This is the e-mail I received from one of my babysitters on Friday (I’ll call her Brianna):
I need to inform you that i do not think i will be able to work for you any more. I have tried to put V. down the way you guys have requested, however i spend 20-30minutes trying to get her to sleep and then she only sleeps for 20 minutes and we are back at it again trying to get back to sleep for 20-30 minutes. I have tried every trick i know to be able to calm her down when she wakes up, however she is so tired and wants to go back to sleep that she dose not want to eat, or play or have her dipper changed. This continues for 3 to 4 hrs. I feel like i am unable to give the amount of energy that that situation requires. I hope that you are able to find some one who can fulfill what you are needing.
Brianna [not her real name]
I called her immediately, and also sent an e-mail:
Hi Brianna, I really really don’t want to lose your help!!!!! If there is something else we can try I am very open to a different approach. I can stay around and be on nap duty if that works. Can we talk about it??? I mean if your mind is made up I guess I’ll try to find somebody else but I know she likes you… I’m sorry it’s been so frustrating. But I am open to trying something different, since it’s not working. Let me know if you’re open to give it another shot next week with a different strategy – but if not, I’ll have to accept that.
Then I cried for almost two hours. After I calmed down, I wrote this follow-up e-mail:
Hi Brianna, now that my panic has subsided I thought I should write a little more. Again, I’m so sorry that the babysitting has been so stressful for you. I’ve pretty much abandoned the way we were putting her down, because I couldn’t sustain it either. That’s what I meant the other day when I said I wasn’t going to be the “nap nazi” anymore, but I probably should have been more specific about what I meant.
I also wanted to apologize for the unflushed toilet on Thursday. When I got home that afternoon I was HORRIFIED to realize that you’d been stuck in the house with that all afternoon. T. and I are both missionary kids, and as such we tend more to adapt to inconvenient or uncomfortable situations rather than try to change them – which is very different from how most Americans approach life. I was thinking that this might seem really weird to a lot of people, or hard to understand. I’m not saying it’s the ideal approach to life, it’s just how we are and we’re probably too old to change much at this point (that said, though, T. says he’s going to pick up replacement parts for the toilet today).
Anyway, I feel like we’ve had a communication breakdown. I had wanted to talk through the nap issues with you on Thursday afternoon, but what with the grant application taking over my life, it didn’t happen. If you’re willing, my first choice would be to try again, and I’ll work on being more communicative in the future.
On the other hand, it could be that we’re just not a good match – as a family – with you. If that’s the case, we can cut our losses and move on. But I wanted to take the time to at least try to explain.
If you are willing to try again, please let me know by Sunday night. If I don’t hear from you by then, I will start interviewing possible babysitters again.
I didn’t check my e-mail or even open the computer again until Sunday night. It was nice… I had some peace of mind for 48 hours. This was her response:
Sry i have not been able to call you back, my phone is dead and i can’t find the charger.
First off I don not, by any means want to come off as being rude or critical.
I enjoy being with V, however i was very stressed this past week with having to try and get her down for a nap. In my experience over the years i have found it best to let the child put them selves to sleep. I found that if the child has a routine for bed, nap and food times they are more willing to go to sleep. I have also found that if you tell the child that it is time to sleep then lay them down, even if they are awake, that they will eventually fall asleep. I let them cry for 15 minutes and then come in, don’t pick them up, but let them know that they are OK and that it is time for a nap and you will see them when they wake up. I would do
this every fifteen minutes. Eventually they will realize that they need to put them selves to sleep. The first few times you try this it will take a while for them to fall asleep, however with my experience and talking with parents, they have all said that with in 3-5 nights the child was able to put them selves to sleep. If you have another idea on how to get her to sleep i would love to know, however i can’t repeat last week, it was very stressful.
The other thing that i have found in my past experiences is that were a child sleeps needs to be a place of comfort and joy. I believe V. needs a places that is hers, that she can play with toys in as well as sleep in. I believe that when V. goes in the bedroom she anticipates either getting her diaper changed which many children do not like, or going to sleep, something else children do not like. I also think that she might be confused as to why she is sleeping in this room with out you two because she is so used to sleeping in there with you guys.
I think she might needs some more toys that are age appropriate. I have noticed that she has lost interest in many of the toys that she has. You can find cheap toys at resale shops that are perfect for her age.
Thank you for fixing the toilet.
