Does practice really make perfect?

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“Practice makes perfect”

That’s the first phrase that comes to mind when I think of the word practice. But does practice really make perfect? I can’t help but be struck by the dichotomy of my life right now with respect to this small yet powerful word.

Just this past Memorial Day weekend I taught my almost 4 year old how to ride his new bicycle (with training wheels). And with only about 3 days practice, he rode it for 2 miles with very few breaks at a park my family periodically goes to.

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We also practiced passing a tennis ball back and forth like a hockey puck. When it comes to sports he’s a sponge. He wants to play everything (i.e., basketball, soccer, gymnastics…). While at another park a few days ago, I was tossing a tennis ball to him, so he could practice hitting it with his tennis racket. He missed a couple tosses, sat down, pouted, and said that he couldn’t do it—remember he’ll be 4 in three weeks.

I sat down next to him and told him that it was okay. That’s why we are hitting the ball back and forth…to practice so we can get better. I then told him how awesome he already was at tennis and that it’s okay to miss a few balls. In fact, he actually blows me away. I considered myself an athlete and I was never as good as he is at any sport at such a young age. With everything that he’s overcome in life already being a congenital diaphragmatic hernia survivor, I have no words for how proud I am.

Every day after work as soon as I get home, he wants to practice hockey, tennis, and riding his bicycle. It is definitely one of the best parts of my day.
However, there are things in life that you cannot practice for. Nothing prepares you for marriage. Not living with your significant other. Not your parent’s marriage. Nothing can prepare you for how your life changes when you get married.

Or having kids. No amount of caring for a pet or babysitting can prepare you for what it takes to raise a child. You pretty much have to learn as you go and make-up what you aren’t sure about (to some degree).

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Case in point, we have been having some issues with our 8 month old sleeping at night. He wakes up screaming some nights as if he is terrified of something. We thought at first it was pain from reflux, so we switched his medicine. That seemed to help a little. Then he started waking up again. So we tried a late night bottle which we know we shouldn’t be doing, but we figured that since he was drinking 2-4 ounces…he must actually be hungry. Plus we didn’t want him to wake up our older son with his screaming. Sometimes you just do what you have to even if you know it may not be the best decision in the short (or long) term.

Our son’s pediatrician is strongly encouraging us to sleep train our son. Letting him cry (or rather scream) for 15-20 minutes did seem to help for a few days. Then Memorial Day night comes along and he wakes up again around 11 pm screaming bloody murder. I watch him in the monitor intending to let him cry for another 15-20 minutes. 11:01….11:02….11:05…11:10 (still screaming) 11:15….11:20 (practically hyperventilating at this point). I go up to his room, rub his back and tummy and try to calm him down without picking him up, but he’s still screaming and is just plain frantic. I say goodnight and that I love him and walk out as he continues screaming. 11:35, he’s still screaming, so I go back up to check his diaper and decide to change him. I figure that might disrupt him enough to make him stop screaming for a bit. Nope…did not help. I then did what we’re not supposed to do…I ran downstairs and got a bottle. It’s now around 11:45, so he’s been screaming more or less for almost 45 minutes. But he got quiet with a bottle and pounded a quick 2 ounces before pushing the bottle away.

He then grabbed a pacifier, and I hoped that was a enough for him to finally go back to sleep. I quietly slipped out and went back downstairs to watch him in the monitor. I could see his eyes blinking for a another 10 minutes or so, but he was quiet, calm. Then I finally saw him turn on to his side, and fall asleep.

There’s no way to practice or prepare yourself to let your child scream for 20 minutes (let alone 5 minutes). It’s painful and tests your very strength.
However, then I think back to my older son and remember that this too shall pass and it’s just a fleeting moment in time.

I cannot wait until my youngest is old enough to practice sports or whatever he wants to practice, so I can support him too. It’s almost sweeter and more fulfilling since you can’t practice this kind of thing.

Take care,




Neil Rubenstein has been married since 2003 to his wife, Amy. His CDH survivor (Aidan) was born in June 2010 after being diagnosed at 37 weeks. Aidan had surgery to repair his hernia when he was 4 days old. His surgeon discovered at that time that Aidan had no diaphragm at all, all his organs were in his chest (except for his liver), his heart had been pushed to the left side by his stomach. Even with all this, Aidan did not need ECMO and was only in the NICU for 29 days. Aidan had a follow-up procedure at 13 months old to close up an abdominal hernia that his surgeon created to give his organs room to grow once she moved them all back to their proper location in his abdomen.

While Neil and (his wife) Amy were still dating, they started Creative Celebrations, a children party planning and entertainment company. Neil has over 15 years experience in Integrated Marketing Communications and is currently looking for his next permanent role in the Chicago area.
Amy and Neil recently had their second child in September 2013. After spending 2 months in the NICU, Brody came home on an NG tube. Brody will need the same follow-up surgery as his big brother when he is 1 year old. Neil is the former CHERUBS Illinois (and Wisconsin) Rep and Co-Chair of the Parent Advisory Board. Neil recently created Help4CDH Families and is working towards nonprofit status to be able to continue to provide a forum for people affected by CDH to meet and support each other as well as to be able to provide financial support to CDH families in their time of need.

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