Two nights ago as I laid down to put Matty to bed (AKA went to bed in Matty’s bed) I was crabby as could be and at about the 25th minute of lying there being kicked and rolled over and bossed around I hit my breaking point. Some nights are just like that but last night was different. In that moment of fragility I imagined having to put Matty to bed like this at the age of 13 and I was suddenly enraged with my parenting (or lack of in this instance). We lay down with Matty and put him to sleep out of habit – a habit that started when he was a teeny tiny and has only continued because it was convenient – for us. It was one of those parenting compromises. You know, the type of compromises you don’t realize you’re making when you’re making them. They’re the things we do for our sanity despite what we’ve read in the parenting magazines or that thing our pediatrician told us or the outcome of all those studies.
We still go to bed with Matty because he’s a snuggler and he likes it and it’s easy. When he was born, there was only one of him. And when there was only one of him, he was our everything. And back then going to bed with him meant going to our bed, the three of us, reading stories to him and snuggling until he peacefully fell asleep – pushed up against us, cute as can be, the warm baby smell just encapsulating that space between us. Back then it was a 20 minute process, tops! And it was glorious (an understatement by far). I could have watched that child sleep for days at a time and never get bored. Every parent knows the exhilarating feeling of that peaceful, exhausted, grateful moment at the end of the day when your kid finally falls asleep. It’s the single most rewarding moment in parenthood – you’ve both survived another day and you’re more in love than you were the day before. UGH, I MISS THOSE DAYS.
When we found out Matty wasn’t going to be the only one anymore, we held onto that family-of-three feeling as long as we could. We planned endless activities, we took him everywhere, gave him experience after experience. We really juiced that baby until we just couldn’t anymore (pun intended?). We snuggled and snuggled and snuggled – we just moved the snuggling to another room, his room. We had every intention of getting him to go to sleep on his own. We really honestly did. But it was hard because while we wanted to and needed to, we didn’t really want to. And then when Abbott came, we turned a blind eye for our sanity. Sleep training Matty wouldn’t just be hard – it would be too much. To sleep train Matty, we’d have to run the risk of his bedtime screams and arguments waking up the baby and anybody with a brain knows you NEVER wake up the baby. Sleep training Matty would also mean we wouldn’t be able to just go to bed when Matty did. We’d probably have to take turns walking Matty back into his room over and over and over when all we really wanted – NEEDED – to do was sleep for more than two hours at a time (PLEASE GOD).
But we don’t have a baby anymore (as I’ve been informed Abbott is now a toddler – WUT?) and the bedtime routine has only gotten rougher by the night. We read a book, we shut the light off, we snuggle up in his bed and then all bets are off. It could be 30 minutes, it could be an hour and 30 minutes, it could be longer before Matty finally falls asleep. All because of a compromise Seth and I made without even really realizing it. And coming to this realization has brought light to a bunch of other compromises we’ve made – potty training, bath time, hair cuts, cleaning, chores charts, home repairs, pacifier habits, night time bottles. The list of compromises we’ve made goes on and on. I make compromises with myself every day in order to just get by with a little sanity; in some case I’m 100% aware of it, in other cases I turn a blind eye because I’m simply not ready or properly equipped to take care of it and in the rest of the cases I have no idea I’ve even made a deal with myself (I think this is probably mom-preservation at it’s finest and most clever). And maybe I won’t notice them until I’ve outgrown them or I’m ready, just like the bedtime routine that we’ve outgrown (or that has maybe outgrown us).
So, last night the bedtime routine changed. Seth read Matty a story, tucked him in, surrounded him with 17 stuffed animals (aka friends), explained to him that we would always be just across the hall and encouraged him to talk to his new “friends” if he got scared or lonely because this was new for them, too. SWOON, I know. Matty asked a lot of questions, begged to come to bed with us and asked if he could keep the light on. I listened to the two of them from our room and sobbed like a small child. When Seth walked into our room, his eyes were filled with tears, too. I guess neither of us expected something that seemed so awesome to be so hard.
Matty cried a few times and each time Seth would go and comfort him. After the third time, I started to have second thoughts. “He’s probably lonely in there. This is weird. It’s like a weird cutting of the cord or something. That poor buddy. He’s all alone in that big bed.” Seth said we need to be stronger and politely asked me to stop talking. We laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the next whimper but nothing happened. Matty had fallen asleep. On his own. In his own bed. And just like that we were down one compromise.
We have a big boy on our hands and there’s no going back now. And while I’m super proud of us and him, I’m not going to lie, it feels sort of like he’s graduated high school and will never be the same person but that’s probably because I’m an emotional basket case and hate the idea of my kids not needing us for everything. AND I’M SOBBING AGAIN. One day you can’t wait for your kids to be grown up and out of the house, the next day snuggling them to sleep forever doesn’t seem like such a creepy idea (but, yes, I realize that is creepy).
I’m finally starting to believe this parenting thing really never will get any easier. And that maybe Seth should handle all of these “toughies” because I’m just a wreck of a person. And maybe that’s why we make all of these compromises – because we’ve got to make it through somehow – and making a deal with myself sure sounds a lot better than making a deal with the devil.