for this year is “Love” and my mantra in testing times is “I love you”. I say it to the children when I am exasperated, I say it to my husband when I feel nagging words bubbling on my tongue and I say it to myself when critical thoughts threaten to overwhelm me. I remind myself of God’s love for me when I feel the very foundations of my life shaking. Three little words but such power to transform. Thanks for the reminder :)

    Sleep stories… My youngest was born 11 weeks early so when we finally got to take her home she was 8 weeks old and weighed four pounds. She was also a projectile vomiter! Now if you have never seen the phenomenan it is unbelievable how a child so small can literally open her mouth and I swear more milk than she has drunk can come pouring out – everywhere.

    I worried she would choke on it, or not be getting enough milk in her tiny tummy so I spent night after night terrrified of putting her back down to sleep in case she hadn’t been winded properly and she would throw it all up. On more than one occassion did my darling husband wake me after I’d fallen asleep mid winding with her against my shoulder to keep her bottle down, and several of those times dripping in vomit. Of course looking back that was probably just as dangerous but don’t all us parents do whatever it takes at the time. Like you Micha, Molly thinks the stories of her projectile vomiting episodes, especially the ones in public, are hilarious, but at the time it was a combination of tiredly surreal, slighlty disgusting and definately frightening.

    PS – I am loving this one good phrase series. God bless

    • ed cyzewski

      Good heavens! The things that end up on us from babies, eh?

    • michaboyett

      Thanks for the story, Michelle. So happy you’re loving the good phrase series.

  • Matthew

    I’m not a parent, and I don’t have much experience putting young children to sleep. I have, however, heard plenty of stories about the difficulty that my parents had putting me to sleep, and they finally figured out that taking me for a drive in the car would greatly help in this effort (something which I also blame for my continual falling asleep whenever I ride in a car — or for that matter, a plane, a train, or a bus). I do, however, remember my adolescence well and no matter how terrible I was, I always remember my parents telling me they loved me. This probably served a couple of functions: first, so I knew it, and second, so that they could remind themselves of this when they were trying to cope with this seeming incorrigible adolescent.

    It is a difficult thing, to love. Love has an affectual aspect to it, but for the most part it is a choice to clear out space in our hearts and lives for someone else, even if we don’t feel like it at the moment.

    Thanks, Ed. Beautiful post.

    • ed cyzewski

      My mom often drove me around to make me sleep.

      Love is rarely convenient. that is hard to learn… right up there with love being very intentional and requiring “effort.” thanks for sharing!

  • Jessica

    I am the mother an an 8-month-old girl, my first child. Although she is a relatively good sleeper, getting her down in the crib can be a challenge at times. I was reading a book that I bought as a gift for a friend, a book in the style of Dr. Seuss and a parody about the hardships endured by parents with young babies. The story had all the infamous hardships such as explosive poos and spit-ups, but the part that I related to the most went something like this, “I gently laid our sleeping baby on the mattress, she awoke and screamed like it was fire and cactus.” Oh yes, that is exactly what it is like!

    Loved the post. A great way to keep things in perspective when you are exhausted and overwhelmed.

  • Andrea

    hmmm.. a chance at a free book?

    You’re post reminds me of a book I once read which had a chapter on breath prayer. What is it that you pray with your inhale and exhale? I remember thinking for me it was, “thank you.” It has stayed with me over the years, and changed, or course. But I think it is a beautiful thing to have rhythm in prayer when we are not at our best, most awake, or focused.

    My favorite sleep memory is one of watching my husband. You forget (or at least we did) how much sleep training (rocking, shhhing, swaddling, etc) you have to do with a newborn, so when our second came, a short 2 years after our first, my husband was frustrated to say the least. I remember him holding my second, after swaddling him in the perfect swaddle, bouncing on the exercise ball so hard I was afraid it would pop, and shhing loudly in his ear, with a look of disdain on his face. We had friends over and we were watching him, holding glasses of wine, and he looked up and said “I really don’t like this part of babies.” He went on to bounce, swaddle, and shh for about 30 more minutes, until the little one fell asleep, after which he gladly accepted his wine and dropped onto the couch.

    • michaboyett

      Isn’t it amazing how angry our “shhh-es” can’t get? I always can tell when my husband needs me to step in by the tone of his “shhh”… : )

  • Barbara Comito

    I think I’m on a similar journey with my faith. I have to keep coming back to the most fundamental of truths: God loves me. Daddy loves me. If that’s not my starting point, if I don’t get that, I cannot move on. One child falling asleep story is really just a picture in my head: my 5-year-old daughter with her face in a plate of food. It was summer. She’d had a glorious, play-filled summer day and simply couldn’t stay awake one more moment. The other one involves my husband and me taking turns putting my boys to bed when they were about 2 and 4. Neither of us has any musical talent whatsoever, but we used to sing our boys to sleep. We would put up 5 fingers to serve as something like a juke box. The boys would press one finger down and their dad or I would start singing, and believe me, the choices were quite limited: “She’ll be coming around the mountain,” “Take me out to the ball game,” “Jesus loves me,” “Jesus loves the little children,” and “Though all the peoples walk (each in the name of their god. . .)” Sometimes we’d vary it up by making up a song about the boys and what they did that day. When all 5 fingers were down, it was time to go to sleep.

    • michaboyett

      Love your stories. Human juke boxes! There is nothing like the kid falling asleep in their food. I took an amazing video of August over Christmas eating a cookie as he fell asleep. The sleep-desserting lasted like five minutes.

      Yes, to your words about love being the starting point. I completely agree. If I can’t believe I am loved by God, I can’t go anywhere from there. Thanks Barbara.

  • Joan W.

    My story isn’t about getting a toddler to sleep, but about them not knowing that we could sleep late on Saturday. My first toddler, who is now 27, did not want to stay in her crib. I hear the words, “OW! OW” coming from her room. “What’s wrong?” “Opus bit my jammas.” Opus was a stuffed animal.

    • michaboyett

      Opus, how could you do that? I love it.

  • Denise

    I have done my share of rocking two babies to sleep as infants, but my story is about helping my oldest, a son now 24, to fall asleep when he was about 4. He was worried about falling asleep and having dreams of sharks and witches. What a combo! So he asked me to pray with him for dreams about a friendly whale who would let my son swim in his mouth. We prayed and he felt peaceful and went to sleep. He told me the next morning that he had dreamt of the friendly whale. This became a bedtime routine for him for a season.

    • michaboyett

      Oh, Denise, I love this! This is exactly the sort of combo of fears my son has. And exactly the sort of thing that would hope to dream. Don’t you love how God will answer a little prayer like this? Going to sleep in a whale’s mouth! So sweet.

  • michaboyett


    My girl HopefulLeigh!!!!

    (It was a very legit drawing of names done at my desk just this very moment. Leigh, I’ll send you an email so Ed can ship the book your way!)