I have a three year old daughter whom I adore. More than adore. I “there is no word for how all encompassing my love is for her” her.
She apparently totally loves me, too, right now. I know this because she needs me to sit with her three different times every night before she will fall asleep.
Let me set the scene for you:
It’s 8:00pm. Teeth brushing, hair washing, potty going, pajama changing, lotioning and hair brushing have begun.
Story time with daddy begins at 8:30pm while I throw in a load of laundry and wash my face.
9:00pm we head into our daughter’s bedroom. We start her night music, turn on the white noise machine and dim the lights.
Her and I snuggle up in her rocking chair while my husband says good-night and makes his exit for the evening.
Sounds cozy, doesn’t it?
Her and I talk and sing. We say our prayers and hug and kiss. I give her back tickles and caress her hair.
After about 10 minutes I give her a big hug and put her in her crib. I tuck her in, sit in the rocker one more time as demanded by my toddler, and then sneak out.
I find my hubby comfortable on the couch, saving a spot for me as we settle in for the night around 9:20pm.
Twenty minutes later I hear her.
“Mommy! Mommy!!!! MOMMY!!!!!!!!!”
I calmly walk up, as I’m expecting this, and ask what she needs. The answer varies from “I need to poop” to “I need to check something” to “I have a hangnail” to “I peed in my diaper” to “what were you doing?”
I solve the problem at hand and sit with her ten more minutes. I tell her “this is the last time, honey” and tuck her in again. I then head back downstairs.
Ten minutes later I am being beckoned again.
I told my husband before walking up the third time that I would not sit with her. I said I would tuck her in but that we couldn’t continue this pattern. It’s been going on about three weeks now since we changed her room, and it’s time she figured things out for herself.
My husband and I are not overly lenient parents. We happily say “no” as needed, and utilize time outs as appropriate. We teach our daughter boundaries, manners, right from wrong and social etiquette. I know that being a parent means some uncomfortable moments, and that doing the best for your child isn’t always easy. I figured this was one of those times.
I walk in feeling all strong and sure. I leaned close as she stood at the edge of her crib.
She then put both of her hands on my cheeks and said quietly, “Mommy, I just want to sit with you.”
And I heard myself say, “Ok, my love”.
I would guess all of the sleep training books and child experts would tell me I need to set boundaries here. I need to tell her she should put herself to sleep. I need to say “No honey, I already said that was the last time” and walk out without sitting.
That I’m enabling her.
I’m helping to create bad habits.
I decided last night that I’m ok with that.
I have my daughter here in my house for only a few short years. She is three and I already feel the pull of the outside world on her. I see the joy on her face when she gets to go to school. I feel her excitement when she talks of “being older”. I hear the words “all by myself” all too often.
Why in the world would I say “no” when all I want is to snuggle and hold her close?
I don’t know anything about sleep training. We tried to let our daughter “cry it out” once when she was about five months old and it was HORRIBLE. We stood in the hallway trying to convince each other we were doing the right thing, when everything about it felt wrong. We finally ran in and decided that method just wouldn’t work for us. Praise be to those who can, but I am just not strong enough.
We have found things that work for us, and we have tried things that absolutely did not work. We have had nights of amazing sleep, broken up by nights of horrific sleep.
We have fallen into wonderful patterns, only to be interrupted by phases of her ABSOLUTELY needing to check her bookshelf just ONE MORE TIME for ONE SPECIFIC BOOK…at 11:00pm.
I think it’s just what we sign up for when we have kids.
I used to think that sleep would come after breastfeeding. Then after potty training. Then after preschool.
Now I kind of think it will never come. At least not the way it used to.
I have a child in the next room I would do anything for. I have fears I didn’t used to have that I can’t even give words to because they would be the end of me. I have priorities and dreams and hopes so much bigger than anything I knew before. I have late nights coming in my future when I am waiting for her to make curfew, wondering if she’s ok, praying she made good choices.
Sleep training is just about making it through. Loving on your kids, laughing with your spouse, making a large coffee the morning after a sleepless night. Falling asleep at night peaceful because, while you may not have followed the expert’s advice, you followed your heart.
Your mama heart, fierce and strong.
And sleep deprived.
Here is to all of you who doubt what you are doing as a parent. Who wonder about dream feeds and leaps and developmental milestones and night-lights or no night-lights and co-sleeping and crying and everything in between.
I don’t know the answers, and I don’t know if anyone really does.
Just LOVE on your babies and go to sleep with a happy heart. If you do that, you are doing a good job.
I promise to walk into her bedroom every single time I hear the call “Mommy”. Now, in one year, in ten years or in twenty years.
When she calls and says, “Mommy, I just want to sit with you”, I will be there.