As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Midnight Lessons

So my current baby is the worst sleeper I've ever had and I have to admit, it's pretty frustrating. Night after night I put him down really never knowing if he'll sleep through, if he'll wake up once, or if he'll be up all night.  I watch friends with babies the same age and even younger who are all sleeping with no issue, and I compare my little guy to my own six children before him and it's easy to think, "what are we doing wrong?"  I've tried all the sleep training methods, all forms of comfort giving, even nursing doesn't work.  And my nightly pep talk, that this too will pass and someday he will sleep, is starting to lose its effect.

Last night for the third night in a row, my dear little guy was awake and inconsolable.  He's got a cold that's leaving him pretty congested so I know that's the culprit, but being on night three (and having battled the worst migraine I've had in a long time for the whole day prior to this sleepless night) I was really at my wit's end. It's kind of embarrassing that the thing that causes me most to lose faith in God is a sleepless baby, but it's so true - not since my baby troubles with child #2 have I found myself so legitimately angry at God. As I paced last night with this baby who clearly wanted to sleep as much as I did, I unleashed my anger in silent (and not-so-silent) cries - "Why can't you fix this, God? Why is he getting worse and not better as he gets older? I can't do this every night!" He wasn't just awake, he was awake and very unhappy, and nothing I could do was calming him.  There is nothing more disconcerting to a sleep-deprived mother than being awake in the night time with no end in sight.  At least if I could have put him down and let him play for a bit, that would be something.  But none of my tricks were working, and I was spent.

And still, somehow, there was a lesson in all of this for me.  Several, actually.  As is typical for me, once I get through my own over reacting God helps me see the reality of the situation.  And once I accepted the fact that he wasn't sleeping and asked God (and Mary) for help being here for David as he needed me, even if he was going to need me for the whole night, He shed light on a  few things that helped me to see this midnight marathon of baby-soothing was indeed not the worst thing in the world for me.

Here are the lessons I learned while pacing the halls with my sick, sleepless (and fussy) boy last night:

1) Getting angry is a natural response to frustration

Some of my older children are at a place where they get very angry at me when I discipline or enforce rules, and I very often say to them, "I don't know why you're making me the bad guy."  And yet, once sweet David settled down and I looked at his chubby, sleeping face on my shoulder, I remembered how angry I got at God for what I thought was not coming to my aid. Of course it's not true, He was always there for me.  And as the night played out, much like parenting, it was clear to me that the fix I was asking for in the beginning wasn't the one that was best for me, which obviously God knew and I didn't.  It was helpful for me in understanding that the behaviour my older kids sometimes show is the same that I do, and I hope it will help me not to take it so personally when they get angry with me for the things I do that they don't understand - their frustration is natural and is, in fact, the way I myself act when I don't see the whole picture, and I just want something a certain way.

2) I can do this

The biggest thing to fuel my frustration last night was the recurring thought that I can't keep doing this.  I can't get up every night for hours at a time with a baby whose sleep patterns are getting worse and not better despite all my best efforts!  And yet even before the words were out of my mouth I knew it was a lie - of course I can do this, millions of mothers do it all the time. Once I had put all thoughts of sleep out of my mind and focussed on the task at hand - comforting a baby who needed my comfort - things became more clear.  It wasn't that I couldn't do it, but just that my heart needed conversion in order to actually do what I needed to do.  In this case it was promising myself I would not grit my teeth when the baby started to cry again.  And no matter what happened, if I started to feel myself tense up I would just pray and breathe my way through it, and then my heart was in the right place.  And again as I paced back and forth and the tension left me, it made me think of a situation I'm having with an older child right now, which is very difficult.  Many times in that situation as well I have uttered that phrase, "I can't keep doing this."  But of course, I know that's not true.  I know God would not call me to a situation I was bound to fail at, and I was able to see last night that in that instance as well, the key is personal conversion.  That's easy with a sweet, innocent baby, but sometimes harder to come by with an older child who maybe is a bit more culpable in my mind. But it's no less true, and I don't know if I would have even considered it had I not been up with my baby last night. So I offered the rest of my nighttime efforts for my older child as well, and in my mind will keep the two linked as I pray for the same tenderness I have for the baby to seep into the way I discipline my older baby as well.

3) This is for me

This is something people in the Movement are always saying when faced with any kind of difficulty, and it always drives me nuts!  But I couldn't help seeing last night, after my second hour of comforting David and seeing it finally have an effect that this whole crazy situation, not just last night but every night that came before it, is for me.  The conversion that happens in my heart, the crying out to Jesus not only in anger but in desperation and complete dependance on Him to see me through, wouldn't happen if it wasn't for these moments that push me so far beyond my limits.  Once I've given myself over to doing whatever it takes for however long it takes, my focus shifts from my own selfish desire for comfort to that of the people in front of me.  And in this way, I become truly myself.  More prayers have been said by the bedside of a sleepless baby than I can count, and these are the real moments of truth for me.  As I tucked myself back into bed with no expectations for the rest of the night, I was grateful for the way God uses this time to really reach me.  I had my older children and my baby on my heart, and a new resolve to be patient not only with my baby (since I'm sure this won't be the last sleepless night we face together) but also my older children and the issues they face as they grow.  And what started off as what appeared to be a flaw in my eyes really turned into a moment of grace and conversion to me.

I still know that my baby will eventually sleep through the night. But until that time comes, I pray God will help me face these nights with patience and gratitude for the gift this life is to me.  As we journey together I pray that these moments in reality will lead me closer to Christ, and give me the strength to be the kind of mother He has called me to be.

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