A-Men Monday: You’re Not Going in There

Monday, November 8, 2010

It’s A-Men Monday, y’all.

This is our new series. Every Monday this month (Movember), we’ll feature a guest post by a great dad. Today’s Fab Father spotlight is on one of the finest: Scott Burton, my phenomenal husband and QB’s cool dad.


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You Are Not Going in There
by Scott Burton

My eyes open before he even starts crying.

It’s 1:15 a.m. My wife Nicole lies asleep next to me. In the next room, separated from our bedroom by a large walk-in closet, is our six-month-old son Quinn. I check the baby monitor. It confirms what my groggy senses suspect: He’s stirring. I exhale, as I imagine a football player might as he exits the tunnel for the field, nerves aflame.

It’s time.

Tonight is the night we’ve decided to sleep-train our son. We’ve been agonizing about it for weeks, debating various methods, debating whether it should even be done at all. But it must be done. Not just because our son needs better sleep, unbroken sleep. But because we do. I do.

1:16. My son is crying now. We can hear it from our room. It echoes on the baby monitor. My wife rolls over and looks at me.

“Are you ready for this?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.

Since we first moved Quinn to his crib five months ago, I’ve been sleeping in his room, on a couch, coaxing him back to sleep when he wakes, bringing him to Nicole to nurse when he can’t be coaxed. For 20 weeks, I’ve been doing this, to the point that my body is its own alarm clock, jolting me awake every night just as my son’s eyes open.

I don’t dream anymore; I’m never asleep long enough. I wake up wired and fried. I dread bedtime. It sucks. It can’t go on. My son is wonderful in every way. He laughs and plays all day. I should be the happiest dad. But I’m not happy. I don’t sleep. It’s corrupting.

I need this sleep-training to work.

It’s 1:20. My son is still crying. He’s on his feet now. He just started crawling a few weeks ago; he just learned how to pull himself up a few days ago. We think maybe this is why his night awakenings have become more frequent of late: leftover energy.

1:22. Quinn is clutching the railing, bopping on his feet. Nicole and I watch him do this for five minutes. He doesn’t stop crying.

“He’ll tire out,” I say.

“I can’t watch it any longer,” Nicole says.

“This could take a while,” I say.

“I’m listening to my iPod,” she says. “I can’t watch this.”

“I’ll keep watching.”

“Is it that easy for you?”

It’s not easy. But I’ve steeled myself for this night, tried to steel my wife. I’ve moved back into our bedroom, even though I sleep worse in our bed than I do on the couch.

We’ve debated various sleep-training methods, and decided to forget the whole business of “gradual withdrawal” and simply let our son cry it out. This was our doctor’s recommendation, and the appeal was its simplicity: When your baby awakes, you let him cry until he falls back asleep. No matter how long it takes, you don’t intervene. It could take a half-hour, it could take two hours. I tell my wife it will work—if we’re committed. I say this maybe a thousand times: If we’re committed.

“What time is it?” Nicole asks.

“1:30”

He’s still crying.

“Does it look like he’s getting tired?”

Quinn is bopping on his feet, pounding the railing.

“Not really.”

“I don’t know if I can do this,” Nicole says.

“It’s too late now. We’re doing this.”

1:45. Quinn is still crying.

“I want to go in,” she says.

“You are not going in.”

Nicole looks at the monitor.

“You are not going in,” I repeat.

2:00. Quinn is still crying, still bouncing. I watch him wipe his nose with one hand. His face is red. Not just his eyes. His whole face.

“This is a bad idea.”

“Nicole, we are doing this. It’s been almost an hour. He will fall asleep. This is happening.”

“I don’t like it. It’s cruel. He doesn’t know what’s going on.”

“It would be more cruel to go in there now, to have wasted his time, for nothing,” I say. “We will have wasted our time. We have to see this through.”

“Scott, he’s still crying. He hasn’t stopped crying once.”

“That’s how it goes. You read the books too.”

Nicole looks at the monitor again. “What if he can’t get down? What if he doesn’t know how to get down?”

“Nicole, he’s fine. Why don’t you take a walk? Get out here. I bet by the time you get back, he’ll be down.”

At 2:15, Nicole goes for a walk. 2:30: Quinn is still crying. 2:45: Quinn is still crying. 2:50: Nicole e-mails me. I write her back: Quinn is still crying. 2:55: Nicole returns. Quinn is still crying.

“Why is he still crying?”

“Nicole, he’ll go down eventually. You have to be strong about this.”

“I want to go get him.”

“YOU ARE NOT GOING IN THERE.”

