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On Sleepovers & the Silent Treatment

On Sleepovers & the Silent Treatment

By Amalah

Dear Amy

Thanks for a great blog with much entertainment and words of wisdom.

I’m writing to ask your opinion/advice on a certain sticky point that my husband and I don’t seem to quite agree on: sleepovers.

We have a 20 month old boy who is a delight and brings us much joy. He’s not the greatest of sleepers and still wakes 2-3 times a night calling for me or his dad for a cuddle.

After a few particularly bad nights of having to get up multiple times, my husband suggested that our boy go to my parents-in-law’s house for a sleepover so that we can get at least one night’s proper sleep. Also, grandma and grandpa would love to have him. The thought of a good night’s sleep got the better of me and I initially said yes. However, after thinking it through the next day, I told him that I don’t think it’s a good idea after-all for the following reasons:

– we don’t see grandma and grandpa that often. As a family, we visit their house maybe once every 3-4 months and it goes without saying that he’s never been to their place without us. I didn’t feel comfortable for him to sleep over in an environment that’s unfamiliar to him.

– he’s never even had a day sleep at their place.

– considering that he still wakes up during the night, asking for us made me worry that, if grandma or grandpa appears, he’ll be totally freaked out.

– he’s just plain too young.

I offered that we can take him to the grandparents’ house for a few day visits on his own and then maybe try a sleepover later. To make a long story short, me saying no caused my husband to erupt and following that, a three day silent war. Also, my mother-in-law probably thinks I don’t trust her child-minding capabilities or that I don’t want her looking after our son. Which is not true, of course. On the positive side, my husband and his parents agreed to the day visits and easing our boy into getting used to visiting their house.

Did I do the right thing or am I over-protective and mollycoddling the boy, as my husband thinks?

Thanks for the advice,

C

Three things:

1) I personally think sleepovers with loving, responsible grandparents are GREAT, for everyone involved, for a variety of reasons.

2) However, I think your suggested compromise of a few extended day visits before a sleepover is an entirely sensible one, for your personal variety of reasons.

3) Your husband’s reaction? COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE.

Sorry to derail from the topic you thought you were asking about, but that was my biggest takeaway from your letter. That was a childish, resentful, red flag of a reaction. (Please tell me he did not actually use the phrase “mollycoddling the boy.” Look that word up. It’s not nice.) Completely over-the-top since you weren’t saying “nope, not ever, this baby is never leaving my side for the rest of our liiiiiives,” but more of a “I would like such-and-such to happen first, before I’m comfortable with this.”

I mean, you know your son. Personally, I’d probably take the offer and run off to the nearest hotel for my luxurious free night of sleep. PERSONALLY. But I’m just a jerk like that, and like to tell myself that I’m raising my children to be more independent and flexible by exposing them to new environments and people. But I can STILL totally get behind your perspective that, eh, let’s ease him into the new environment and people before going for the overnight.

And even if I disagreed with you completely, I would never “erupt” at you and throw a three-day hissy fit about it.

This hints there’s something deeper going on here. Have there been boundary issues with the in-laws you’ve butted heads over in the past? Have you guys clashed over parenting styles before? Has he accused you of being over-protective or helicopter-y about other things? Is the waking up 2/3 times a night for cuddles a result in one parent’s decision not to sleep train, rather than a situation that you’ve both accepted as okay (or at least unavoidable)? Is the sleep deprivation hitting him “harder” in his mind (i.e. he works full time, you stay home) so there’s a “BUT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND I NEED THIS MORE” aspect to this particular topic?

Are you guys having sex regularly, or has the nighttime pattern killed that?

Sorry to pry or invent a bunch of possibly-irrelevant scenarios here. Just putting on my Internet Couples Therapist hat (it’s a fake, I bought it on eBay) and trying to guess at what the REAL issue is, and why the sleepover thing is the hill he’s chosen to throw a tantrum on. Maybe he just really, really needs a break from Daddyhood (ACCEPTABLE) and wants a night where it’s just the two of you like the pre-kid days (UNDERSTANDABLE), but when you said “not yet” he let all sorts of other bubbling resentments and parenting frustrations come to the surface (NOT FIGHTING FAIR).

And there was a brief eruption and a chance to actually talk about these things and feelings. And then a rapid downshift back to silence and NOT communicating what’s really wrong.

