So Declan woke up this morning around 4, nursed, and then decided instead of going back to sleep, he was going to put on a show. Apparently, during the night, he learned to make a clicking sound with his tongue…on command. And he delighted in showing us this, first making the noise, then breaking into one of his patented tongue-out grins. Rinse. Repeat.

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As this went on, Colleen and I looked at each other, like, what do we do? We’d only managed to get one decent stretch of sleep and we were counting on one more before a busy morning. But Declan was about as far from sleep as possible. And he obviously wanted to engage with us, to show us this cool new thing he learned, and to play. So what to do? Ignore him and try to sleep? That seemed to risk 1) sending him the message that we didn’t care about his cool discovery and 2) the high likelihood we wouldn’t sleep because he would realize he was being ignored and start crying. Another option: turning on the lights, getting up with him, and starting the day. Maybe going to the play mat to let him get out the energy. The risk here was setting a bad precedent. We’ve been trying to get him on a sleep schedule, and it probably goes without saying 4 a.m. rise-and-shines aren’t part of the plan. So we risked sending the message that he could do whatever he wanted. The third possibility: I would get up and try to rock him back into a sleepy state. Colleen warned me this could take 30 minutes. I doubted her.

I shouldn’t doubt her. It took 30 minutes plus a swaddle change plus more nursing plus more rocking and patting. Finally, an hour later, he was back down for a short-lived rest.

But as I thought about it, I realized what happened in that hour span was kind of a big deal. I don’t think Declan is at the age yet where he’s trying to manipulate us. He wasn’t trying to get out of going back to bed. He was just genuinely interested in this noise he was making, in showing us. But I realized that, whether he meant it or not, we had our first real are-we-his-friends-or-are-we-his-parents? decision to make. It was surprisingly tempting to go with the friend option. I mean, look at this face. How do you say no?

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But saying no, setting boundaries…those are part of a parent’s responsibility. So, in the end, we just couldn’t play. I’m happy that I got up to rock with him. It seemed like a good compromise. He was getting the message that it was time to sleep. But he was in my arms so he wasn’t being ignored. And as I swayed back and forth–his body tense, his eyes open–I told him that he is going to be a good discoverer, that figuring out new things is one of the coolest parts of being alive, and that we will always be interested in what he finds. Whether he found comfort in that, or is already bored with Dad’s philosophical ramblings, the tension in his body eased and his eyes closed. It would still be another 30 minutes before he went to sleep. But we both discovered something on a random Tuesday morning. I learned a little something about being a parent. And he learned how to make a cool noise with his tongue. Win freaking win.

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