That kid right there, he started out as a 12 hour a night sleeper. Does he sleep through the night? people would ask me. Yes! I could say, without lying. Well, without telling untruths, that is, because I was definitely lying. Next to him. All night. And all morning. Because that kid, right there, he slept from midnight until noon as long as he had a bosom for a pillow. Well-meaning folks suggested that I try waiting until he was deeply asleep, then rolling away from him to go about my day. As though I hadn't tried that. Have you ever forcibly waited until noon to get out of bed? If you had, you'd know that the urge to pee strikes around 9:30 and that scenario probably doesn't need further explanation.
He woke up if I even thought too hard about scootching over, and it went double for naps. The penalty for my ambition was always the same: an underslept baby with one target for his displeasure. Me. so, I got a Kindle and went with it. I was so well-read back then, you guys.
He slept in the sling, with his papa, too. That was nice. On weekends, I got a break from lying down with him (Let us pause for a moment, parents of more than one, to laugh and laugh.
Hoo boy! Yeah. Okay. Anyway.) and that continued until he was well over a year old. At fifteen months or so, he nightweaned and moved into a crib, a change prompted by his obvious need for more personal space at night. His kicking and flailing were keeping everyone, himself included, awake, and the crib gave him boundaries he seemed to enjoy, coupled with room to move and make sheet angels. But getting him to sleep at night was HARD. I'd nurse him and hand him over to Nathan, who put in one to two hours per night sitting next to the crib, singing and humming, shooshing and patting. And naptime? I, pregnant and afflicted with a bad case of the breastfeeding heebie jeebies, was unable to nap-nurse like we'd always done. So Nathan dashed home on his lunch break and made a nap happen, then drove back to work, rarely having eaten.
George was elated to receive a hand-me-down toddler bed, but fell out of it a few times, so we reverted to the crib. It started feeling a little desperate, like this particular toddler was going to need this papa-led patting and shooshing routine well into grade school. Nathan and I had no evening time to ourselves, the lunchtime dash was kind of ridiculous, and, more than once, we both wondered aloud if this level of attention was counterproductive. We knew families who "Ferberized" their kids, and if Facebook and casual conversation were to be believed, their evenings were full of primetime television shows and cocktails. In short, they seemed to be having a lot more fun than we were. But, we persisted, because being unresponsive to our son's expressed needs felt like the wrong thing to do.
The funny thing about raising kids is that things gradually get better and sometimes you don't notice. I couldn't tell you the date of George's last dirty diaper (because that would be pathetic, a little), and I don't know exactly when he stopped throwing all of his food on the floor. Similarly, the sleep routine got shorter and shorter until we decided to try something new.
For the past month, I've been putting George to bed. We do "stories and nummas" -- books and a nurse -- and then he lies down. I turn off the light and we talk about his day. I sing Moon River and Take Me Out To The Ballgame, really slow, as per his request. And then, I leave. I leave him there, blinking at me in the hallway light, saying no, I love YOU! And I shut the door. And he goes to sleep.
I never thought we'd get here. Or, rather, I knew we would, but it seemed a far-off fantasy like I'd imagine when he was a baby. The patter of jammy feet on wood floors, the eating of grilled cheese and soup on blustery days: these feel like distant, hazy idyls to the mother of a six month old. What I'm most proud of, besides his accomplishments as an independent sleeper, is that we got here by honoring his needs, his wishes. We kept him feeling safe, and in that feeling of safety, he grew into what we hoped he would, what we needed. I sometimes miss the feeling of lying there next to his baby body, devouring a novel while he snored, looking down to see his eyelids flutter open that gummy good morning smile. But another funny thing about raising kids is that there's always a next thing, another thing to love. And that retort? No, I love YOU, mama. God, is it good.