Summer nights mean open windows, and open windows mean noise. Sometimes when my family eats a late dinner out on our patio, we hear our backyard neighbors put their baby girl to bed.
“Why’s the baby crying?” our 8-year-old asks.
“They’re giving her a chance to self-soothe,” my husband explains. The baby doesn’t cry for long — seven minutes tops, before the crying stops and we hear the muffled sounds of voices.
There’s a huge debate in the parenting world about whether or not you should let a baby “cry it out” for as much as an hour or more, if you should teach babies to self-soothe in short increments, or if you should avoid crying altogether by co-sleeping.
By the way, the American Academy of Pediatrics is clearly against co-sleeping. It recommends room sharing, but not bed sharing.
When my son was an infant, all the self-soothing techniques I read about didn’t work for him. He hated the pacifier and wouldn’t nap unless I was pushing him in the stroller, wearing him in the baby backpack or driving him around in the car. It took an hour of rocking and a small miracle to transfer him to his crib without waking up the entire apartment building.
My daughter, on the other hand, was a fine sleeper because by the second time around I had more experience.
I crammed the pacifier into her mouth while we were still in the hospital and made sure she loved it. We bought a baby hammock, which is like a tented, hanging, curved bassinet. It was right by my bed. I’d lay her into the hammock fully awake, give it a gentle push and she’d rock to sleep. When she woke up in the middle of the night and fussed, her movements swayed the hammock and helped her drift off, or else I’d reach over and plug her pacifier back in.
I now have five years of fairly decent sleep under my belt. I’m a well-rested adult. When I hear our neighbors’ baby cry I think about hopping the fence like Super Mom and offering to do bedtime for them so they could take a break.
“I’ve got this,” I’d say. “My patience bucket for cranky babies is 100 percent full.” But as my husband has pointed out, that would be weird, so I remain on the patio and have another sip of wine.
Unfortunately, my patience buckets for 8- and 12-year-olds are not at 100 percent. Most days they’re half empty — or half full, depending on how you look at them.
This summer, when we hear our neighbors’ baby cry at 3 a.m., my husband and I both wake up on instinct. There’s a moment of sleepy wondering: “Whose turn is it?” Then, when we remember that our kids are sound asleep, we snicker. “Olly olly oxen free! Not it!”
Hang in there, neighbors. Someday you, too, will be able to sleep in.
Jennifer Bardsley is author of the books “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.” Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.