I have a confession to make. My children are not perfect sleepers. My five-year old boy used to always sleep through the night. Then, about the time he started kindergarten, he started waking up at night and wandering into our room. Sometimes it was because he was afraid of something; on other times, he couldn’t sleep. Without exception, I take him back to bed, give him a kiss, and he goes back to sleep. These events are much less frequent now but they still occur. Sometimes twice in a night. And don’t get me started on my two year-old, who still sleeps with a pacifier. Typically, we go in between four and five AM when we hear him saying, “Mama! Dada! Baba please!” to locate a pacifier and insert it into his mouth.
Obviously, we could get rid of these events and, after a bit of fussing, we would be done with them. (And I’m looking at you, Baba: your days are numbered). But, like many parents, we don’t mind seeing those little guys once in a while at night. Their sleep is good enough. My boys go to bed without a lot of difficulty at a consistent time. Their awakenings, when they occur, are generally brief. And they wake up well rested in the morning between six and seven AM. Do I wish they woke up a little later (instead of magically earlier on the weekends, as they seem usually to do)? Sure, but we have other issues we want to spend our energy on (keeping them from beating each other up, getting the five year-old to eat more than crackers, etc).
A while ago I asked people on Twitter and Facebook what they had to say on the topic:
“Good enough” looks different for different parents, or the same parents at different times in their child’s life. When people come to see me in the office, it is usually because some facet of their child’s sleep is problematic. Bedtime may be miserable, or nocturnal awakenings are prolonged and disruptive. On occasion the child is exhausted in the morning. Most parents, however, don’t need a trip to Sleep Clinic, just some reassurance.
Whenever you are worried about something your child is doing– be it sleeping, eating, or how they treat their little sister– it is always asking yourself: is my child doing well enough? I think a lot of parenting angst comings from feeling like you are a failure when your child isn’t perfect. Nothing will ever be perfect and you have to give yourself permission to let that be OK.
Parents: I have shared some war stories from my home. Tell me about yours. Can you tell me some occasions where you decided to let things slide a bit and accept behavior that was perhaps not ideal, but was good enough?