15.3.08

A Goodnight Story

Let me tell you how it was the work of Titans to get our baby, now a toddler, to sleep on his own. From his crib into our bed and from there to sleeping by himself, the journey was an odyssey. Our son was not like those good sleepers we jealously heard other parents boast about. During his first two years of life, he never once settled into a sleeping routine. Overcoming the nights, and they were an ordeal, required many sleep-drunken trips to soothe him in his crib and involved bringing him constantly into our bed. That giving in was the undiluted surrender of exhaustion. There were nights I felt like I would rub a hole through that tiny back of his, a soothing caress he would accept like a tribute to ease him back into his intermittent sleep. Just writing about it, reminds me of the delicious torment or perhaps I should say, the tormenting deliciousness of being the parent of one beautiful, but sleepless baby. The husband and I looked like non-salvageable wrecks by the end of our first year into parenthood.

The second year we girded our loins. We read some books and tried a method that made me personally feel (the husband was a bit more dispassionate) like I should have been shot for motherly negligence. Namely, we let the kid cry his little. eyes. out, while my husband held me scissor-like down on the bed and my own tears ran lava-hot to the tune of my kid's misery. It was sheer torture to not go to him but eventually, he hiccuped and sniffed his way into a restless slumber of sorts and for some weeks toward the middle of his second year, we found ourselves settling into a resigned cycle of separate sleeping. This change brought our nightly waking-up episodes down to a more manageable level.

Now, I know what you are thinking... What? he still woke up? The answer to your question is: Yes, he did. And yet, by comparison to what it had been like before, our new routine was relative bliss.

Then
, I had a simply BRILLIANT idea. I purchased a toddler bed. My husband objected initially to the buy. Why? he asked, and pointing out the obvious he showed me the three perfectly beautiful and empty beds we have in our home. Our child could have claimed any one of them as his own my husband said but, I was set on my course. That convinced I was that he would more readily transition out of his crib if we put him into a bed that was made just for his size. And though I'll admit that I was the victim of motherly psychobabble, it turned out my hunch was right. Our kid (then nearly 3), loved his small bed and ooohd and aahhd over it and next thing you know, we were being dragged by the hand to revel in story-time readings, tear-less kisses and tired good nights mumbled under the muted glow of a night light, blessed Morpheus shuttering those delicate eyelids of his in needful sleep.

The husband and I broke out the champagne. It was simply miraculous. We felt like convicts who had managed a great escape. Our kid was finally sleeping. The mornings seemed brighter, our gazes less dulled and having our coffee, became again a ritual of early day enjoyment rather than a shock-to-the-system kind of necessity.

So now we are into the beginning of the chatty threes and this story is almost full told. My child had grown surely into nightly independence or so it seemed until about a month ago, when the husband and I looked upon our sleeping boy, so sweet, so quiet, it was impossible to resist the urge to enjoy him more in his slumbering state. We scooped him up and took him into our bed.

Yes, yes, I know what your disbelieving eyes are reading and can now hear what your lips are mouthing at me. I would say that I wish I could have heard you then but, that would be a lie. The disingenuous part of me thought that the following night we could go back to the hard won status quo but I intrinsically knew there would probably be no turning back. We unraveled what we had tied, disrupted what we had established, broken that unspoken tenet of toddler sleeping no-no's and we did it knowingly.

What can I say? It felt wonderful to have that warm little body cuddled into us on the bed. A pint-sized pair of arms reaching to hold me close so that I could not escape him, even in his sleep. Many times, I awoke that first night, as painfully aware of the impermanent quality of this time we share with our son as I was also of his flailing arms and kicking feet. This, is what possessed us: The vision of a baby grown into manhood, the fear of perhaps not having another child to repeat this sweetness with; a desire to slow an unstoppable process - his growing up.

It won't go on for much longer. A few years perhaps but someday soon, he won't wish to sleep with us anymore. I've made my peace with giving up my peaceful night's rest to enjoy what is left of this. I will have a lifetime for sleeping, but my little boy will not last me that long.

16 comments:

  1. Isn't it wonderful to sleep with them! They get you round the neck and hold you under their arms like a teddy bear. They shift and open their eyes momentarily, just checking you're there without even waking up. Bliss. I co-slept. I breast-fed them to sleep lying down in bed. They chose their own routines. We broke all the rules, but it all came out in the wash and now my two both sleep 12 hours a night in their own beds with the lights off. Sometimes I miss them and then we do naps on the sofa. I hope I'll never forget that little animal they once were, though, snuffling up to me in the dark of the night.

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  2. Milena,
    You could - ought to? - submit this somewhere. Beautifully written.
    Our kids were wretched sleepers. I remember my gut reaction each time a friend would gleefully announce their success conceiving: I would be hit with a wave of fatigue and wonder, "do they really have a clue about what they're getting into?"
    Later, I learned that I weaseled my way into bed with my folks past an appropriate age. The Dr. my mom worked for laughed at her concern and said, "When he starts school he'll stop." He was right. I scarcely remember it, but I never did get the little brother I wanted.