I would like to continue working for you guys if you are willing to try a new way to get her to sleep.
And finally, my response from last night (I had T. read it over and he took out a couple sentences that sounded kind of defensive, he said):
Hi Brianna, I just checked my e-mail for the first time since Friday, I was jut giving myself a break and trying to decompress a bit.
We’ve been trying really hard to establish a more regular routine/schedule for V. since we got back to H. 6 weeks ago, and in some ways I think we have been successful, although I know we have a ways to go yet. I’ve been trying to follow the Baby Whisperer’s “EASY” (Eat, Activity, Sleep) pattern and most of the time I think we do pretty well. For a couple of weeks I was fixated on establishing a 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. naptime but got too stressed out with that – more on that in another paragraph below. But I do try to keep the EASY thing going.
We did try a 15-minute let-cry one weekend… We decided never to try that again. I know it works, and I know it takes 3-5 days, but we aren’t strong enough for it. So what we have been focusing on, our top priority, has been getting her to sleep through the night. And as soon as we moved our bed out of her room, she did. It’s been a full week now and we’re happy with how that is going. I think we have a good, solid bedtime routine in place – which includes storytime in her room, so there are some positive connotations as well.
I know it’s best when babies put themselves to sleep – that’s precisely what we’ve been working on with night sleeping, and the pick-up/put-down strategy (again, from the Baby Whisperer) has worked for that. It takes longer than the let-cry method for sure. It took us two miserable weeks and only worked when we moved out of her room.
I think the hardest thing with establishing a consistent nap routine has been that she has SIX different people who put her down at different points during the week (including Grandma and Grandpa, at their house, every Wednesday – and they often let her nap in their arms). For awhile I was being really strict with the times and place for naps, but I couldn’t enforce consistency with my in-laws and husband and the other babysitter too so I kind of gave up on that. I don’t know that we can do a 15-minute let-cry. I felt completely traumatized the one day we did it.
I talked this all over with T, and we’re thinking that one strategy for establishing consistency with naptime would be if I’m the only one who puts her down for naps, and re-settles her when she wakes up. This means that during the times when she’s awake/playing/eating, I’d be upstairs working (we finally got our office set up there), but I’d come down for naptime and you or Helen [a pseudonym] or whoever is babysitting at that point could study or whatever. Does that make sense?
Also, with food, just FYI, I’ve gotten in the pattern of starting her out in the high chair, then holding her on my hip to finish feeding. I know I should be more disciplined about keeping her in the high chair but it’s a compromise I’ve ended up making and I don’t see myself being able to really be more strict.
I agree that we need new toys for her, I just haven’t had any time to go toy shopping. Well, I did pick up some blocks at Target today, but I don’t know how engaged she will be with those. Would I be able to pay you to do some toy shopping for us? I think you’d have a better idea anyway what would be good for her.
On a downer note, T. tried to fix the toilet on Saturday but wasn’t able to, and now we have to flush by dumping a bucket of water down the bowl. We are going to call a plumber on Monday.
So that’s where we’re at. I don’t know if this is agreeable to you or not. We have to figure out our own way of doing things, and believe me I’ve read all the books I can get my hands on about infant sleep, and talked to all my friends who are moms. I have no doubt that cry-it-out would work, and would take 3-5 days. Everybody is in agreement about that. But there are also many who can’t or won’t do it because it’s too emotionally difficult, and I’m afraid we fall into that category.
So, I’m happy to have her room be a play place too, in fact we do often hang out on the bed there with her books – so it’s cool with me if the sitters do that too, take other toys in there too, I don’t care! Whatever works! And if I’m in charge of naps then at least you won’t experience the stress of trying to get her to sleep.
I don’t know, we’re doing the best we can, certainly we’re not perfect, but there it is. I don’t know what more to say without starting to ramble. Let me know what you think.
So… I’m waiting for her to respond to that, but in the meantime I’m realizing how much hurt and anger I feel over this whole exchange. I feel judged, and I do feel criticized. I’ve been sort of non-directive with Brianna, simply because she does have a lot of child care experience – that’s why I hired her! But it does intimidate me too. And now I find myself besieged with self-doubt. When I went to play with V. this morning I started crying about how inadequate her toys are for her. When she wouldn’t go down for her nap right away, I started wondering if we should CIO.
What would you do? Keep trying to work it out, or just move on and start fresh with someone else?