There are sounds that make a parent’s heart stop. A 10-month-old choking on a chunk of apple comes to mind. A 3-year-old head-butting the corner of a table, because you have no idea how much blood is about to pour on your carpet.
Those are sounds that stop your heart and toss your stomach, and they incite the protective instincts of every mom and dad.
But let me tell you about another sound that incites a different sort of instinct in moms and dads everywhere: The slow, crackling, unmistakable, un-mutable clatter of the bedroom door clicking open at 5:07 a.m.
This is the sound that stimulates weary anger, and the only fear you feel in the moment is for the safety of your children, who want to know where you hid the iPad.
Every once in a while, I like to waste a weekly column consoling worn-down parents like my wife and me, because many of you can relate. Here are the specifics:
Our sons (Hank, 6, and Cal, 3) have been hard-wired to wake roosters, and we have no viable explanation other than that. We’ve read books and made pediatrician inquiries, and we’ve got nothing.
Make sure to put your children on a strict schedule. Check.
Make sure they get plenty of activity during the day. Check.
Make sure they aren’t drinking caffeine. Have you lost your mind? We don’t even let them smell coffee.
Try one of those “OK to Wake” clocks that turns green when it’s “OK” to begin the day. We’re on our second installment of the clock, and our sons keep telling us it’s broken. No, boys, it’s just that your parents don’t set the alarm for 4-head-pounding-55 in the morning!
Make sure the bedroom is dark. Our only remaining option is to move them to the basement, except Houston doesn’t have basements, probably because they’d flood from the morning dew.
Our two sons have full days and exciting nights. They have every reason in the world to sleep until we throw a shoe at their beds, except we’ve never had a chance, because they’re kicking us in the head long before our embattled minds would like to wake.
As you might imagine, the lark-like proclivity of our sons has worn thin on mom and dad. We’re shells of ourselves during the week, and one of our greatest accomplishments on the weekend is to strategically plan 70 minutes when all three of our children can nap, at the same time, on a Sunday afternoon. Xanadu.
It’s this passionate pursuit of sleep that made me open an email last week from a lady named Caroline Pavlinik, who happens to live in the Heights and who left her job in corporate America to start a baby and toddler sleep consulting business right in our back yard. The text of her email was simple and profound.
“Greetings… I wrote this article to help parents adjust their kiddos to the upcoming time change on Nov. 3, if this can be of any use to your readers.”
The heck with our readers. I sent Caroline an immediate reply. Can we talk? Obviously, I used some lame excuse that I’d like to interview her for the paper, but what I really wanted from Caroline was that one tip the pediatrician and parenting books couldn’t offer.
Nothing’s ever as easy as it seems. Caroline and I talked for half an hour. She shared her story about leaving big business to start her own. She told me about the “Sleep Sense Method,” which suggests always putting your children to bed while they’re still awake, and without any sort of pacifying regiment like, say, a pacifier or a bottle or 30 minutes of rocking the restless maniac to sleep.
“Think about it this way,” she told me. “What would you think if you fell asleep in your house and woke up on your neighbor’s couch? That’s the same thing we do when we let our children fall asleep in our arms and then put them in their beds.”
I immediately indicted Meghan and I, because our 10-month-old precious girl gets a bottle right before bed, and she sleeps in 10-hour stretches. I also think we’d have a much bigger problem than confusion if I woke up on my neighbor’s couch – namely a squad car and a lot of explaining.
Regardless, I found Caroline’s approach to children and sleep fascinating. While she had some ideas about my toddler sons, her certification really comes for parents who can’t get their babies to sleep through the night.
This need “is surprisingly huge,” she told me. “You don’t know you need it until you’re a parent.”
All around the Heights and Oak Forest, Caroline said she’s working with parents whose children don’t sleep through the night.
“I think a lot of people look at sleep as a luxury as opposed to a necessity,” she said. “And what we really encourage is that moms don’t wear being sleep deprived as a badge of honor.”
Yep, I remember those days – sleeping for four hours and bragging at work because I was up all night with the baby – and they’re long gone.
Caroline gave me some wonderful tips, and I’d encourage you to visit her website at www.bedtimeboss.com. In the meantime, my wife and I will keep trying tricks for the next six or so years. It’s not lost on us that, a few years from now, we’ll painfully pace the floor at 10 a.m., wishing our children would get out of bed so we can spend some time with them.
For now, I think we’ll build that basement.