No one knows exactly why we sleep, which is crazy since sleep is the Holy Grail every new parent seeks. Why do we need it? One would think that our ancestors who fell asleep would have been mauled to death by jungle creatures, thus dying out and evolving survival super humans that don’t need sleep. But nope. We need sleep. And no one really knows why. Apparently, the best guess by some white-coats is that we need it to “clean” our brain and prep for a new day of learning.
Which must be why my brain feels like trash. Either because I’m sleep deprived or because I recently tried the ol’ Cry It Out method – both lead to feeling like a dumpster of crap. If you’re a parent, you’ve heard of Cry It Out, also known as CIO by people who don’t like words. And, if you’re a parent you either swear by it or think it’s a technique Satan uses to destroy children’s souls.
If you don’t know what it is, it’s a concept popularized by Dr. Ferber (often called “Ferberizing,” as if we’re in a friggin’ Terminator movie). It’s supposed to go something like this:
Step 1: Child sleeps like crap, as demonstrated by any of the following:
a) Doesn’t fall asleep without 152 minutes of perfectly timed rocking;
b) Wakes up to a new time zone each night;
c) Is easily startled by the thought of jungle creatures.
Step 2: Parent hates life and feels like garbage.
Step 3: Parent lets child cry for increasing increments until he or she figures it the hell out.
Step 4: Parent still feels like garbage but hopefully kid sleeps.
Decades from now, our kids will think of Cry It Out as either a no-brainer or some weird relic of backwards thinking, similar to The Spanish Inquisition or cod pieces or telling a couple dudes they can’t be married.
My son had given us weeks of Keith Moon-like sleeping when we asked our doctor what to do. Sure enough, he recommended Cry It Out.
So, I decided to give it a-go. I say “I” instead of “we” because I thought it would be brilliant to try it alone while my wife was at one of those pyramid scheme merchandise parties that pretends it isn’t a pyramid scheme merchandise party.
It was in this way that I experienced the human mind plunging into tortured insanity. I learned the true trauma of Cry It Out, an experience that follows a series of phases, each chiseling away at the human psyche. If you are thinking about trying Cry It Out, you should be prepared for these phases:
Phase 1: I’ve got this.
This is the phase when the parent tricks himself into thinking his will power is armored steel. It’s a false bravado that will last exactly 7.3 seconds before the next phase.
Phase 2: Damn, that’s a high note.
The child, far more determined than the parent, hits a note so high, so shrill, so amplified that the parent checks to make sure windows haven’t shattered. The parent briefly daydreams that his child will turn this hellish yell into a Mariah Carey voice. Then he remembers it’s the worst sound in the history of humanity.
Phase 3: Strategery
The parent realizes this will not be easy and prepares a line of defense as if he were facing a zombie apocalypse. Relocation to a safe room: Check. Doors securely closed: Check. Ear protection: Check. Monitor to ensure my child hasn’t broken crib slats to come kill me: Check. Distraction media: Check. The child’s scream then transcends sound-matter physics and knifes parent in the ear-hole.
Phase 4: Self-damnation
Here, the parent feels like biggest scum turd of all scum turds. He imagines Martin Shkreli shaking his head in disappointment.
Phase 5: Hostage negotiation
To appease feeling like trash vomit, the parent begins a series of negotiation moves. For example:
– I’ll give just two more minutes. If he doesn’t stop, I’ll crawl in so he can’t see me and magically shove a pacifier in his mouth like that God-Adam painting in the Sistine Chapel.
– Let him hand smack the crib ten more times. If he’s still awake, I’ll throw The Shusher into his bed like a grenade.
– I’ll just check on him once. Just pop my head in a few inches. Won’t even see me.
The parent chooses option 3, which leads to:
Phase 6: Gas on the fire
The child has been waiting for this moment (also called “breaking the opponent”). Upon seeing the parent, the child lets out a crafted, cute, heart-melting sigh. The parent, misreading this as a sign of comfort, sloth ninjas toward the door. Just before the parent leaves, trickster baby gives the “How could you!?” look coupled with the “Neighbors, call CPS!” scream.
Phase 7: Screw you
If the parent hasn’t surrendered yet, he will declare war. He will think, “A doctor advised this method,” “Crying is breathing,” and “A twenty pound baby only has so much energy.” He does not yet know that baby fat is storage for screaming energy.
Phase 8: Devil and Angel
After 48 minutes of “Screw You” phase, the child is just warming up. If tag-teaming, the parents engage in a bitter debate. If alone, the parent develops temporary schizophrenia. Either way the conversation sounds like:
“We can quit now, right? Like, he knows that we won’t swoop in right away and help him every time.”
“No! Are you crazy!? If we quit than he owns us for life.”
“He’s a baby. He isn’t thinking like that. He can’t help that he loves us and needs us.”
“But if you get him now, you just made him cry for two hours for NO REASON.”
“Oh crap . . . you’re right . . . but if we let him cry, he will develop a neurosis and become maladjusted and have daddy issues and start off with small crimes that turn to heroin and murder and prison – all leading back to this night.”
“We’ve already ruined his life. . . We’re the worst . . .”
At this point the process might repeat itself, fluctuating between phases 3 and 8. Thankfully for me, I was on my third round of phase 4 when my wife came home, freshly adorned with some pyramid scheme leggings. She gave me the, “What-the-f#$%-were-you-thinking!?” look – which was tolerable because of the hot pyramid scheme leggings – and swooped in to stop the madness.
So, does Cry It Out work? Hell if I know. But, I’ll tell you this: To this day, my son and I have an understanding. Every now and then, we make eye contact. Staring. Not smiling. Peering into each others’ minds. Thinking, “That’s right. You’re lucky mom came home.”
If you are reading this as an opportunity to provide sleeping advice, please consult: