Bedtime hasn’t aways been easy at my house. Truly, I wouldn’t even consider it “easy” now. We have our nights with many wake ups, stalling and crying over brushing teeth (I mean, how dare I try to do that dreaded task twice a day!) – I think it comes with the cards. The cards of parenting where there are always surprises and learning curves. Many, many learning curves if you’re anything like me. Although bedtime isn’t easy, I do consider it is treasured and worthwhile, a stepping stone, something that my children and I are growing in together.
Through Facebook and a number of other forums I seem to catch daily posts from desperate mamas begging for sleep tips. I get it. Sleep is important. For you, for daddy, for baby and siblings. Everyone needs sleep. On these posts, sometimes hundreds of mamas chime in with swaddling tips, ideas from their doctor (and doula and grandma and best friend’s sister’s niece), books to read and likes of solidarity. There is no doubt in my mind, we’re all in this sleep dilemma together.
What I rarely see though is a deep breath, some pause and perspective.
Our littles one were tucked tight in our womb for months. They were born into a bright and noisy world and encouraged to adapt to a 24 hour clock that all the grown ups see as normal. But for them, it’s not. They’re growing and hitting milestones at record speeds. The world is new and often frightening. For them, being close is comfortable and safe. For them, sleep is strange, sometimes scary and easily interrupted by their development.
But don’t babies need to learn to sleep?
Yes, of course. It’s another one of those skills they’ll grasp with our guidance. But all in good time. It’s not going to happen overnight. Or in a week. Or even three. It may take years for some. It may happen quickly for others. One child may catch on right away while another needs more and more and more from their mama or dad to make it through just a nap time let alone and entire 8 hours of darkness. If I’ve learned anything in my parenting days, it’s that every child is different. What has worked for my daughter doesn’t even phase my son. Sleep has been a brand new journey with each of them.
I’ve always hoped and prayed that my kids would love sleep. That their rooms would be a safe haven, a comfortable place, their earth side womb. By two and half my daughter had embraced her space. She adored her bed and her nighttime routine. Now at four, she often races towards bed, arranges her stuffed animals and snuggles in for prayers and her chosen lullaby CD. Then lights out and she’s sound asleep until morning. She’s a dream, literally! My son though, who is two and a half now, is far from where is sister was at that age. He prefers to snuggle and nurse to sleep. I hold him and sing for a good 20-30 minutes before he drifts off each night. And just last month we hit a stride of him actually sleeping through the night – usually snuggled up to my husband or I, but still … no nighttime waking! It feels miraculous.
See? They’re night and day. And I’ve had my moments of frustration getting to where we are, I promise! And I am sure there are more to come. In the end though, I’ve decided to let go of the bedtime drama. It’s just not worth it. When I get worked up, they do. When bedtime becomes something that evokes tears and sadness, no one wants to participate. At the end of the day, when I’m tired I summon that last ounce of strength and aim to make bedtime our best. I don’t want my kids hating sleep. It’s too important. Sleep is something that they’ll either agree with or fight their entire lives and if I can remove the drama, the angst, the worry with one more story, 10 more minutes of snuggles or welcoming them into my bed for a season when they need it, well, then that’s ok with me.