3:05. Quinn is still crying. Nicole paces the room. I watch the monitor. His bouncing has slowed. But he’s still crying. He bounces faster. Then slows again. I pick up the monitor, bring it into closer view. Quinn slows, stops bouncing. He stops crying. He lays his head on his hands on the railing. I can’t be sure, but … I think he’s sleeping. On his feet.

Quinn’s head pops back up. He starts crying again, starts bouncing again.

“I think he just fell asleep,” I say to Nicole.

“What?” She says.

“I think he just fell asleep. On his feet.”

“Scott!”

“Or maybe he was just resting. It’s hard to tell.”

“Scott! I told you … No. I’m going in there.”

“You are not going in there. He’s clearly tired. He’ll go down.”

3:15: He’s still crying. 3:20: He’s still crying. 3:25: He’s still crying. 3:26: He slows down, he slows, he stops bopping, he lays his head on his hands. This time, I see his eyes close for sure. This time, I know he’s fallen asleep. On his feet. Why won’t he just go down? Five seconds later, his eyes open. He starts crying, bopping.

“Okay, now I’m a little worried,” I say.

“What do you mean?”

“He just fell asleep again, on his feet.”

“Scott!”

“I’m not sure what’s going on. I think maybe …”

I look at the monitor. Quinn is bopping.

“Do you think he knows how to get down?” I ask.

“Are you kidding me?”

“I’m thinking maybe he doesn’t know how to get down.”

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I told you an hour ago that he might not know how to get himself down from standing.”

“What?” Did she?

“I said, Does he know how to get himself down?”

“You did?” Did she? “I … Maybe you did.”

“So what now?” Nicole asks.

“I don’t know if that’s it.”

This is on me now. It’s my commitment against Nicole’s motherly instinct. But we’ve come this far. We can’t give in. Not after all this time.

3:30: Quinn is still crying, bopping, but slowly, in slow motion. I feel sick to my stomach. Nicole can’t watch the monitor. This is not right. I know this now.

“Okay, I’m going to go in there,” I say.

“You’re what?”

“I’m going to go in there, and see what happens if I help him down.”

“Scott, I swear, if it turns out … I told you an hour ago …”

3:31: I open the door between our bedroom and our closet. I open the door between our closet and Quinn’s bedroom. I pick up my crying son; I lay him down in his crib. Before he even hits the mattress, he’s stops crying. He, in fact, falls asleep in my hands. I stare at him, laying in his crib, motionless, eyes closed. I stare at him, for just one second.

Quinn sleeps through the rest of the night. So do I.

I shouldn’t. But I do.

7 Comments
  • 1
    Yvette says:

    I love it Scott, what a story for Quinn to read when he’s older.

  • 2
    40 going on 28 says:

    Traumatic – more for you two than for him, I’m sure.

    The sleep training didn’t work for us the first time because we picked him up when we went in every 20 minutes. The second time we didn’t go in and it took one night of a 45 minute crying bout. Happily, for my second, it worked with much less drama. Of course, she was in our bed until 15 months or so because her crib was right next to our bed due to lack of space. The whole sleep training thing needs at least some separation to work.

    I’m glad that Scott mentioned “needing” it to work. I’m all for putting the child’s comfort and needs first, but a parent who is exhausted and starting to feel “corrupted” needs to put his/her needs up on the list as well.

  • 3

    We decided from the start that we would not do sleep training. So our middle of the night pep talks were more the opposite…i.e. reminding ourselves of the reasons we decided not to do it, that it would be okay, and that they would eventually learn to sleep.

  • 4
    Tonya says:

    Wow, that sounds rough but it sounds like teamwork is key. My daughter is 5 months and has only slept through the night twice. Her nighttime schedule remains erratic despite even though we are consistent in her routine. Thanks for this. I hope we don’t have to go this route at 6 months but you sound a lot like me and in the end we just want what is best for her.

    • 4.1

      You know what? The first night was rough. Yes. But it all worked out. Some parents skip the sleep training completely and their kids find a way. It all depends on what you’re comfy with. One mother I know skipped it and her daughter still wakes up at 4 a.m. to nurse, and she’s going to be 2 next month. Another did a semi-sleep train thing and it worked within a week.

  • 5
    Saada says:

    Great read. At one point I was rooting for Quinn, then I remembered the whole point of sleep-train. These Daddy entries are a treat. Keep ’em coming.

    • 5.1

      Thanks for the comment, Saada. In the end Quinn did win…a good night’s sleep and the new, necessary skill of sleeping through the night.
      Keep checking in this month. More good stuff from these dads coming down the line.