I can still vividly remember clutching my ears in bed as our newborn baby wailed through the night and thinking that I had been sentenced to a life of sleepless frustration and migraines. It was just a few weeks ago (Harper is just over 7 weeks old now), but I feel like those agonizing midnight marathons were much further in the past. That is because I gave exponentially grown in my capacity to be patient, and my expectations have changed about how I will sleep each night. I owe my increase in patience to being able to see my daughter for what she really is, a human being with needs. Not an object or a project, as soon as I began viewing my baby girl as a unique individual I came to the realization that she has needs similar to mine.
Where my dominant needs have "evolved" into daily cans of Coke, a couple free hours on Monday nights to watch professional wrestling, and time each day to read a book, Harper's needs should be respected and met too.
Her cries are not curse words, shunnings, or outbursts of anger. I recently read that babies aren't developmentally capable of feeling such strong emotions. They are her way of telling Mom and Dad that a)she is hungry b)she needs her diaper changed c)she is uncomfortable (which can really mean a lot of things) or d) she is either overtired or overstimulated. Nowhere in the parenting literature that I have read have I come across a type of cry that means that baby is bored and wants to ruin her parents slumber too.
Fortunately, my daughter understands that her "Old Man" is very watchful and analytical in my approach to diagnosing a problem. She, along with most babies give her parents certain cues to let them know that she has a need that needs to be met. If I am not paying close attention to her (example: during the main event of Monday Night RAW), those subtle cues go unnoticed and escalate into more audible cries for help. Still, babies cry to communicate with caretakers, and I have learned to respect those once annoying shrills as my diapered bucket of love talking to her daddy. So, I talk back as I observe her body language and think through our routine attempting to pinpoint what need she wants met.
That leads to how my expectation about how I will sleep each night has evolved. The best thing that I have done to make the quality of sleep that I get better is changing my attitude about waking up at night. I now EXPECT to be woken up at some point during my sleep, and I look forward to comforting my daughter to the best of my ability. I enjoy those "crisis" moments when my brain focuses on the important information as a means of identifying a problem and creating a solution. No longer do I throw off the covers and curse the night air as I put on a happy face before stomping into the nursery to "quiet things down."
As a result of increasing my capacity for patience, and realigning my expectations, I have grown in my ability to love and be a supportive father and husband. As a third grade teacher, I often joke that managing 23 8 and 9 year olds is a lot less exhausting that taking care of a 7 week old baby. But honestly, I don't think there has been more than a handful of days at work that I haven't sneaked out of the building before my contract day is over. It's not because I hate what I do at school. I like it. It's because I love what I do at home more.