Sleep Training, an Email Error, and the Kindness of Strangers…

I’m tired. Plain and simple. No hyperbole or theatrics. I’m just plain ol’ sleep-deprived-dog-tired.

If I had to describe how I’m feeling at this moment in a hundred words or less, I could say it all in those two words, “I’m tired.” And with that, I could end this blog post.

But as Lee Corso always says on College Game Day, “Not so fast, my friend.”

I’m much more than tired: I’m blessed, and highly favored, happy and content, and looking forward to all that lies ahead. I just can’t seem to get a full night’s sleep—-I long to wake up feeling more energetic and well-rested.

I know I’m not alone in this, and I pray that maybe it’s just a temporary season.

When I was working on my counseling degree, my favorite course was Behavior Modification, or B-Mod, the more common and hip lingo used by all us wanna-be-counselors.

During this course of study, we discussed “sleep hygiene,” which is basically the things you should do every evening to ensure a great night’s slumber. Things like going to bed at the same time, winding down, unplugging electronics, dimming the lights, and having a pretty normal routine throughout the day. Of course exercise, healthy eating, and sunlight are also factors important not only to sleep hygiene, but to our general health.

Since the two weeks we were out for Christmas, I’ve been struggling to get back in a good routine. Although I’ve all but cut out my daily vice of sipping on a Coke Zero, I have added a cup of hot chocolate to my daily imbibing, and I think that the extra caffeine late in the day might be a factor in my restless sleep.

I have the cutest cup that I enjoy drinking from, so I’m going to blame it for my troubles. Filling it with water just seems disrespectful.

Like everyone else, I have so many things going on. With family spread out all over the state of Texas, a job, basketball season for the Lumberjacks, and keeping up with all my chores, I’m stretched in many directions. Again, I know I’m not alone and hope I’m not whining.

Having my grandson six hours away is one of our biggest challenges. It’s so hard. He is changing every day, and going a couple of weeks or even a month without seeing him, reminds us of how fleeting time really is.

Although we’re close to three hundred miles apart, Cooper and I are experiencing the same thing. He’s also going through some sleep changes. He’s in the process of being moved into his own room and bed, and with this new milestone, he is demonstrating his very mighty and relentless strong will.

Cooper is now attempting to take ALL his naps and sleep through the night in his crib. If he cries, mom is supposed to wait for a certain amount of time before she goes into the room, and gives him reassuring pats. I remember how hard this is. It breaks a mama’s heart to hear the screaming and crying, and then to have to refrain from going in the room right away. It’s almost too much.

When my boys were going through this, they didn’t call it sleep training. My pediatrician just told me, “Put him in bed and let him cry. Eventually he’ll tire himself out.”

I’ll never forget that first night. The door to Christopher’s nursery was cracked open and I could see into the room enough to witness him standing up in the crib, clinching his hands on the side of the crib, screeching to high heaven. Tears were pouring down his face, and his expression was that of pure betrayal.

As heart-wrenching as it was, I let him scream. My pediatrician told me not to go in at all. It took two completely sleepless nights, but on that third try, he made it through the night. I was so proud, and eager to brag about this at his next visit to the doctor, when he was also supposed to be weaned from a bottle.

At his twelve month appointment, I pranced in feeling pretty fancy. I was a working mom and it was most beneficial for both me and my students for everyone in my household to sleep through the night. I couldn’t wait to tell the doctor about this wonderful achievement.

Like all moms, I seemed to pack every necessary and non-necessary item when I left home. On this day, in the diaper bag, I made sure I had included a sippy cup. I also packed a bottle which had formula in it, and one that had juice—-you know, so I could pour it in the sippy cup if Christopher got thirsty.

Thirty seconds before Dr. Roberts walked into the room, Christopher reached in the diaper bag, pulled out a bottle (of course the one with formula), took the lid off, and started chugging. As he was sucking down the liquid at breakneck speed, the doctor walked in, looked at me and said, “Mom. You were supposed to have him off the bottle by now.”

I turned red with embarrassment, and began stammering, trying to explain, but soon realized it was pointless. She was an eye-witness to my failure as a mom…

After checking him out, and interviewing me thoroughly about his progress in other areas, Christopher walked over to his bag, looked at both the doctor and me, and then picked up his “sippy cup.” He even let out a little laugh, as he tipped it up and pretended to drink from it.

Dr. Roberts looked at me and said, “I recommend Dr. Dobson’s book The Strong-Willed Child.” I think you’re going to need it.

She did follow that up by saying, “Being strong-willed isn’t a negative thing. In fact, it’s wonderful. You just have to learn to temper this trait without breaking his spirit.”

I see that same strong will in my grandson, Cooper. He is determined, and busy, and curious, and motivated. He clearly knows what he wants, and strives to get it.

