Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How Wrong I Was

I am writing this post from my iPhone. This is not the easiest way to write a blog post, but I am doing so because I am trapped under my sleeping 6 year old. Trapped in his bedroom, lying on his bed, with his little body planted squarely on top of me, his arms extending on either side of him and wrapped loosely around me. I was lying next to him at bedtime and mentioned that I would be leaving soon. He then crawled on top of me to prevent my departure and fell asleep about three minutes later. I can extract myself, and will... shortly. For now, I am lying here, soaking in the moment, and contemplating how very differently my pre-mom self would have viewed my current predicament.

We all change when we have kids. We all think we know exactly what kind of parent we'll be. In many ways, I actually am that parent my pre-child self envisioned. But in many other ways, I am not. Pre-child me would probably have seen this, my being trapped under my sleeping child, as a sign that I had caved, given in to the pressures of parenting and a failure to live up to my own standards. Not entirely inaccurate, but there's more to it.

I remember when pre-child me was talking to a mother about her young child's bedtime routine. The parents had moved a twin bed into the child's room because they inevitably ended up lying with the child in his room until he fell asleep. The twin bed was just for the parents. This, swore pre-child me, would NEVER be me. A child is capable of falling asleep on their own and it is a disservice to the child to not teach him to do so. Also, what are the implications to your child's view of the world when you move furniture and modify your own evening schedule to accommodate their wishes. 

This is the ideal of parenting I held when my first child was born. Thus, he was able to sleep through the night at 8 months. We put him in his crib, he cried briefly, then fell asleep. He was a great sleeper and a very happy baby. When he eventually learned to get out of his bed on his own, he quickly learned that he was to stay in his own bedroom until we came in to get him at 7. By the time he was 3, I was sure I had the child sleeping thing nailed.

And then I had my second child and things changed. No, it was not the added draw of my time, juggling two children, or the plain old exhaustion that changed me. It was seeing that tiny baby and realizing that my nearly four year had grown so very much and so quickly. It made me realize with starker focus, that time wasn't just flying by, it was racing. And suddenly my view of parenting changed dramatically. 

My 4 year old would wake in the middle of the night and want to sleep in our bed, and instead of thinking "it's really best for him if he sleeps in his own bed," I instead could only see my sweet child and the fact that I really only had a few more years left when he'd even WANT to sleep with me. My child was asking to lie next to me in bed, put his arms around me, and feel safe and comfortable and loved. How had I ever viewed this as unhealthy for him? I'm a grown up and I'm much more comfortable sleeping next to my husband than sleeping all alone. Of course my child feels the same way! So now I not only "let" him join us in bed, I embrace the occasions. For this time will be so brief, I intend to take every opportunity I can to ensure that my sons feel all the love I can give them.

Go ahead, pre-child me, roll your eyes. I've "given in" to the idea of a "family bed." But I'll take an occasional night of less than restful sleep (as I'm kicked and slept on), because every time he wakes me up, I use it as an extra opportunity to wrap my arms around him savor these moments. Because eventually he will become.... a teenager.