I think you guys need to circle back and have the discussion you should have had, pre-eruption. Give him a chance to tell you why he reacted that way (he thought you were insulting his parents, he just needs a break that badly, etc.). Hopefully come to an agreement that the silent treatment is just as unacceptable and unhelpful of an approach to disagreements as full-on screaming and throwing plates at each other. Promise each other not to do it again, and to be more collaborative and communicative when it comes to co-parenting your son. One parent can’t make all the decisions and rules and sideline the other. However, both parents have a responsibility to listen to the other’s opinions and concerns and compromise as needed. Which if I haven’t been clear, I think you did just fine with your suggested compromise. He could still disagree with your reasons for wanting the compromise, but he HAS to find a better way through these sorts of disagreements than blowing up at you, hurling wholesale criticisms of your parenting in general at you (“MOLLYCODDLING”), and then refusing to talk it through.

Fight fair out there, peeps.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Cheryl S.

    I agree with Amy that there is more to this. If the inlaws are close enough to do a one night “sleepover” with the baby, but you only see them every 3 months, there’s a reason for that.  

    Also, I think your husband erupted/shut down because of a whole host of stuff that he’s obviously not sharing with you. Any’s list probably covers it.

    While I think your compromise is a good one, and I’d be doing those day visits so you can get a night of sleep! 🙂

  • Caroline

    It sounds like the kid never sleeps, they probably are completely shattered, never have sex and the guy desperately, desperately was looking forward to respite. He clearly thinks she’s too soft on the child and has literally had.enough. now.
    They need to discuss what’s going on in a calmer way though, maybe when the toddler is at granny / grandpa’s for a day visit alone, and get to grips with the fact that their marriage has hit a seriously rough patch for what could be a variety of reasons. Don’t assume ”he’ll grow out of it” re the toddler by the way. They often don’t until someone draws a line in the sand… just saying… get cracking on the day visits, and have some time just the two of you, maybe go for lunch or something, but do start talking, because believe me, no sleep, no communication and no sex is not a good thing for any length of time…

  • Stephanie

    Yeah, I think there’s something else going on. If you haven’t had one sleep-through-the-night since before he was born, you need to work on that. I’m with Amy – I would be racing that kid to grandma’s, but I need a break every so often, and 20 months is a LONG time without a break, or some real alone time. Still, sounds like you really need to talk to your husband about the underlying concerns he (and you) have. 

  • Myriam

    I’ll address your original question, even if I agree with Amy that something else is at play… I’d say “send the kids for the sleepover”. My daughter was a bad sleeper at home, but slept through the night and fell asleep on her own for the first time at my inl-laws. Your kid might surprise you in the same way. Having your in-laws in your home and you in a hotel might ease your fear of your son having a meltdown waking up at night, and also make sure your inlaws are the ones putting him down (so he expects them at night). That’s my 2 cents. 

  • Mary

    Yeah, this is about your husband thinking that you care more about your son’s needs than your own. And this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. And you need to talk about it or things will just simmer and simmer. 

  • traci

    It is definitely okay to let a child that young sleep over, especially if you haven’t had real sleep in so long.  That long without sleep is so detrimental to your health that you owe it to yourself and your husband and your child really to take advantage of any sleep you can get.

    Developmentally it won’t hurt your child to stay with someone they are not super-familiar with. As long as your child has a  secure attachment to you and you show them that you are fine with it, they will be fine with it.  My 15 month old recently stayed the weekend with his aunt and uncle whom he has never even been babysat by before and whom he has only sees every 3 months or so.   He had a blast!  He didn’t even cry for us.  And although he is a terrible napper at home he napped incredibly well for them. He did wake up at 4am but went back down for them after a cuddle.  

    He has also stayed with his grandparents 2 times. The first time he still wasn’t sleeping but he slept through the night there.  It was before his first birthday. I was really hesitant, but I hadn’t slept in 20 months (bad pregnancy, some nights I only got 10 minutes of sleep). Yes it was hard being away from him, but texts and pics helped and getting sleep was worth it. He had a grand time, although he was a little clingy for a week after the first time, not as much the second time.  We were better for it. Our relationship was better and our ability to parent was improved.  The worst that happens is that you pick up early, the best I’d you get a chance to refresh.

