I’ve spent the last two weeks obsessing over two things: Declan’s sleep training, and a new The Hold Steady album. Chances are, you haven’t heard of the band…or, if you have, you haven’t heard any of their songs…or, if you have, it’s because I put them on a CD for you in hopes of getting you to join my cult. The band has some loyal followers, no doubt. It’s just that I’m the only one among my friends and family. So when I come home and do a google search every night, looking for new interviews with the band or links to songs from the new album, there’s no one to geek out with.

There’s not much time for music, though. My soundtrack lately has mostly been white noise. We are (allegedly) training Declan to sleep. And part of that training is creating the right environment for his naps and nights.




So we put up blackout curtains in his room, and downloaded an hour-long white noise “song” (not whale sounds or rain on a Sunday afternoon or anything relaxing to us…just static-TV-style white noise) that we play whenever we are trying to get him to sleep. Which is better than the drivel they play on the country station, but that’s about it.


You see, for babies, sleep is all about blocking the outside world. Life is just so stimulating. So much to see, and all of it new. Sleep only happens in a bubble. A very dark bubble.



I spend a good chunk of my day in this darkened, noise-filled room. It’s a strange existence. We took the twin mattress in that room off the box springs and it’s laying in the middle of the room, next to the crib, like we’re in a college dorm or something. There are clothes strewn about–some dirty, some clean. Electronic devices of all sorts. Most of them, faulty in some way. Yesterday, there was a half empty beer bottle on the nightstand (consumed, in part, by Colleen when she was camped out in the room at 6:30 at night, not able yet to go to sleep but not able to leave the room, either, as part of this sleep training…so she just sat in the dark, huddled under the covers, drinking her beer and trying to hide the glow of her iPad from an easily stimulated child).



By daylight, we’re often dressed in sweatpants (for comfort) and hoodies (to combat the sleep training-mandated cold room temperature). We’ve been eating a lot of pizza this week. It’s seriously like going back to college. I remember sleepless nights being a lot more, um, exciting than this.


Being in that kind of environment almost all morning and night–and then reporting to a different kind of bubble (the TV newsroom) during the day–is really pretty draining. It’s not just the feeling of doing the same thing over and over again. It’s the worry that I’m spinning my wheels, not going anywhere. Declan seems to be making some progress on the sleep front. He’s putting together longer stretches in his crib. But what if there’s another regression? What if the next step in training sets us back again? What if we spend the rest of our lives eating pizza and living like college students? Wait a second… that actually doesn’t sound so bad.

Anyway, I think babies crave the bubble and adults always fantasize about getting out of it. We plot escapes from jobs and cities and responsibilities and people. We picture ourselves in different clothes.

And then, we return day after day…to the status quo, to our own little dark room. It’s insidious. We get older and more stuck in our ways. We block out new experiences, new ways of thinking, new technologies and social shifts. We hold steady. And not always in a good way.


There’s a song by the band that goes “certain songs, they get so scratched into our souls” and another song that goes “we had some massive nights/we had some crushing lows” and a third that says “we were wasps with new wings/now we’re bugs in the jar.” And then there’s the the new one that advises “the nights go on forever now but the mornings come up quick/you gotta loosen your grip.” And I guess those are the thoughts that run through my mind in the dark of our baby bubble.