Don’t Ever Break Him

When I was pregnant with Mini Me, I was terrified that something would be terribly wrong with him–mostly because of all of the terrible things I had done during my very in-depth studies for my PhD in partying at the University of Georgia.  Of course I was not pregnant with Mini Me during these studies, but I was convinced that I had done irreparable damage to my body that would cause great harm to my unborn child.  I went to my OB/GYN and asked if there was any way that he could tell if the baby had a port wine birth stain all over his face.  My doctor just looked at me as if I had totally lost my mind.  “Um, no. I’m afraid I cannot.  Does that run in your family? Because that is a hereditary condition.” I looked at him and said, “NO. IT DOES NOT, BUT IT HAS TO START SOMEWHERE, DOESN’T IT?”  I had him there.  He just looked away and said I should not bother myself with such concerns and I had absolutely no reason to worry about a port wine birth stain.  Ahhh, but I did.  I drank so much red wine in college, I was sure that there was some stored up in there just waiting to stain that baby all over his face to punish me.  Of course I did not think of this prior to getting pregnant.  All I thought about was the adorable baby that was to be.  I did not think about the 65 extra unwanted pounds or the purple stretch marks that would cover the bottom part of my belly.  I did not think about the sleepless nights.  The many, many sleepless nights.  Around the eighth month of my pregnancy, when I was having trouble sleeping,  Mothah was in town for a visit.  “Jennifah,  I hate to tell you this, but honey, you have had youah last good night of sleep.Forevah.”  I just looked at her.  What she really meant was this:  In the sleep department, I was totally fucked. For the rest of my life.  She was right.  We brought Mini Me home from the hospital and put him in the family cradle next to our bed.  He screamed his ass off.  We would pick him up, swaddle him, rock him, etc. , put him back in the cradle.  He would scream his ass off.  This is how Mini Me ended up sleeping in our bed.  It was the only way that  could get any sleep.  I say because JC could sleep through the atomic bomb going off in our bedroom.  Now, this was 1998.  I knew that I was not supposed to put Mini Me in our bed.  I had sworn I wouldn’t.  I will just go ahead and admit that, pretty much, everything that I swore I would not do as a parent, I have done. And then some.  Because before you are a parent, you don’t have a fucking clue.  So shut the hell up with all of your “well I would do this and I would do that” because frankly, you don’t know what the hell you would do.  So Mini Me slept in our bed for three years.  I am not really sure how we even got The Middle Child.  Maybe Mini Me went to his MiMi’s or his MiMa’s to spend the weekend.  He would do that.  And yes, he had to sleep with them too.

The Middle Child came into this world and did not want to sleep with us.  She wanted to sleep in her Moses basket beside our bed. She slept in it until she was too big for it.  We could even put her down in it awake and she would go to sleep with zero crying whatsoever.  I remember thinking “where did this angel come from?”  I guessed God had sent her to make up for the spawn of….okay I won’t say it.  I know I shouldn’t. I don’t really mean it, but dammit he was a difficult sleeper!  When The Middle Child moved to her crib, we could put her in it, again awake, and she would roll over, suck her thumb, and go to sleep with zero crying whatsoever, sometimes she would say “Night Night” and roll over and just go to sleep.  This, my friends, was a dream come true.  When she got a little older, if she got tired, she might just disappear and we would find her asleep in her bed! I could not have asked for anything more.

If you happened to read “The Prize At The End Of The Cancer”, it is basically The Baby’s birth story.  He entered this world under extreme circumstances, and I was not in the best mental or physical condition that I could have been in at the time of his birth.  I say that not to excuse what I am about to tell you, but in an attempt to explain my actions.  The Baby, like his brother Mini Me, did not like being put in a cradle or a crib.  We would swaddle him and put him down and he, too, would scream his ass off.  This would make me cry uncontrollably.  It broke my heart into a million pieces.  The thought of his sweet little self, back there in that big, beautiful, yet awful, $500 crib, surrounded by wonderful, yet somehow awful and scary bedding, swaddled in the softest, yet most horrible blankets, and clothed in the most wonderful, yet also most harrowing nightgowns with his monogram on them, screaming in misery…..I just could not take it.  He wanted  me.  If I held him, he would sleep.  So, I would hold him. 24/7.  And I was so tired that one night, in the middle of the night, he and I were sitting in the glider out in the den, and I fell asleep rocking him.  I woke up and he was face down on the carpet!  He wasn’t crying.  I was sure he was dead, and I had killed him by dropping him on the floor.  I picked him up and he looked at me and blinked his eyes.  We had very soft, padded carpet.  Mothah was staying with us to help me and try to keep me from going over the edge.  I went and woke her up.  I was crying hysterically and told her I thought we needed to go to the hospital.  She started laughing.  She took The Baby from me and looked him over.  “He is FINE, Jennifah.  He does not need to go to the hospital. What probably happened was that he just slipped down, slowly, onto the floor.  The carpet is soft and padded.  He is totally fine. Stop crying. STOP IT.”  I did.  About 30 minutes later.  You would have thought this was my first baby, not my third.  The loss of 2 liters of blood when he was born had really done a number on me.  My mother in law found a contraption that would fit inside our bed and The Baby could sleep in it.  It was like a little box.  It was low enough that he felt like he was sleeping right next to us, but we could not roll over on him and he could not get tangled up in the bed covers.  It even had a little light on it.  It folded in half for easy travel.  The Baby actually liked the damn thing! So, The Baby slept with us.  It was, again, the only way I  (or Mothah!) could get any sleep.

