“Mrs. Carman, I have my diagnosis for you. Your son is fine, but you need some cojones.”
Okay, that is NOT what my pediatrician told me recently. He told me in more polite, more professional terms. He actually warned me – “now, your heart and brain may not register together on what I am about to tell you. Stay with me.”
What, pray tell, brought on this discussion? The fact that our near two year old, within the last three months, had gone absolutely ape nuts over not wanting to sleep at night. I chalked it up to sleep regression, bad dreams, hunger, sleep anxiety and all other things that Google enlightened me. In all truthfulness, I was the one developing sleep anxiety. I approached night time with equal fear, trepidation, and frustration. Let’s see, if I put him down at 8:00p, that will give him two solid hours to scream, so maybe I’ll get to bed about 10:00p? Except 10:00p turned into 1:00a and then the window of time where my sleeping took place kept shrinking. It was getting unbearable. After ruling out ear infections and any other medical related predicament, my pediatrician laid it on me: no sleep anxiety, no night tremors, no neurological concerns or developmental delays.
Stubbornness. Pure, unadulterated stubbornness. And, by giving in out of compassion and empathy and frustration and despair, by picking him up after the second hour of hysteria, I had fed it. I had welcomed it and invited it. I dug us all into a dark and lonely pit of not sleeping. My muscles stayed tense, I came down with two head colds. I felt pitted against having to choose against a weakened immune system or a screaming child. Time to develop cojones.
I, for one, love cuddling. Not 24/7. God is love. God gets to be present 24/7, I don’t. I don’t get to be God. It was time to gather all of my few little nerves together and be courageous and be bold. For this is the other definition of cojones -(besides, you know, the male anatomy). What the doctor told me required nerve and courage. At first it seemed counter-intuitive to this mothering gig:
a) “Let him scream. Under few circumstances are you permitted to go back into that room.”
b) “You may think that he will scream so much that he will physically blow up. He will not spontaneously erupt into lots of little toddler pieces from screaming.”
c) “Get a nice set of ear plugs.”
Um, this doesn’t sound very loving. This is where that little warning about heart and brain matching came in handy. Desperation is humbling. It makes you listen to your doctor when what he or she says sounds a little wonky.
Doc was right. There have been a few very long nights. Nights that were tough on both of us. I put on the ear plugs, but I still heard the screams. But as I write this, I write in a peaceful, sleep filled house. A home blessed by a sleeping toddler. In less than a week, he is re-learning the ropes. He is able to get himself to sleep and be secure and know that “night-night = sleep” and not “let me scream because I am not getting what I want.” A simple redirecting, really. A redirecting that took courage.
And I am reminded that every now and then, the parenting answer is counter-intuitive to what we are so set in our thinking. I am a better parent, wife, and employee because I was able to back away slowly and shut the door and be okay with not being there. It took nerve and courage and trust to abandon short term thinking for long term vision. I didn’t like it at first but was driven by a need for change. God wants us and believes in us to change. To have cojones. He leads us in the cojone way everlasting.