Not long ago (a couple months, maybe? I can’t remember) we moved our little Pickle into a toddler bed. It was a bittersweet move. I knew that not only was my little girl growing up, but that I was giving up my own precious moments each morning and each naptime. Up until then, I could leave her in there alone to play and entertain herself in her crib. Which she did most days. At least twenty minutes or more. Sometimes an hour. She was happy in her crib, and I was happy in my own little world. Moving to the toddler bed was a sacrifice for both of us.
Perhaps not coincidentally, around the same time we took away the security of her white-barred jail cell, she began growing increasingly wary of being away from me. She became afraid of loud noises. Alarmed by airplanes and thunder and something falling in the kitchen. In other words, she got clingy. I imagine it had something to do with her new independence. Being exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
So last week when we housesat at my husband’s parents house while they were out of town, I knew that special measures would have to be taken in order for my girl to fall asleep in the pack n play in a strange room in Grandmommy’s house without Grandmommy there. In the end, I found that it was faster and less painful for me to sit in the chair in her room until she fell asleep. Usually ten minutes or so.
Which means when we came home? You guessed it. I go all Supernanny on her every naptime and every bed time. I sit cross-legged on the floor with my back to her until her little eyes close, after which I sneak out and enjoy a blissful quiet. For at least an hour.
I know. You could criticize me for not ‘training’ her to put herself to sleep. You could tell me to let her cry it out. You could chastise me for making her too dependent on me being there when she goes to sleep.
Well, go ahead.
We’ve been through a whopping two and almost a half years with this little one. She has been a fabulous sleeper from day one. We went through a few different seasons with her. Sleep trained her at 9 months old, after which she always put herself to sleep. Only recently has she needed to cry herself to sleep. And in her new cling-to-mommy state, getting her calmed down at bedtime has gotten harder and harder. So we changed seasons. Again. I assure you, always have we done what we sensed was right for our little girl. Usually, when we attempted what everyone else was doing or what twenty magazines and blogs and emails were telling us to do, it failed miserably and we were all, well, miserable.
It only took about a week and a half for us to realize that having her come out of her room 4 times crying and me stopping whatever I was doing and going up in an increasingly frustrated state each time was not going to work. Bedtime took two hours instead of half. And no one was happy at the end of it except maybe her… because she’d finally wear herself to sleep. Meanwhile, I’d lost my evening and my sanity.
This, however…? This works for us. It adds 15 minutes or so to her bedtime, but we have learned to start bedtime earlier. I have learned to watch tired cues closer. She feels secure that I am present, even though I’m not looking at her, singing, talking or even facing her. And instead of all of us angry, frustrated or in tears, we are all rather content and restful by the end of the night.
But the best part is this.
For those many, many months where she put herself to sleep, we would go through our nighttime routine, I would lay her in her crib, tell her I loved her, Daddy loved her and Jesus loved her. Then I would walk out the door… and close it all the way. That meant, no peeking. No nighttime pictures. No watching her while she dreamed. The next time I saw her she was usually wide awake throwing toys over the side of the crib or laying with her feet propped up against the wall planning her day.
This new season, though? This is priceless. This is reminiscent of early days when she would fall asleep in my arms out of sheer exhaustion in the middle of the afternoon and I would just eat her up with my eyes and drown her in kisses. Now my big almost two and a half year old looks drowsily at me and gently closes her eyes while I am still in the room. And I get to sit there for as long as I want… peeking. Taking in those soft eyelids. The sweet fingers curled around her blanket. That perfect nose. Her beautiful feet always ALWAYS sticking out from under the covers… just like her daddy.
I may be doing it all wrong, but on days like today and nights like tonight. I really don’t care.
This season will pass and we will move on to yet another method of getting all of us to bed at night with minimal drama.
And these days may be gone forever.
So while I still can… I will peek. And I will eat her up. And I will cling to these priceless moments of childhood.