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  3. I totally understand. The little princess and I took a nap together today. It had been a long time since we curled up in bed together. I absolutely LOVE it. I love waking up and seeing her little face and right beyond it my husband's face. Precious is the only word.

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  4. My sleep is so twisted and arduous that adding anyone else to the mix is just unthinkable. When a child wanders into our bed I am profoundly unhappy. Having said that, I'm with Ron. This was a lovely post that makes me understand why someone else might want to sleep with the kicking feet and the balled up fists in the small of the back.

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  5. Louise: It is just as you describe. My son has a built in radar that catches my body trying to smuggle itself out of bed. Over time, I've had to learn a couple of ninja techniques to compensate for that but I wouldn't change it anymore. For the most part it IS UTTER BLISS.

    Ron: Coming from you, this vote of confidence means the world. Thankyou. I'm glad you liked it.

    Jane: It was the little face that sunk me. I love waking to see it by my own. The sweetness of it is almost unbearable even if the kid does snore.

    Cce: I told Ron that his praise meant the world to me. Without taking anything away from that, I will now tell you that yours in particular, means the universe. Thanks.

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  6. I enjoy your style of writing. I could imagine every movement and sound. I never had any problem with my boys sleeping with us in the beginning. Before I knew it, they left on their own and wanted nothing to do with our bed!

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  7. That was me -- http://leavesofgrace.blogspot.com
    I didn't mean my comment to be anonymous but being technologically challenged, I don't know what I might have clicked that sent it rocketing to cyberspace. (Grace D. Chong)

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  8. What a beautiful piece... love it.

    It makes me crazy to have our daughter in our bed but she is very affectionate and wants hugs all day long so by nightfall, I am good.

    But I think it's sweet that you want him close to you. These kids grow up way to fast so you have to do what feels right at the time and cherish every moment.

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  9. I second what Ron wrote. This is so beautifully written.

    Our babies grow up all too quickly. They do leave us to sleep in their own beds, head out in our cars with their newly acquired licenses, go off to college in another state, marry and start a family on the opposite coast... It does happen. So you should have no guilt in soaking in every last moment of your baby while he will allow it...

    Enjoy your beautiful little boy.

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  10. This post made me so sad!!! As much as I loved childhood, I love my child's childhood more, and it has just begun. I wish I could freezeframe moments, hours, days - and like you, nighttime. :)

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  11. Hi M,

    I was just checking to get my weekly fix of Leaping Thought Wednesday....has it been permanently moved to Thursdays?

    I have to of course agree with everyone else...this post is beautiful, especially as it reminds all of us of those precious memories of our own childhoods spent sneaking into our parents bed for a snuggle and if we could just pretend to be asleep long enough, maybe they wouldn't carry us back to our own. You're right, enjoy it as long as you can!

    -Suz.

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  12. Thanks for stopping in today to give me a much needed boost. You're always so measured and precise and emphatic with your on-line thoughts. I needed to hear you today. I'm glad you are there for me. Keep your fingers crossed that I'll get my writing mind sorted out soon.

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  13. If you don't submit this somewhere, I think the whole band of your admirers will protest. This was beautiful. So lovely.

    I have a hard time sleeping with my girl, since it's like having a race horse in bed with me, but I do love the snuggling part. It's sweet stuff.

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  14. Grace: Thank you so much for stopping by. I visited your blog also. Would love to get a hold of one of your children's books for my little boy. How can I get one?

    Mama Bird: Yes I do want him close. I just had to make my peace with it. I think I finally have. I'm so glad you liked it.

    Melissa: Thanks for stopping by also. Your words made me even more melancholy though in a nice way.

    Lulu: So do I. Believe me, so do I.

    Suzanne dear: I owe you. I owe you big time and I have not forgotten but this has been a crazy time and then you changed the name of your blog on me. I'm also sorry I'm depriving you of the Wednesday fix. Too many things to do including Wael. He was in Houston also and we spent some time with him. Has now gone back to Baku. Promise to try for a good post on the next leaping thought Wednesday. Don't give up on me.

    Cce: If I sound measured with you in particular it is because you bring out the best and most precise in me. That's a good thing. I admire you so. You probably have no idea. I do mean every word and if something I said to you has helped then I am more than glad. I'm crossing my toes as we speak. The hand fingers have been crossed since a long time ago. I've also started praying and if you knew the half of my religious hangups then you'd have some idea of how much I'm rooting for you.

    Jennifer: thank you ever so much for the wonderful feeling you've given me by your sweet compliment. I wouldn't know where to submit it quite frankly. You really think it is that good? Am preening, preening, thanks to you.

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  15. That's a grand story. You bring to my mind memories from over 30 years ago. I shall try (but fail) to repress the one of the time(s) I awoke falling out of bed as my toddler son made room for himself between my (now ex-) wife and me.

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  16. Half-Past Kissin' TimeJuly 2, 2008 at 4:42 PM

    So, basically, you're saying that you put your own needs ahead of his, hmmm? Shame Shame!! (But we've all done it! It's impossible to resist that kind of cuddly, unconditional love and snuggling.

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