A Long Day’s Night

Tobey has never slept well. Hs challenges significantly predate his coming to live with us. We know from his previous caregiver that he often woke up with night terrors, screaming and clawing at something that only he could see. We experienced that scary phenomenon for a couple of months after he came to live with us, but it eventually subsided. In fact, he mostly slept through the night for almost 4 months, until his birth mother and her new husband showed up unexpectedly at our door demanding that he be returned immediately. That episode seemed to scare him so badly that he hasn’t really slept through the night since. And that’s been over a year.

I suppose that, in the grand scheme of things, not getting a good night’s sleep as a parent isn’t the end of the world. But after a year, it starts to drag you down. Some nights are better than others, but some are downright awful. We’ve had some episodes of waking up every 45 minutes, with him needing to be patted back to sleep for an hour. Many nights, he needs to have someone lay down next to him until he falls asleep, which may take an hour or two on a bad night.

We struggle with how much of this is learned behavior and how much is some deep-seated insecurity. We’ve been hesitant to force him to “cry it out”, as almost any parent of a two year old has had to do. Is this just a delayed developmental phase, or is he really that fragile? Deep down, neither the wife nor I wants to hear in 15 years that we scarred him irrevocably because we wouldn’t sleep next to him. But we also don’t want to stunt his emotional development. They still don’t give instruction books for this stuff.

So, we struggle on. He really likes his room, so we’re experimenting with agreeing to lay down with him, but not in his room. If he wants someone to lay down, it needs to be in another bed. Does that mean anything to a 5 year old? I don’t know. But so far, nothing else has worked.

All I really want is a good night’s sleep. And a happy kid. Is that too much to ask?

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