On the first day of sleep training, this was the text and photo we received from Kaitlyn:

(During his first nap-time in his bed, Cooper gnawed on the side of his crib). They ordered bumper padding, and Kaitlyn engineered a quick fix for the next nap)…

My poor baby. As hard as it is to see him unhappy, I understand it’s something he has to go through.

Charles and Kaitlyn are doing a great job as parents. Cooper is one of the happiest little boys I’ve ever seen. I know the nights are long, and sleep training is hard, but they will all survive. And so will Cooper’s strong spirit.

The events of the last couple of weeks have reminded me of the importance of not breaking someone’s spirit. In a world of negativity, division, violence, and hate, the challenge of staying strong when you feel weak is great. Feeling crushed and confused, tired, and weary is understandable. But we have to keep our eyes on the prize, and continue to move ahead in faith and love.

I’ve been focusing on trying to do more kind deeds. Each day, I aim to go out of my way to lift someone else up. Some days I’m more successful than others, but I do always try.

This past week, as I was at work, I overheard a teacher (whose door was open) explaining the directions to an assignment. This teacher was so thorough! Specific instructions were given, along with examples. Encouraging words, and praise were also expressed. Several students didn’t follow the clearly defined instructions, and they were pulled out into the hallway individually, and given pointers as how to correct their mistakes. The teacher was patient, and kind, and found something positive to say to each student spoken to.

I was extremely impressed and decided to shoot the teacher an email. I said all of those things: I was impressed with the assignment, the way it was explained, the patience, and encouragement.

I hit “send,” and in a short amount of time, I had a response. The teacher was touched by my words. “Thank you so much. That means a lot.”

After reading the response, I was glad I took the time to pass along my thoughts and impressions.

And then I had a feeling something wasn’t right. I looked at the email response and realized I had accidentally sent it to the WRONG person!

But, it didn’t change the appreciation and thankfulness the other teacher expressed to me.

I shared this story with a friend, and quipped, “That’s something only I could do.”

My friend laughed and said, “You know. Even though the email wasn’t intended for that person, maybe they needed to hear it. Maybe you made their day, or even motivated them to try harder.”

I hope she was right.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Mistakes aren’t all bad. When you make mistakes, you learn valuable lessons, and you also might inadvertently make a difference in someone else’s life. Maybe instead of a mistake, I should view my email error as “a happy accident.” It clearly brought happiness and pride to someone who otherwise might not have experienced it.

Like Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” haven’t we all at some time or another depended on the kindness of strangers?

As happens so many times in my life, this theme of kindness circled around to me later this week. In the midst of a rainy, dreary day, I had to make a stop at Walmart, which isn’t my favorite place. I decided to run in before my hair appointment, and get it over with. I’ve always tried to practice the Brian Tracy rule of “eating the frog.” This time management tip is borrowed from Mark Twain, who once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.

So I ate the frog and headed into Walmart.

On the way in, I ran into a lady walking from the entrance on the right to the entrance on the left. She commented, “I guess they only have one entrance open.” I smiled, and then realized I hadn’t put on my mask!

I commented, “I’m so glad I saw you. I forgot to put my mask on.”

She replied, “Oh, that’s okay. I’m a nurse. I wear my mask not for my safety, but for yours.” She had such a sweet spirit.

I grabbed my mask and put it on, thanked her for her service to others, and entered Walmart (which at times is like entering the ninth circle of Hell).

I dashed through the store quickly, like I was on an episode of “Supermarket Sweep.” When I exited through the same door I had entered, the Walmart greeter, an older gentlemen, asked, “What did you get for me?”

He was just so sweet, and full of life, and made an effort to talk to each person who was entering or exiting. I told him he could have whatever he wanted and he said, “I want you to have a nice day!”

Wow! Was I ever glad I ate that frog first! This sweet man unknowingly set the tone for my entire day.

And that’s my goal for 2021. I hope that I am a positive force who sets the tone for someone else’s day. I hope that by smiling (even though it can’t be seen through my mask) or being friendly, or making someone feel at home, or better about themselves, I start a chain reaction of kindness. A ripple effect. I have experienced many times, that boomerang effect of kindness—-that when you spread it, it always finds its way back to you.

Wouldn’t it be great if that’s what every single person on the planet did? What if each of us encouraged, or complimented, or lifted up a stranger? What if we simply smiled, or clapped, or made an effort to spread joy and happiness? We might help mend a broken spirit. We might inspire someone to do something they didn’t feel worthy or equipped to do. We might accidentally change the course of the day for someone by making a hard or difficult time more bearable.

This week I’ve been reminded that mistakes can have happy endings, that strong wills and sweet spirits can walk hand in hand, and that eating a frog can lead to the giving and receiving of kindnesses between strangers.

Today, I will once again try to find a pebble, throw it into the pond, and start that never-ending kindness ripple.

I hope you’ll join me.



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