My son has magic pyjamas. If he wears a particular set of pyjamas, he sleeps past 5.30am. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s TRUE. For the past 6 months, my son’s been waking up at 5.30am. I’ve tried a ridiculously large volume of methods to try to fix this - pick up/put down, a lighter room, a darker room, ‘wake to sleep’ (ugh), 2.5 tog sleeping bag, 1.5 tog sleeping bag, 1 tog sleeping bag, 0.27344553 tog sleeping bag, earlier bedtime, later bedtime, shorter nap, longer nap, more milk, less milk, more food, different food, no bloody food, controlled crying, gradual retreat, no retreat...must ...fight...must..win...never...give..up..control...ARRRRGH! BUT (shhhh) for the past two mornings, he’s woken up at SIX, ooopps, shhhhh...six. After much analysis, I’ve calculated that the crucial difference is some new pyjamas. Thus they’re clearly magic. If I control the pyjamas, I control the world. Taa daaaaa.
But today, my power was challenged once again. I've just spent the last half hour on my hands and knees cleaning up bits of regurgitated sausage. Before that, half an hour following my son around with bits of sausage on a fork. Before that, trying to shove bits of sausage into his mouth whilst he was trapped in his highchair. After he'd tipped his entire plate onto the table and then employed that super-fast 'wiping/whisking' movement with both his hands to whoosh it onto the floor, I found myself actually trying to force feed him. I'd reached my limit - I lost it. I bloody hated my opponent.
Luckily, an aggression regulating chemical suddenly kicked in somewhere in my brain and I realised that I was about to clock my son over a sausage. A voice told me ‘just walk away’ and I did. During the past year and a half, this little phrase has been totally invaluable in preventing my bursting a blood vessel or getting into a bout of fisticuffs with an ‘innocent’ child. The nappy wrestling, the food-fights, the sleep struggles...sometimes being a mum feels like one long battle for control. We’re all desperate for a ‘method’ to help us win this war - we buy books promising solutions, wrack our brains for something we’re doing wrong, something we could be doing better. Have we ‘classified’ ourselves or our babies incorrectly? (I bloody hate this classification racket, sorry, but no child fits into a neat, little box of characteristics and nor does any mother.) Are we being too lenient, too aggressive?
I found the fact that I couldn’t develop a ‘motherhood method’ particularly frustrating because I come from a scientific background - I studied biology and then went on to work in scientific journalism and documentary. Surely science would help me? In the end, after much research, I concluded that what the science shows is that, although babies go through very similar stages of development at similar times, there isn’t a fix-all formula. It’s worth trying different methods to help with sleeping, feeding etc., but sometimes your child will just not conform. The reality is that often how our child is acting is nothing to do with us. Sometimes we simply cannot control who they are and what they do. They are little human beings with unique personalities. So, even if you’re convinced you know best, or you’re trying to implement that formula of if I do ‘a’, they’ll do ‘b’, which should lead to ‘c’, sometimes the best thing to do is to relinquish control. Walk away.
I’ll be using the magic pyjamas again tonight....but eventually I’ll have to wash them (I’ll give it 3 weeks). And at that point, after panicking, shouting and crying, I’m going to have to accept that my son’s going to wake up when he wants to and that driving myself nuts by trying to control him is a lot more tiring than losing an half-hour of sleep.