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Bad Parenting

Written 4/10/2008

I’m ashamed to admit that Matt and I engaged in some text-book bad parenting on the first half of our trip to San Francisco. Between travel delays, long layovers, and a three-hour time difference, Simon did not arrive at our hosts’ house until around 11:00 p.m. EDT the day we flew to California.

We expected him to crash the minute we go the house, but once he saw everyone at Ian and Christine’s, had toys to play with, and had space to move around in, he got his second wind and was ready to enjoy the scene. As he seemed so happy, we let Simon continue until a wave of fatigue hit. He went to bed that night at nearly 2:00 a.m. EDT.

The next day, Simon was in a good mood, but was also clearly jet-lagged. We failed to get him to take a decent nap, but he happily if groggily carried on in good spirits and enjoyed periodic bursts of activeness when surrounded by new people or sights.

Day two was much the same. Simon was again sleepy, but he always fell asleep in a car or stroller, he always awoke if we tried to transfer to him a crib, and he could never fall back asleep once awakened.

By the time our third day arrived, we should have known that the poor little guy was a ticking time bomb. But again, he seemed pretty happy for most of the time and he had a great day in the Montclair park. I deluded myself into thinking that a 45-minute nap taken in a stroller would make up for short nights and missing naps for three consecutive days, and then Matt and I were very late getting our bags together and heading into the city to check into our San Francisco hotel for the second part of our trip. We hated to leave our friends, and we had this idea that Simon could “rally” indefinitely to suit our desires.

Simon fell asleep in the car, and awoke crying at the hotel when we arrived at around 9:30 p.m. We hustled him upstairs and immediately set to getting him to bed, but it was much too little far too late. The combination of skipped or shortened naps, jet-lag, and sensory overload finally hit, and Simon threw a fit in the room the likes of which I have not seen since he was a colicky newborn.

It was, frankly, scary, heart-breaking, and guilt-inducing in equal measures. He didn’t just cry, his entire body trembled and shook. His fists were balled up, his arms were twitching, and his legs kicked outside his control. No measure of comfort seemed to help until we could rig the crib aquarium, give him his paci and dirty dog, and lay him down for the night. Thankfully, he fell asleep quicky and slept well.

That was the last day we pushed things. For the next three days, while I was out working my conference, Matt was extremely careful to make sure daytime activities were timed to allow for ample napping in the hotel. And we were both careful to eat early dinners within walking distance to the hotel to ensure an on-time bedtime. It’s just a shame, frankly, that we had to re-learn this pretty basic lesson at such a high cost to Simon.

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