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Retained Toddler Memories: Parenting Based on Fears From My Childhood

Parenting Based off Fears of Retained Toddler MemoriesVivi’s recent struggle to stay asleep at night has raised a bad memory from my childhood. It’s a memory that I’ve struggled with since Addie was born.

When Addie was a baby I had a really hard time letting her cry. At her first whimpers, I would run into her room and rock her back to sleep. If she began to cry while in a car seat, I’d have to pull the car over and comfort her, or I’d have to have Casey climb into the back seat to fix whatever was wrong. I couldn’t stand to hear Addie cry at all. My inability to let Addie cry at any time frustrated Casey, because she knew that if Addie was ever going to learn to fall asleep she’d have to learn to cry for a bit on her own. Casey wasn’t suggesting using the cry-it-out method with Addie, but she didn’t want Addie getting comforted at the smallest of inconveniences either.

Eventually Casey won and Addie spent a couple nights with some extra crying before she learned to fall asleep on her own.

Vivi, however, knows how to fall asleep on her own. We started Vivi off early on by letting her cry for short periods of time before we went to comfort her and she caught on really quickly and hadn’t really had any trouble sleeping. But her recent crying at night has nothing to do with being able to fall asleep on her own. It has everything to do with wanting her parents right there in her room with her as she sleeps for the entire night.

When I rock her at night she will quickly fall asleep in my arms and I’ll set her back in her crib, but within minutes she realizes I’m not in her room with her anymore and she’ll cry, and cry, and cry.  One afternoon when Casey put her down for a nap, Vivi pointed at the floor and told Casey to sleep on the floor next to her crib. This is definitely a wanting her parents with her at all times type of problem.

Letting Vivi just cry and cry isn’t the solution to the problem. I’ve let Vivi cry for 10 minutes, and for 15 minutes, and for 20 minutes. It never stops. It doesn’t matter how many 10 minute crying sessions she goes through, because she’ll keep crying until I go in and rock her.

She’ll cry so much that she’ll get those really deep choking and gasping sobs followed by deep gulping breaths when she’s done crying.

We may have found the solution with one of my old shirts, but knowing she’s spent quite a bit of time crying hasn’t been easy for me.

When I was two or three years old, I can remember crying for hours one particular night. All I wanted was for my mom to come in and sing me a song and I would be happy and I would stop crying. I remember the thoughts in my head so clearly it is as if it happened yesterday. I can remember where where the TV in our living room was located. I can remember which direction the rabbit ears were pointing on that old TV. I can remember the colors of each piece of furniture in that living room. I can remember the number of times my parents came into my room to ask and plead with me to go to sleep. I can remember my parents’ friends, who were hanging out with my parents that night, walking out the door to leave after my mom finally gave in late that night and brought me into the living room. And I can remember that for some reason my mom would not break down and come in and sing me a song and no matter how much I thought about it, I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t do it. It seemed like such a simple thing to do, and in my head I knew I would fall asleep immediately after the song was over, but the song never came. It is that memory that causes me so much worry when I hear my kids cry.

Casey keeps telling me that Vivi won’t remember any of this when she’s older, but knowing that I remember my experience so well I have to wonder whether she’s right. Are these events going to be retained toddler memories for Vivi like they were for me? Is she going to remember that all she wanted was for me to come in and do something specific and it would solve all of her problems and I wouldn’t do it for a reason she didn’t understand? I don’t know.

Read more about my family on Moosh in Indy or follow me on Twitter!

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