Matt Knutson: It’s a never-ending season of restless love

Published 9:07 am Friday, January 20, 2017

Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.

“I think I got up with her two or three times last night,” I told my wife in response to her question. She had done nearly the same for our daughter, who is now likely the worst sleeper on the block. The cries start early on in the night and repeat far too often for any parent to tolerate. Too much of waking up, rocking, feeding, changing of diapers, and back to sleep means no one in the house is getting much sleep. This week we finally hit our breaking point.

Gracelyn is nearly 1 year old, so some say she should have this down by now. In theory, she should be able to fall asleep on her own and soothe herself back to sleep if she arises in the middle of the night. Sure, it’s nice to be needed (when she’s a teenager I’m sure we’ll miss these cries for our love and attention), but right now it’d be nicer to sleep. I don’t think that makes us bad parents, but if you disagree, well, you’re probably getting more sleep than us. We are starting to be unsure of what it means to be well rested. Sera even had to get eye drops because her eyes were so red.

Email newsletter signup

Unsure of how much longer we can live on so little sleep, we’ve begun to investigate different sleep-training methods with the hope that soon Gracelyn will no longer be so dependent on us on putting her back to sleep. None of these are exactly easy, and many involve letting her cry for us while we patiently wait in our room for her to calm down on her own. Frequent back-and-forth trips occur while we comfort her with our presence, but so far our presence seems to simply bring the crying up a level. Sera hates doing this whole process, and I hate that Sera hates it, but last night Gracelyn only woke up twice. One of those times she was awake for an hour and half, but I’m hopeful we’re making progress.

While there are plenty of tips on how to do this sleep training stuff, I think there may be some benefit to sharing tips for people wanting to help parents out in this journey. First, be supportive of the effort. There are a billion different opinions on sleep training and a billion different ways to do it. Whatever way that works is the one that is best for your baby, so try not to judge any parents who explore an option that you would have said is off the table. Second, buy a parent some coffee. I’d never drink it, but I swear it’s the only way Sera comprehends what I say to her some mornings. Communication is key to a successful marriage and a successful employee, and both are pretty crucial to new parents. Coffee helps that communication. Finally, remind them that eventually children do sleep through the night, at least sometimes. Maybe don’t boast at how young your child was sleeping through the night, but a gentle reminder that by junior high school, you’ll have to wake them up to make sure they make it to class on time, is certainly welcome.

Oh how fondly I remember the sleepless nights of the past. Imagine being a child on Christmas Eve, too excited to sleep because Santa could arrive at any moment. I remember in high school when I’d go to church retreats and stay up all night talking and playing games with friends. Then there was the all-nighters in college in the midst of finals week where you’re desperately studying as well as making last-minute memories with your friends before the end of the school year. The night Gracelyn was born was certainly sleepless, but it was an energizing kind of night. Where did that energy go?

One day I’m sure we’ll find it again. To everything, there is a season, right? Maybe this season of sleeplessness is preparing us to embrace wholeheartedly a much-deserved time of rest. Life works like that, right? It all evens out somewhere down the line. Although if I recall correctly, Sera once shared early on in our marriage that she doesn’t believe her mom has slept through the night since Sera’s oldest sister was born. Perhaps this season is simply the season of parenthood — a never-ending season of restless love.