Sunday, September 20, 2009

More on Nighttime Parenting - An 80s Music Perspective

So, I'm still on an 80s song kick. In my recent 80s song-listening jag, I have noticed some lyrics that made me think about the recent thoughts on parenting children to sleep and apply them.

For instance... "Missing You" by John Waite. Think of it as being from an infant's perspective, being left alone to fall asleep:

Every time I think of you
I always catch my breath
And I'm still standing here
And you're miles away
And I'm wondering why you left
And there's a storm that's raging
Through my frozen heart tonight

And I'm sending you
This signal tonight
You don't know
How desperate I've become
And it looks like I'm losing this fight

I ain't missing you at all

(note: that last line is said as a denial in the song, to bury his true feelings)

To a baby, its parents may as well be miles away when out of the room. Babies send "signals" to their parents by crying. Sometimes their cries reach levels of desperation before they taper off and stop, once they realize that they have lost the fight.

How about Paul Young, "Every Time You Go Away"...

Every time you go away
You take a piece of me with you

Young babies do not have object permanence... in their view, their mothers are a piece of them!

Let's try "Cry for Help" from Rick Astley (by now you guys are probably reading and thinking, "Gosh, what is with her and Rick Astley lately????):

All that I need is to cry for help
Somebody please hear me cry for help
All I can do is to cry for help

Why must we hide emotions?
Why must we never break down and cry?

All a baby can do to communicate with its parents is to cry for help. Babies come into this world so helpless, and it takes them many, many months - usually a few years! - before they begin to develop some independence in doing self-help tasks like being able to use the toilet without help, clean themselves, dress themselves completely... and yes, to sleep. Night can be a lonely and scary time for a baby, and then once the imagination comes into play in an older toddler, it can be hard to calm one's mind down and fall asleep peacefully! So when they cry to their parents to help them get to sleep, they are hoping that we will please answer these cries.

The part about hiding emotions... hmm, this doesn't seem to apply to babies. They don't hide emotions, and they typically cry freely rather than holding it in. However, when we don't respond to their cries, we teach them that they are on their own and have to learn how to cope and fall asleep (or do whatever) by themselves. Eventually, if our emotions are ignored, then we learn to hide them. I would say that this may result from more than just CIO sleep training: very small children are typically pushed toward independence in many ways, and the repeated actions of adults in teaching the small child to "get over it," "brush it off," and "work it out yourselves" could very well be teaching children to hide their true feelings... to hide emotions, to never break down and cry, as they get older. We do tend to think of crying as a sign of weakness in our culture. But even adults cry sometimes, and we usually want somebody to be there for us when we do. If we respond to our babies' cries for help, then we teach them by example that their feelings are okay and that we will support them - and especially so when they are so helpless in the younger years! Hmm, maybe the push for early independence should be another topic that needs a closer look...

And now I am sure you all think I am completely nuts, analyzing 80s songs and applying them to babies and nighttime parenting! Of course these songs have nothing to do with attachment parenting... but I had fun seeing how the lyrics could fit in with it!

And to stop being so annoying, I will try to limit my mentions of 80s music from now on. If I feel the urge, maybe I will just write about it on my old blog...


Carrie said...

LOVE it!!!!!!!!!!!!! plus a million exclamation points!

Eileen said...

Well, I actually know (& like!) a lot of '80s tunes, so it's fine with me if you want to bring them up!! :)

When we adopted from Korea, we were told that the babies would never have been put to sleep in a room by themselves as is the common practice here. (Plus they would have been constantly carried in a back-wrap carrier during the day!) Since homes in Korea are almost always on one floor, putting the baby in an upstairs bedroom by themselves would seem to them as if they'd been taken to a completely different home, and just abandoned! Imagine the gut-wrenching lonliness and fear, especially in the context of having just left everything you've ever known.

Making an effort to see life from the baby's perspective always helps, doesn't it? It helps when they're 3, too. And 6. And 10.(Guess how I know?) :) And I don't do it nearly often enough.

Erin said...

Love it, Erin! I'm going to have those songs stuck in my head forever now. :P And yes, the push for early independence drives me insane. Kids have 18 years to develop their independence. Can we not let them go at their own pace, with maybe a gentle nudge here and there?