Here is the part that should be embarrassing.  It’s the part that you might judge me for, and that is totally fine because I really don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about it.  The pediatrician knows already.  The Baby slept with us for 7 years.  In fact, he just moved out. We have tried, countless times, to move him out over the years.  We have used charts and stickers and money and prizes.  Nothing has worked.  We have tried reading to him and staying in his room until he falls asleep. We have tried leaving a light on–all to no avail.   For the past 6-8 months, he has been sleeping on the floor in our room.  2 weeks ago, he and I rearranged his bedroom so that his bed is positioned for him to be able to see my bedroom from his bed.  He has slept in his bed, all night, every night, ever since.  He was ready.  He has been sleeping in his own bed at his MiMa’s or in a sleeping bag at his MiMi’s  for over a year now–so it’s not like he couldn’t do it–he just wouldn’t do it at home.  He just wasn’t ready to do it at home.  We did not feel like it was necessary to force him.  We kind of miss him now… means he is growing up and we are getting older and things are changing…..There are a whole lot of feelings that I don’t want to feel! Imagine that.

I guess my point of sharing this with you is that my kids dictated how they wanted to sleep.  I know that there are many books about how to force your kid to sleep…how to make them cry it out….etc.  I know all of that psychology.  I have read it. I have all of those books. Or had them.  Shit, I hope I have given them all to Goodwill by now.  I allowed my kids to dictate how they wanted to sleep–right, wrong, or indifferent. I was and still am judged for it.   And I believe that it was the right thing to do for us, no matter how painful it was at times.   I will end with this story.  When Mini Me was about two and a half, we were at a park in Memphis, Tennessee.  There was a homeless man there who was watching my us play.  He went up to my husband and said, “Whatever you do, don’t ever break him.”  That has stuck with us ever since.     For us, that has meant allowing our kids to be themselves, and sometimes it means not going “by the book”.   I believe it is okay to not go “by the book”.   Don’t ever break him…… it resonates deep within my soul today and Mini Me is 17.  I try to live by it with all three of my children.

12 thoughts on “Don’t Ever Break Him

  1. Yes. As Maria Montessori says: follow the child. Which is to say another way “don’t break him.” I have followed this as well. My children [now in their 20s] criticize me for it. They say, “Oh you should have made me do this or that” I think, “I should have made numero uno go to engineering school instead of art school.” etc. But you know, I just didn’t have a choice. I was just too in love with them and charmed by them to not let them lead the way.

    1. Thank you❤️ I feel that if they do not follow their dreams now-they never will. There will always be time for the hum drum every day life! That will be here waiting for them if they need to fall back on it–but for now, the world is their oyster.

  2. You just never know where and when brilliance will land in your lap. Thanks for sharing that wonderful piece of advice. Despite my very best efforts, sometimes I feel destined to screw up SO BIG. My version of “don’t ever break him” these days is “always choose kind.” Different age and stage, and different motivation, but I like it.

    1. Thank you so much. I am known to have a “teacher voice” and a quick temper–regardless of trying “not to break anyone”! Child rearing is the hardest thing I have ever done. All 3 of mine know exactly how and when to push my buttons! Thank YOU for the idea of “always choose kind”….I will add that to my repertoire. I also try to remember that nobody is perfect and all of us fly off the handle at times. It is totally normal.

  3. We have a saying about kids at our house: You can’t make them eat, sleep or shit. When they are hungry, they will eat. When they are tired, they will eventually sleep. And, well, try and make a kid poop, I dare you.
    They all do what they need to do in their own time and you are a wise one to let them figure out their own paths. One kid went to bed easily, one kid wanted to sleep with us forever and would still occasionally crawl in bed with us at an age he would be embarrassed if I mentioned. And one kid would only sleep with the dog. Go figure.

    1. One of ours liked to snack on the dog food occasionally 😉 It goes without saying that it was not the first one 😉 It is so nice to hear from like-minded people. I am accustomed to being somewhat crucified for not going “by the book”–whatever book that may be!– Thanks for your comment.

  4. I had to share “Don’t Break Him, with my daughter in law. They are healthy and due to have their son next month. Lady, you cracked me up, so bad I cried! You have such a delightfully hysterical way of writing that I couldn’t help myself but read the next post below it. Wow! You are one strong powerful woman with one amazing husband and family. Please don’t stop writing!!!

    1. Thank. You. SO. MUCH.!!!! You have no idea how much that lifts me up today! I have had one of “those” days today–and your comment really made me feel better! Thank you for sharing my story with your daughter in law 😉 I know she will have lots of wonderful times with her son, as I have had with my two! You should scroll way down and read The Goddammit Cookie and The Note….My oldest son is quite a strong willed individual….;) Thanks again for making my day.

      1. You are welcome. I am a retired nurse and perhaps have a better idea of how a chronic condition can affect one’s life. I pray that you find a constant level of good health. Best wishes and hugs!!

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