It's been a crazy few weeks. About two weeks ago, our two year old decided to go on a sleep strike. We spent 6 straight nights listening to him cry for literally HOURS, trying a million different tactics (rocking him, ignoring him, sitting in the rocking chair next to the crib, leaving the door open, giving him Motrin in case it was teething issues, putting him in a pack n play in our bedroom, putting him in our bed, etc), and then walking around like zombies trying to take care of everyone. Only to have the toddler refuse to take naps as well.
A child not sleeping is extremely stressful. After days and days of a kid crying, you start to feel like you're going insane.
The first two nights, our marriage was rockin' and rollin'; we were laughing in the middle of the night, passing the time listening to crying while having great conversation, taking turns calming the kid down. And then suddenly we were fighting in the middle of the night and he was sleeping in the guest room with Little Adoratrouble. I laid alone in bed crying and wondering what in the world God wanted us to learn from this particular parenting challenge. On Sunday morning, we barely made it to church; we were bickering and irritable and mad at the whole situation.
We made it to our learning center class (on Paul Tripp's book Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands - about personal ministry in helping others change.) and sat with an older couple that we barely knew to discuss the homework (that we hadn't completed...full disclosure). As we were sitting there talking about where our closest ministry opportunities are and how that opportunity is usually within our own homes, our frustration started spilling out and we shared about how we were having a hard time with the toddler not sleeping. The husband listened for a few minutes....the wife sympathized...and then the husband very shrewdly cocked his head and answered the question I had been pondering at 2am: "Sometimes, it's more about the two of you than what's actually going on."
That hit me like a ton of bricks. That man, who barely knew us, who didn't even really know how much we had been arguing about what to do about Adoratrouble hit the nail on the head. Maybe the larger purpose behind this sleep battle didn't really have anything to do with sleeping or parenting. Maybe it had to do with how he and I were keeping our marriage prioritized and how he and I were working together.
The man went on. "No matter what goes on, it's important that the two of you keep your eyes focused on the bigger picture of what's important in the long run and that's your marriage. Someday those kids will be gone, but you two will still be in the same house together and if your marriage isn't first, you won't even know each other."
I spent the rest of the class and the church service trying not to cry. Not because that man had upset me or challenged me, but because it was exactly what I needed to hear. It felt like God was speaking through this man we barely knew to point us back in the right direction.
Work together. Take care of each other. This too shall pass. Don't get bitter towards each other about not sleeping. Continue to enjoy each other even when you're tired. Keep fighting!
And at the end of the class, after we had all finished discussing the homework and watched the video of Tim Lane talking about confrontation, the wife reached out and touched my arm and sincerely said, "We'll be praying for you guys...tonight, when you're getting everyone in bed, we'll be praying for you." And you know how sometimes you don't really believe that that person will actually be praying, but just think they're saying it because it's the "good Christian thing" to say? Well, I'm pretty sure this woman was actually praying for us.
Not that everything magically settled down that night...it took a few more nights of cry-it-out for Adoratrouble to get the picture that we're not sitting in his room rocking him for hours when there is nothing wrong with him (and don't send me emails condemning cry-it-out because if you haven't been there, you just don't know). Dave decided he needed to take care of me and kicked me out of the house to sleep at his parents's house while he toughed it out (because somehow, guys can often sleep through the crying and the mom just can't.) I let him take care of me and got one glorious night of sleep while Dave dealt with Adoratrouble's new tactic of stripping naked while screaming for a hour (and then smearing the contents of a diaper on the wall in the morning...) The next day, he sent flowers and arranged a babysitter so we could have a date night.
Sometimes, maintaining your friendship takes a whole heck of a lot of effort. It takes fighting on what seems like such a small level through hard things - non-sleeping children, misbehaving children, wayward children, financial stresses, illness, job loss, broken down appliances (oh yes, and both our heating units decided to not work at the exact same time during the sleep strike - hooray!). And sometimes, we need to remember that no matter what happens with all those tough situations, our marriage can be a steady place, but only if we make it important. Don't get weary. Keep on keeping on.
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Sharing with: Growing Home, Time Warp Wife, Wifey Wednesday, Deep Roots at Home, We Are THAT Family