Tis the season for celebrating all things scary. The season of spooky. The season for scares. People go to the movies to watch poorly plotted movies about things jumping out at them or curl up on the couch with a horror classic like Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Not me, I have a baby. Not only that, I have a baby in the middle of sleep training.
“What’s sleep training,” some blissfully childfree person may ask? It is what it sounds like. Children, especially babies, are dumb. So dumb they don’t know how to sleep. As parents, it is incumbent upon us to teach the child what times she/he is supposed to be in bed. To do this, there are several books one may consult, but if you’re about to be a parent, allow me to save you the money on the books because they all boil down to: “have a consistent bedtime ritual, then drop your baby in the crib and leave.”
As simple as I just made it out to be, this is intense. So intense that I called my own mother this weekend and even mentioning sleep training triggered her PTSD. There was a silence on the phone, then she recounted her experience with me and my sister in a monotone, then laughed at me. It’s traumatic because I’ve spent these past six months learning her cries and how to sooth her and make her happy again. Well, sleep training says that I’ve been screwing up because the baby needs to learn how to sooth herself, and the only way that’s going to happen is if she wails uninterrupted until she “figures it out.” There are other methods of lease resistance, but this is the most popular and widely accepted.
It’s a nightmare, except that nightmare is very real. Freddy Kruger is just in your dreams. Baby wailing doesn’t go away when you wake up, no, it causes you to wake up and scrapes at your soul with her sharpened knife-screams. The Babadook is imaginary, but the bile spilled between two sleep-deprived, ultra-stressed parents with no outlet and no idea what we’re doing, is eerily, creepily real.
Go, enjoy your haunted hayrides and Halloween Horror Nights and haunted mansions and ghost walks, if you want real terror, come over to my house at about 10:30 this morning and we’ll see if you can survive. You want next-level terror? I’ll let you change her diaper after 24 hours of not pooping. Sit with me as I realize, “this is my life now. Not just now, FOREVER.”
Not knowing if you’re equipped to handle the life you’ve created, that you’re probably doing something wrong, that maybe instead of this cry-it-out thing helping her learn a new skill it’s the moment where we instilled anxiety within her for the rest of her life. That’s real fear. Stephen King couldn’t script this, but if he did, it would be like real life parenting, it goes on too long and there’s no satisfying ending.