Both of my children were pretty unremarkable when it came to their sleep schedules, both as infants and toddlers. That said, my kids' sleep schedules almost destroyed me. Getting up every two hours is very normal for an infant who can sleep literally whenever they want, but it is the worst for an adult who has to get up and spend the day being productive. The only solution is sleep training, and that's a nightmare. Actually, having a nightmare means you at least get to sleep. Sleep training is a horror movie.
I'm not here to tell you when or how to sleep train your child. There are lots of different methods and you have to figure out what's going to work best for you and your family. But, in my opinion and no matter how you do it, it's going to be a horrifying experience. I'm sorry. I know this isn't encouraging, but I can't lie to you! I'm too pure of heart! There's just no easy or particularly non-terrible way around the horror that will befall you if you're going to go about the painstaking work of sleep training your cherub.
And even skipping sleep training means you're going to have to put up with really, really crappy sleep (which, again, isn't crappy for a kid but is hardly ideal for you). But, like the plucky but virginal heroine in any slasher franchise, you can and will get through this! I just, you know, wasn't joking about the fact that this is going to be a horror movie, and in the following way:
Sleep Deprivation Distorts Your Perception Of Reality
Sleep deprivation can seriously mess with your perception and sense of reality, and to the point that everything takes on a kind of horror movie filter. This one time, actually long before sleep training, I was so exhausted that as I held my son he made a face that convinced me, for a split second, that he was possessed by a demon.
I don't believe in demons, like, at all, much less in the idea that my son would be possessed by one, but that's where I was at in my life at that moment.
You Dread Nightfall
Because the gathering dark means you have to start yet another night of grueling, emotionally exhausting, often devastating work with a kid who wants absolutely none of it. You can avoid it during the day, sure, but as night approaches you know it's coming and there's nothing you can do to stop it, not even if you have a nuclear-powered DeLorean.
Everyone Is Screaming
I'm scream-sobbing and the kid is screaming, sometimes in anger, sometimes in sadness, and sometimes, I'm sure, just to mess with me. The cat doesn't know WTF is going on in is just standing there meowing loudly like a jerk, keeping my child awake.
Point is, everyone is losing their sh*t.
Every Little Sound Has You On Edge
Once your child has settled down (at least for the moment) you're relieved, yes, but you know this relief is precariously balanced and that the slightest creak of a floor board or rustle of paper can send it all crashing down around you and you're back to square one.
You Wake Up With A Child Inexplicably Looming Over You
If you're sleep training your child when they are still in a crib and unable to climb out, you may be able to avoid this. If you're sleep training them when they're in a big kid bed (or if they're like my oldest and a preternaturally good climber) then this will happen to you and it will be awful.
Let me paint you a picture: you're sleeping soundly (at long last) when, all of a sudden, you open your eyes and, standing there in the darkness or crouched on the foot of your bed, is a silent child. Just... staring.
Point is, if you're particularly frightened by J-horror imagines of quiet, skulking demon children, sleep training is going to be rough.
Whenever You Think They're Down For The Count They Pop Back Up
You know how in a lot of horror movies, the villain always seems like they've been defeated but OMG NOPE HE'S RIGHT BEHIND YOU! RUN, GIRL! RUN!
Kids who are being sleep trained are like that. You think they're asleep and you go to check when all of a sudden, BAM! Eyes awake. Sitting up. Smiling at you in mockery. Or screaming (they sure do love screaming). Michael Myers has nothing on these kids.
There Are Definitely Supernatural Forces At Play
There's no other way to explain your child's boundless stores of energy and persistence. HOW ARE YOU NOT SLEEPING?! TELL ME YOUR NAME, SPIRIT! GO TO SLEEP!
They Seem Unstoppable
OMG when did they get so damn strong? How are they legitimately putting up a fight right now? This is creepy.
You're Convinced You're Not Going To Make It
In the darkest hours of sleep training, it is very easy to believe that this is just the rest of your life. You will never not be in this state of sad, frustrated, angry, guilty, exhausted, panicked desperation. But, eventually, morning comes. Your day may suck after not getting more than a few winks of sleep, but at least you're not actively dealing with trying to get your child to lie down and stay down... at least not until bed time again.
Eventually, It Ends
It may feel like it will always be a challenge. It may take days, weeks, months, or, in extraordinary cases, years, but you will eventually get to a point where you're not struggling to get your child to go to sleep or stay asleep and in bed. It will happen.
There's Often A Really Awful Sequel
So, about that whole "it gets better" thing, it does. But that's not to say that sleep training is something you do once and you're done. Your kids' bodies and brains are constantly growing and changing, which means that they very well may go through stages where they get up in the middle of the night or have difficulty falling asleep and you're going to have to go back to the drawing board. Fortunately, those phases tend not to last too long and, hey, this time you're better prepared to deal with it.
And statistically speaking, if you lived through the original you're going to make it through the sequel.