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When to Stop Listening to Experts

Every six months or so we have a sleep issue in my house. Which means that either my 3-year-old or my 2-year-old is boycotting sleep in some charming way, like screaming bloody murder at midnight or refusing to sleep in their own bed. And every single time some sleep drama occurs, I do the same thing: I run to Google and type in “sleep disturbances” and the age of the offending child. Then, I read obsessively to root out causes, and more importantly, to find cures for the latest iteration of sleeplessness.

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From there, I find my way to Amazon and order whatever book is recommended most often from the Google links I’ve read. After I order the books, I check in on Facebook and let my 500 closest friends know what’s up. I follow the comment thread like a treasure map, sure that some other parent out there knows exactly what I should do to restore some sleep order to my family.

That whole cycle is a lot of work. Worse, I panic every time I try something that worked perfectly for someone else, but won’t work for us. I roil with despair and wring my hands. And all those sleep books take up room on my bookshelves. By the time the crisis resolves itself, I never know if it was because of something I did or because the issue simply ran its course.

Instead of trying to fix my son’s sleep, I am going to see what happens.

Eventually, the little sleep hurdles pass and we regain some semblance of a sane nighttime routine. The circles under my eyes and the trauma of never knowing if I will get more than four hours of sleep every night both fade.

So this time I am doing something different. I’m not running to Google anything. I’m not buying any resources or calling the pediatrician. I’m going to do this radical thing that I’ve seen veteran parents do: I’m going to let it ride.

Without chasing down an immediate solution to the problem of my son’s sudden allergy to sleep, I have a lot more energy (even though I am getting half the amount of sleep I usually get). I’m enjoying my new philosophy: Instead of trying to fix my son’s sleep, I am going to see what happens. Instead of panicking and assuming that he’ll never sleep alone again as long as he lives, I am assuming that he’s in a (short, I hope) phase that will pass if I just relax.

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I have no idea if this will work, but it feels good not to fight so hard to find a solution to something that may be a temporary situation. It feels good to trust that the answers may be inside my family and not somewhere in a book written by “experts” who don’t even know us. I think I may be on to something here. I suppose if it doesn’t resolve itself, I can always do my former routine and ask the experts. For now, though, I am assuming that we are the experts.

Image via Maria Manco

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