Life in Italy,  motherhood,  Parenting,  sleep issues,  Suffering

Dear Diary

What is the number one easiest way to ensure that some recently ‘mastered’ parenting trick or technique fails spectacularly?

Oh, oh, I know…talk about it!

(See yesterday’s post.)

Last night was hell. Hell, I tell you. I honestly am beginning to question my competency, not just as a mother, but as a card-carrying adult member of society.

JP is not sleeping still. And that’s hardly the point. The real issue is, I can’t say no to my kids. Rather, I can’t say ‘that’s not good for you, so I’m going to enforce something that is’ so long as it causes me discomfort.

What could this possibly mean for the teenage years? Hell, for the kindergarten years?

I’m sitting here at 2 something in the afternoon watching ‘Real Time’ tv, Italy’s version of ‘TLC’ (my guilty fave) and listening to JP sca-reaaaaaam for the third nap attempt of the day. He has been nursed. He has been dosed with Tylenol. He has been read to (in 2 languages). He has eaten and drank his fill of delicious, nutritious foods and beverages. He has had lots of one-on-one Mommy cuddle time. He has even been sprung from his earlier screamfest by my suspicious Romanian cleaning lady who informed me, in no uncertain Italian terms, that he wanted to be picked up. Oh, do you think?

At this point, I just have to ask myself, what the hell am I doing wrong?

Besides wanting to throw myself under one of the passing tiny trash trucks that lumber past our apartment building all night long, I’m not sure quite how to go about this entire ‘sleep training’ business…or any other difficult aspects of motherhood, it would seem. My fuse is thisshort, my energy is absolutely nonexistent, and my kids are probably suffering long term damage from my ham-handed attempts to raise them keep them alive.

I guess this too shall pass, but God help me, what terrifying developmental phase is looming after this one? I will gladly take in toddlers for a group potty training session which lasts a fortnight, and I’ll even use sugar free treats for positive reinforcement, if only someone could make this child sleep. Any takers?

Over and out. A happy weekend to you and yours, I guess. I’ll just be here drinking lukewarm and unsatisfying Italian beer and trying not to burst into tears while JP howls from the back bedroom.


Oh, and here are some unrelated and largely irrelevant pictures of Italy. Because, you know, at least I’m in Italy.

Dressing for the season. Nailed it.

Wait, your kids aren’t leashed?

Lovely Tia.

Some old ruin.


  • Holly

    Hmmm… essential oils? I am out of ideas. I am so sorry.

    And, yes, talking about sleep successes DOES make it worse. I mentioned a minor sleep victory in my blog about James and have been struggling ever since.

    So, I guess just keep complaining? Or complain harder, more frequently, and LOUDER?

    We miss you girl! Will pray for ya!

  • Elizabeth

    So you get to live in Italy and have a Cleaning lady? JP is just trying to keep it real;) j/k I knoooow how hard it is. I guess what people who say is that he is going to be an easy teenager. Riiiiiiiiight.

  • Ana

    Oh Jenny, I am SO Sorry!
    Just know that I feel the exact same way as this:
    “My fuse is thisshort, my energy is absolutely nonexistent, and my kids are probably suffering long term damage from my ham-handed attempts to raise them keep them alive.”

    Seriously, solidarity from the states.

  • Beth (A Mom's Life)

    Sleep issues are the worst. When we were training my first to sleep without a bottle or being rocked to sleep, my husband (who is a saint) would put him in the crib and stay in there with his hand on his back until he would fall asleep. He did this for a few nights. Then he would put him down and just sit by the crib. He did this for about a week. Then he would put him down and my husband would sit just outside my son’s bedroom door. He did this for a couple of weeks and then ta-da – my son could be put down and my husband could leave the room.

    We had my husband do it because my son saw me as a source of food…plus it gave me some precious time ALONE! 🙂

    We got this technique from the Sleep Lady. Back then (ten years ago) she did conference calls with groups of parents (I think maybe 15 at a time) to discuss the method and then the parents could ask questions. I think it was $30 and that included the call and a booklet with the techniques. She insists that children of any age can be retrained. I’m not sure what she does now but if there’s a book or a conference call, I would highly recommend it!

    When my second came along, we knew exactly what to do with her so there were no sleep issues.

    Good luck!

  • Margo

    hang in there Jenny! Can you leave the house with a babysitter during these tough cry-it out sessions? Don’t the books say it could take a week of crying? don’t give up after day three… JP must know that he will be rescued if he keeps screaming!

    miss you guys!

  • Mary

    he’s old enough to understand basic words… I would just keep whisper-repeating them over and over to him before its time to sleep, “close your eyes, time for a nap, time for bed” – whatever. It took my son 3 weeks to get off the paci/nighttime mommy stuff back when he was 15 months. He screamed a lot. Husband was a huge help. I just made sure to get him a good nighttime snack (honey-buttered toast seemed to be a winner)and the same routine for 3wks. Don’t worry, if you need help, leave the apt. while Dave takes care of the first 30 minutes. Go get some more gelato or a cornetti and a beer. But don’t let yourself stress.

    If for some reason along the way, YOU don’t think you can handle it, then do what your mommy gut says to do and give it a go in another few months. You’re doing what you think is best for the 2 of you… so just be patient and keep re-evaluating. I’ll be praying for you, I know exactly how you feel 🙁

  • Anonymous

    That’s rough! Having to listen to your baby cry is the worst. It just is. I have no trouble listening to my 3 year olds marathon tantrums, but my baby crying for 5 mins feels like an hour. I don’t really have any advice, but don’t blame yourself for your son’s sleep problems. You are being too hard on yourself. I have three little ones under four, and my kids – same parents, same methods – have been widely varied in terms of sleeping. My first son – great sleeper. Second son – oh dear Lord, the child NEVER slept. He’s two years old today and still not a great sleeper. I tried sleep training with him. I probably did it wrong bc everyone swears by it, but it didn’t work for us. He eventually got better, but didn’t sleep through the night until I weaned him at 14 mos. Baby #3, currently 5 mos, she’s not great but not bad, somewhere in between the boys. I’m not trying to discourage you or tell you not to sleep train, but just to say I think a lot has to do with your kid. Best of luck! Sleep deprivation is so hard, on both you and your babies!

  • Kris

    Definitely stick to the plan. He’s testing you unmercifully, and if you give in, he’ll just keep it up. Hang in there. It’s the worst, I know. But you can do it – think of the end result!

  • October Rose

    Ugh, I am sorry that things are so rough. 🙁 I think I was on the verge of tears (at least) about my babies naps until he was six months old … I would lull him to sleep in the swing, but then he started getting too big for it. 😛 Do you have a nap routine that is similar to his nighttime routine? I think that is what helped my little guy FINALLY get it, over a long period of time …

    Another suggestion that I read and helped me was to have a certain amount of time in mind (an hour or 45 minutes probably) that he had to stay in his crib no matter what. If at the end of that time he was thisclose to falling asleep, then leave him another fifteen minutes; otherwise, get him out, but if he didn’t sleep at all during that time, try again an hour or two later. I did the same thing you’re doing (watch tv while he sceamed); but eventually he got used to the idea of “crib time.” At first he would alternate between crying and talking to himself/playing with stuffed animals, and gradually he realized that crib time lasted for a certain amount of time and then it was over, so he was okay with it; and then he started sleeping. Naps are now great for us, although nights leave something to be desired …

    I hope some of this is helpful … I know nothing is more frustrating than the plethora of contradictory advice when it comes to sleep problems and how each person is like “You HAVE to do THIS, it’s what worked for me so OBVIOUSLY it’s the ONLY RIGHT WAY.” I will say more prayers for you and your little guy!

  • Anonymous

    I would just try again in a few weeks or another month or two- he just doesn’t sound ready. Babies develop at different rates and in the grand scheme of things- he’s only a baby for a little while. Don’t blame yourself or feel like you need to be at certain benchmarks based on his age, etc….all of my kids did not become good sleepers until later on.

