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By Dr. Tina Lepage Dr. Tina Lepage is the owner of Lepage Associates Solution-Based Psychological & Psychiatric Services, a group practice in S. Durham/RTP. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

Parenting Page: Pretending To Be Asleep (And Other Avoidance Tactics)

By Dr. Tina Lepage Posted May 9, 2014 at 6:00 am

This is a parenting page, about parenting Page. I am a child psychologist and a mother. So I specialize in children, yet I am human, thus I am full of knowledge and yet as full of emotions as any other parent. So I decided to write this Parenting Page since it might be informative and funny for others to take an insider look at a child specialist raising her child. I also wanted to create a way to show Page when she grows up, if she chooses to have children, a real-life view of the experience. I hope you enjoy these stories and musings.

If you’re a parent, you know you’ve done it. Oh, you’ve done it many times over many years, most likely. You have shamelessly pretended to be asleep so either 1) your spouse would go tend to the child, or 2) your child would go away and leave you alone. Breathe easy; you are not alone. We spend endless hours, often over many years, dreaming and talking about how wonderful life will be once we have children… then we spend much energy trying to avoid childcare.

What does it say about you that you are willing to let your spouse go tend to a crying baby in the middle of the night or to a wide-awake young child at 5:45am? That you are willing to let a child toddle back to their bed or playroom alone in the morning? Oh, it doesn’t say anything bad about your character. You’re just tired. Sometimes even utterly exhausted.

I was quickly adept at the skill of pretending to be asleep and allowing Peter to tend to Page, but I had to be tutored by another more experienced mother on the finer art of ignoring your own child. See, I had decided it was important that Page always see a smile when she came to wake us in the morning. As soon as Page could get out of bed on her own and come to our room, she would come in with that alertness only a young child can muster so early in the day, and shake me to wake me up. Groggy and wishing for more sleep, I would nonetheless look at her and smile. Thus I was surprised to hear a mom with more kids and parenting years under her belt than me say when her kids come to her in the morning, she responds as a She-Devil. What?! Oh, it’s the only system for sleep and sanity, she explained. As each of her children reached that stage of going to wake parents, she would grumpily shoo them away, resulting in them going and waking her husband. And her going back to sleep. I worried about her being less-than-inviting of the children, but she was pretty sure they hadn’t experienced any substantial or long-term trauma at being told to go away, and it was understood in her home over time that daddy was the “morning person,” not mommy. Apparently us psychologists worry about trauma way too much, and I could get more sleep than I had been getting for many years.

Alas, I couldn’t quite do it. At least not when Page was young. It was impossible not to smile at her youthful morning exuberance. Though, truth be told, as she got into late elementary school I did master the fine art of nicely (but firmly) saying, “Go away and let mommy sleep.” I think the Universe will forgive me.

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