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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The glue of parenting: spite

There's some amazing abilities you develop as a new parent. Most astonishing among them is sleeping out of sheer spite at your child. It's like this: Baby Flails-a-lot is teething and this is causing sleep "disruptions". Her previous cycle of sleeping seven hours, nursing and then sleeping for two more hours is a thing of the past. Now she's up multiple times a night and almost impossible to put down. Once you lift that crying little form from the crib, you're screwed.

Baby Flails-a-lot will go to bed just fine, but in the middle of the night, the cry goes out and we have to respond. Pick her up, apply teething gel, a little shushing and rocking and she's sound asleep again. The problem occurs when you try to ease her back into the crib. Not for love or money will she let you put her down. She cries every single time. Not small cries, but instantaneous wails like we stole her lunch money. All our previous tricks and skills in gently putting her down and positioning her perfectly are for naught. It's like she has a switch inside her that flips the minute she's fully tucked in. We have to try again and again until it sticks. Or until we can't take it any more. That's where spite sleep comes in.

After a certain point in the lay-the-baby-down cycle rage sets in. You can be as gentle as a lamb with a baby and still be blindingly angry. It's probably the only reason the human race has survived this long. Baby Flails-a-lot isn't doing it on purpose, but trust me, even if you know all the physiological/emotional/psychological/developmental reasons behind it, that third time is a bitch. Husband-cat hit that wall two nights ago.

On a paltry three hours of broken up sleep, he was physically incapable of seeing straight or holding her any longer. Baby Flails-a-lot had defeated three attempts, spaced over an hour(!), to put her down. Not only was she crying, but she pulled herself into a standing position so she could glare at him accusingly while she bawled. Husband-cat was enraged beyond bearing. He looked her dead in the eye, told her he gave up, wrapped himself in a blanket and went to sleep on the nursery floor. Baby Flails-a-lot was so surprised she stopped crying.

He slept for two hours. She didn't utter a peep. Just stood in her crib, glaring balefully at him. He woke up and she was in the exact same position, with the exact same wrathful expression on her face. He said he felt her beady eyes on him the entire time and he just didn't care. In the world of spite sleep, sticks and stones may break bones, but icy looks will never wake you.

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