    • Erin

      I would second this… I think that our society sets us up with a misconception of what “good sleep” is for a baby or toddler. And that makes it so hard for us, because it seems like everything is telling us “your baby is not a good sleeper and will be miserable unless you teach him how to sleep!” But really, they do all learn to sleep eventually, and they go thru different milestones, have different temperaments… around 18 months was always a big turning point for my babies sleep-wise. They just take some time to mature into “good” sleep habits.

  • Christine

    I’m sure you’re already doing this, but my simple suggestion is prayer. A little while back, we were having major sleep issues with our youngest. Someone at church asked if I had prayed about it and I just had to say, “oh…ummmm….no.” But since I have been, it’s really helped!

  • Ellen Johnson

    Sleep issues are so tough 🙁 I only have one little one, about the same age as your JP and she’s mercifully a pretty good sleeper. But your situation reminds me of some of my difficult students when I was teaching preschool. I taught for 4 years and I had my fair share of behavior issues. While sleep training isn’t the same as disciplining unruly 4 year olds, the important thing in both situations is to stick to a routine and stick to your guns. There’s going to be good days and bad, days with unbelievably good naps and nighttime sleeps, and days of unbelievable regression. If you stick to your guns though, in a months time it will undoubtedly be better. You might have a whole other can of worms to deal with in a month, but you WILL make progress in the sleep department. They don’t call it baby steps for no reason! You’re a wonderful momma and you’re clearly very loving and gentle with your kiddos. The loving thing to do in this situation is to stand firm and help JP learn how to sleep. It’s for the benefit of the whole family. God Bless! We’re all praying for you!

  • Anonymous

    I am new to your blog so maybe this has been suggested already. Lullaby music or any slow music or white noise (waves crashing , water etc). If he doesn’t sleep at least it may keep him quiet. My daughter is now 11, but she screamed at night until she was 18 months old and then bam! Slept through the night.

  • Tienne

    My heart goes out to you in this challenge! My first born was such a high-needs baby, nursing around the clock, screaming if he was removed from the breast at all. I wore out my back carrying him constantly. We lived near family, and that’s the only way I ever got anything done. So many people told me that I had “trained” him to be high-needs by catering to his demands, and urged me to just let him cry it out. I tried that, honestly, I did, and it didn’t work. He screamed and screamed and cried and would not sleep no matter what I did. The only thing that worked was to have someone lie down with him until he fell asleep. My gentle, quiet, husband once got so frustrated when our son was 10 months old that he punched the wall and put a crack in it. It was 11:00 at night and he had been working for over two hours to get the baby to sleep. He kept waking up and screaming whenever my husband left the room. There was no such thing as “alone time” anymore. Always, the baby had to be with us.

    As a toddler, he ran amok, he ran right into traffic without a thought. He played so rough with other children that I was afraid to bring him to playdates. None of it was malicious, he just seemed to have no control of himself and no understanding of boundaries. He talked incessantly and required my constant attention. He would not leave my side. If I was not interacting with him, he would pester me until I did.

    It’s only been recently that I have been able to put two and two together with his diagnosis of ADHD (which came when he was 7.) His brain does not have the capacity for self-soothing. He has no impulse control. He doesn’t understand that other people have their own needs and opinions: to him, it’s all what he perceives, what he experiences, what he wants. He takes EVERYTHING personally. As a 10 year old he is now much more able to control himself and we have learned ways to motivate him but he is still an unbelievable challenge and a constant reminder that I really don’t know what I’m doing. When I think about what I have learned about him in the last 10 years, I can see why he acted as he did as a baby. It wasn’t anything I did or didn’t do. There wasn’t any chance to “reason” with him or “train” him. He was simply not capable of the behaviors that all the books I read and parents I talked to assured me were possible if only I did X or Y or Z.

    I share this with you not because I think your son has ADHD (or anything else) or to make you feel like there is no hope. But I want to tell you this, with all my heart: your child is unique. He is not responding to the things that work with 80% of other children. THAT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! It’s so hard when they’re so young to see things from a wider perspective. I know what it’s like. You should see my blog from that time. I was so confused. So frustrated. So helpless. So TIRED.

    Whatever helps your little boy, do that. Try everything. Commit to nothing. Do all with love, in prayer, in humble obedience to the idea that God gave this baby to you because you are the right mother for him. I’m praying for you! God bless you!

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