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

Friday, March 18, 2016

Overall Improvement

My baby has the most hit or miss sleep schedule of any of my children.  It is not uncommon for him to sleep for a week or two straight and then to start waking through the night for the same amount of time (or more).  Parents crave routine, and no more so than at night.  Sleeping through the night is one of the things we measure ourselves against and with good reason - a good night's sleep can make or break you.  So it's not surprising that we feel great when babies are sleeping and lousy when they're not.

As I put my little one down to bed late yesterday night fairly certain that we would see each other again before morning came, I reflected that things have been showing a steady improvement.  Though a declaration of baby sleeping through the night is still not even close to the horizon, we are seeing steady signs of improvement.  Last week, mercifully, was a great sleep week - he slept clear through every night.  But as expected on the weekend he started waking through the night again, and has been ever since.  The first couple of nights he woke once and went easily back to bed after nursing, one bad night he was up for a couple of hours, not settling with nursing or pacing and waking as soon as his head hit the pillow (isn't that the worst?) and then the following night I think he was up two times, but went to sleep easily in between.  When my husband brought him to me for the first time last night at 5:00 am I thought, "thank goodness this is the first time he's been up." And while he didn't settle to sleep with nursing I was able to soothe him with pacing and back-patting, saying my go-to evening rosary while laying hands on him until finally he drifted into a restful sleep. We're getting there.

I have a mutual fund RRSP, and I remember when I went into the bank to get it the talk they gave me about risk and long term growth.  They told me not to be discouraged if I saw a periodic dip in my return because the point of that investment was to leave it over time, that these investments do better in the long run if they are allowed to grow and not cashed in too soon. As I settled back into my bed last evening I couldn't help but think that parenting is very much the same.  When we rush to declare ourselves "there" too soon, it's like cashing in that RRSP before it's ready.  Maybe we get scared, maybe we see a dip in the amount and pull it out because we don't want to lose any more than we have.  That's what happens I think when I sink into despair.  I can't count the number of times I've said, "What's the matter with this baby?  What am I doing wrong?" I'm looking too much at the immediate situation and assessing it based on a bad moment - a dip - not the overall growth we've made to date.  I forget that for the first few months he would not sleep in his crib ever, and I spent my nights cramped into the lazy boy, stiff from sleeping with a baby on my arm because that's the only way he would sleep.  I forget that for the next few months after that he woke three, four or five times a night, waking to feed every hour or two. Now even on our difficult nights I can still count on more sleep than I had in those days and that's progress.  

As I stood by his bedside my hand on his back last evening I also thought about sleep training, which we have been engaged in faithfully for the last few weeks with our boy, and I couldn't help but wonder just who it was that was in training.  Because as I see that I'm teaching my boy how to sleep, and I see the slow but steady improvement that comes with the work it takes, I can't help but see the change God is bringing about in me and wonder if this isn't a kind of patience training.  In a way David waking through the night puts me face to face with one of my biggest struggles - my desire for comfort and tendency to sink into despair when it is threatened - and forces me to learn how to deal with it without falling apart.  I have the benefit of a week's reprieve here and there such as last week, which is a great mercy, but work takes time. And like any good investment, its value grows over time only if we are patient and learn not to focus too much on the low periods, choosing instead to see the big picture, the value of what we are working towards.  God trains me and teaches me every time that baby wakes when I don't expect him to and just like little David, when I look back over these past few months I can see that despite a few low moments, there has indeed been growth - and that is encouraging.

This is the journey of parenthood.  At every age and stage there are things that try us, things that bring us to our knees. But God doesn't want us to sink into despair.  He calls us to walk by faith and look with hope to end goal, which will surely yield a great reward.  But we can't get there alone.  We need to look to Jesus to carry us in our joy and through those moments that feel like they might break us.  It takes Heavenly eyes to see the bigger picture - but oh what a glorious sight!

Be encouraged, we do not labor in vain. God is with us every step of the way. And this work we do, in its good times and bad, is indeed very, very good.

"Thus says the Lord: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 31:16)

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