Monday, December 14, 2009

I should explain

Several people have asked me about Ryan's sleep issues. I wish they were simple enough to solve by sleep training. Unfortunately, for him it's not that easy. He's definitely in the right family--of our first 4, only one slept through the night at a reasonable age (6 weeks); the others were past their first birthdays before they slept all night consistently. One, who shall remain nameless (but will make an AWESOME Marine), was potty trained and could talk in full sentences before he slept through the night! One of the first things we saw once we got home is that "Ryan's definitely a Kassebaum--he sleeps like the rest of them." (Now, my parents will tell you they did NOT inherit that from me. It must be a KASSEBAUM family trait.)

Anyway, nights are exceedingly hard and scary for Ryan. I can't imagine the demons that live in his subconscious mind. Abandoned at 9 weeks old on the orphanage steps in the middle of the night, then subsequently left with us at 9 months old as he awoke from a nap, sleep equals scary times. He's a well attached, friendly, loving little boy, but when the lights go out and quiet falls, the fears become overwhelming. For him, there's virtually nothing more frightening than lying alone in his bed in the dark--or as alone as you are in a room you share with your brother and as dark as it is in his room with his night light--wondering if we've left him. Not that we would, or that we ever have...but he simply can't get past the thought that we might. We've all learned that if we need to leave once he goes to bed, we need to tell him first. And let him know that we'll kiss him when we get back. Going out before he goes to bed is hard too, but he generally manages okay with a promise of a kiss when we return. Nevertheless, most nights he wakes up around 2 or so, terrified beyond reason, unable to do anything but sit in the middle of his bed screaming "Mommy! Where are you? Mommy? I need you!" We've tried everything at one time or another, but the best, most successful method for sleep for all is if I take my pillow and move to his bed. Because of his sleep issues, he sleeps in a queen sized bed--I got tired of sharing a twin bed with him! I lay down with him and he snuggles up next to me. Typically he holds my hand and presses his nose to my nose. After a while, he'll relax enough to fall asleep. Any more, I'm frequently asleep before he is! Heaven forbid that I should go back to my own bed though. Should I commit that unpardonable sin we repeat the entire process, only with many more tears, much longer snuggles, and many reminders that he is loved and will not be left. Probably the most heartbreaking thing I've ever dealt with as a parent--a sobbing preschooler afraid that he will be left again by someone who is supposed to take care of him. It's enough to make me cry.

For now, the easiest, most successful way to help Ryan through his fear is to continue to assure him that he is loved all the time. That means someone is available to him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. One of the blessings of having big guys and little guys is that the little ones think it's a great treat to have a big one share their room. And our big guys are so awesome! Hailey sleeps in their room when she's home without grumbling or complaining. Victoria volunteers fairly regularly, especially when she sees that I'm tired beyond coping. Once we settle back into a routine this fall (having Hailey move out, Brent move back in, then move out again has been disruptive to say the least) I'm sure we'll move to more good nights and less bad ones. We've been there before--weeks where we have only 1 bad night in a stretch, or even stretches of several weeks of good nights. I know we'll get there again, and I know for sure that he won't need me forever. In the meantime, it's been hard. The last few weeks have been killer. Now he's got a runny nose and sore throat. Feeling sick compounds his sleep issues. Not getting enough sleep makes me sick. We're on this merry-go-round that seems to run forever. But something will improve. Soon. It has to.

If your children sleep through the night, be thankful. If your children are haunted by the demons that haunt Ryan, know that you are not alone! It's not fun, but with love, tenderness, and understanding, this too shall pass. Someday you'll look back and wonder what the fuss was all about. Trust me on this one. When it comes to kids with lousy sleep patterns, I get it! And truly, we look back at our Marine and laugh about what a lousy sleeper he was. :) Someday we'll look back at Ryan's and wonder why the fuss. In the meantime, I will continue to choose to be grateful for every opportunity to show my little guys how much I love them.

Speaking of that, I have to run. I hear the tears starting upstairs, and he's not even been asleep yet. It's gonna be a loooonnnngggg night....


  1. I'm sorry, sweetie! I understand the lack of sleep, as Kieren has night terrors. It has actually caused me to have insomnia. I hope things calm down for you soon. Take care of yourself. I'm always here if you need to talk.

  2. hugs and prayers for peaceful nights for all.