  • Carole

    We left my daughter when she was 16 mos with my parents to go to a wedding out of state. My parents live 2 hours away and we see them every few months. Mostly day trips too/from and occasionally they visit us for few days. At the time, we were rocking her to sleep for nap and bedtime (which took over an hour each time). She woke at least 2-4x a night. I was nervous how my mom would handle all her sleep issues. While we were gone, she put herself to sleep and either slept all night or only woke once. It was really nice to reconnect with my husband after 16 mos of intense baby phase. It also gave me confidence to know she could put herself to sleep so we eliminated us having to rock her to sleep for her nap.

    I will also add she is now 3yo and is going to go back to my parents for a long weekend. She hasn’t slept there alone since she was 16mos. We don’t have the night wakings anymore but we have stalling at bedtime/scary monsters in room/please lay with me bedtime issues.. I still worry how she will do. It is hard for me to give up the control but this is good for all involved. It will be okay!

  • Maggie

    Just chiming in from the other side, which is I would not leave my baby/toddler at the in-laws. I just wouldn’t be comfortable thinking they would wake up looking for me and might be sad. If Daddy is so desperate for sleep he could try sleeping in another room one night…. or HE could go to in-laws! Hahaha. A baby waking up doesn’t mean both parents have to wake up, nor does it rule out having a sex life. So don’t be pressured into something that deep down you are not at peace with. Babies grow up so fast, think of night time parenting as a brutal but short stage.

  • S

    Yup, obviously it’s something else he’s all pissy about! I also wouldn’t do the sleepover. If you’re down with the day visits, extend those to the evening or just have fun with your husband during your son’s visit. And then have your husband stay the night on his parents couch to get some rest. But really he should just suck it up and stop being a jerk. And end the night cuddles with the baby. Is it night terrors? Wake him up before the first natural wake up. (Trust, I get it. NO WAY! Yeah, we have a kid who just started sleeping through the night at 3.5 years. Off to preemptively wake her now.)

  • Chow

    Great advice from Amy as usual. My son is the same age and also wakes up occasionally and only wants me. Like the OP I wouldn’t want my son to sleep at my parents or in laws, but that’s bc they all want a chance to “solve” his sleep problems without our permission, aka lock him in his room and don’t open it until morning, end quote. But that’s a trust issue I don’t think OP has. I’m also a softie who couldn’t sleep if I thought my son was crying for me somewhere.

  • Claire

    Would it be possible (depending on your relationship, obviously) for the in laws to stay at your house for a trial run? You guys stay there, but they respond to his cries during the night, and see how it goes? Then maybe either the following week, or even the next night, you guys go to a hotel for a night (bonus: room service) and he doesn’t need to be disrupted from his familiar environment?

  • Joanne

    The dad’s reaction is the real problem, blowing up and then the silent treatment for three days is borderline emotional abuse. Doesn’t matter how tired or frustrated he is, he threw a fit for THREE DAYS. BIG RED FLAG.

    I wouldn’t worry about MIL’s reaction to all this. Maybe she thinks those things, maybe she doesn’t but her feelings aren’t what’s important here because she’s an adult who should be able to deal in a reasonable way. Your child is what matters.

  • K

    I’m with everyone else – Dad’s reaction is over the top and pretty obviously indicative of something else. And I actually don’t think he’s the bad guy here – people are ridiculous without sleep. Our son was a HORRIBLE sleeper for almost the first full year, and my husband and I were unpleasant zombies at best, straight up monsters on our worst days. It sucks, and if my child continued to wake 2-3 times a night for months on end past the year mark without a real cause, I might act like an irrational jerk, too. All that to say – OP’s compromise sounds like a reasonable one, assuming there aren’t other issues (beyond sleep deprivation) at play. OP didn’t specifically mention concerns about in-laws as babysitters, but I do think it’s odd that they sound like they live sort of close and haven’t watched the baby alone either at their house or at OP’s house. Not even for a date night? That does make me wonder if OP has a hard time letting someone else watch the baby so she and her husband can get some quality adult time. The best parenting advice I’ve ever gotten was to take care of myself (as a woman, not setting boundaries as a mom) and my marriage – might apply here.

  • leslie

    I finally let one of my girls spend the night with an aunt only to find out she’d been baptized in the bathtub. Also, I spent many sleepless and miserable nights at my grandparents as a kid. If it was the right thing to do in your situation, you’d already have done it. Trust your intuition on this. Also, speaking from experience, the expectations for one night of sleep after a year or two or three of sleep misery are impossibly high. Also, everyone will wonder how you dare to complain after that. “But how can you be so miserable??? Didn’t he just spend the weekend with his granparents?? Didn’t you just get a break???” @$!#^&*