Actually, it’s just the one lie. The one that says you can make a child go to sleep. There is also the lie about making a child, especially a newborn, sleep through the night, but it all boils down to the same thing. You can’t. I know there are armies of people out there who would disagree, people who have gotten rich and gained godlike statuses and oodles of followers by creating and marketing their own unique sleep methods. Whatever they may be, they are still tricks, probably of the ways-to-break-a-child’s-will variety, and I suspect they are largely to give parents some illusion of control. If you’re a parent and you’re rather fond of that illusion then please feel free to tell me how wrong I am. I never get enough of hearing it.
When he’s a baby, you can lull him to sleep, usually with milk (breast milk did it for Jake) and, if you believe in that sort of thing, maybe a dummy (a dummy didn’t do it for Jake, we did try, Mummy was much better).
When he’s older, and especially when he’s a toddler approaching the Terrible Twos (now why couldn’t they have been lying about that?), you can ask, persuade, negotiate (ha!), bribe, cajole, beg, command (ha, ha, ha!), you can follow certain rituals, try to establish that thing called routine, you can attribute great power to a story, or songs or a certain teddy, but you cannot actually make him go to sleep.
He will sleep when he bloody well wants to. Even if it means he runs around the room, jumps on your pillow and therefore your head, asks for food he doesn’t really want, asks for a drink and then refuses it, tells you he’s done a poo when he hasn’t, bounces up and down on the mattress, opens and closes the door, tries keys in the lock, laughs at everything you say cos it’s all one big game, gets up and goes downstairs, and then screams for half an hour first. The good news is, if he does do all this in one go, say, over a two hour period, when he does finally decide he’s ready (and by decide I mean the moment he surrenders to fatigue), he’ll drop to his bed like a brick and be snoring within two minutes.
By then you’ll have lost your mind / nerves / will to live / all sense of joy, but it will finally be quiet so you can pray to whatever god / deity / good luck charm / favourite psychotherapist, living or dead (Carl Rogers is dead but he’s still totally non-judgemental), that the little bugger stays asleep long enough for you to get some of your sanity back. Just enough to get you through the day or night. Because asking for anything more is just jinxing it.
So it’s not your fault. It’s not something you’re doing or not doing. But you still have to try it all. Because, let’s face it, what else can you do? You still have to try even if it means losing your marbles for a few hours every day. Is this what being a parent is about? Not giving up? Finding the strength to go on, despite losing your marbles? Ask me when we’ve survived toddler hood.