O slept dreadfully when he was a baby – I think the first time he gave us a full night of sleep was when he was about 18 months old.
But as sleep deprived as I was, there was something a touch magical about rocking him in his bedroom in the middle of the night, with the night light casting a dim glow in his room and the classical music (when he was a baby, he nixed that when he had words, haha!) on the radio softly playing.
At those times, he was quiet and warm and snuggly, seeking only some milk and comfort of my arms in rocking with me. It was one of my favorite parts of parenting, which is probably why I took responsibility for the overnight stuff and never tried any sort of sleep training methods.
He’s seven now, and can take care of himself overnight – the other night, discovering his water bottle empty, he got up and filled it himself. At 3:30 in the morning, the noise woke me up, and when I followed him back into his room, he told me, You can go back to bed, Mom. I just needed some water.
But every night, one of us reads to him. When it’s my turn to do bedtime, he asks me to stay for a few minutes once we turn off the light.
And then, he’ll sometimes snuggle with me – a rarity these days, where he sometimes won’t even hug me at the bus stop! Or he’ll talk. He’ll ask questions about football players, or math, or ask me to quiz him on spelling, or tell me about something that happened at school. And peppered in with the stuff that’s going through his head, sometimes real nuggets of his feelings come through.
Like the night he told me he didn’t think he was brave, because he was scared of going on a big ride, and we got to discuss what being brave really means (doing something that scares you, because all people are scared. I even shared that I’m still scared of the dark because my imagination likes to make up stories on me).
Or the night he asked me, rolling over to face me, When you are done working at this job, what do you think you’ll be when you grow up?
Often these conversations go on much So. Much. Longer than I prefer – sometimes 15 or 20 minutes. And there are so many nights where I say so many times, It’s time for sleeping now. We need to stop talking, because sleep is important. There are many nights where I struggle with some internal frustration, because I’d LIKE to go downstairs and finish the evening chores and do my bedtime victory lap.
It’s not unlike the frustration I had at needing to wake up with O in the middle of the nights when he was a baby.
O is one of those kids who doesn’t really outwardly show signs of his feelings. I know when he’s mad, of course, when he thinks I’m being unfair. But otherwise, it’s really hard to get inside my kid’s head and understand what he’s really feeling. I can’t pry – he shuts down and changes to subject, or will flatly tell me, I am not talking about this anymore. Or he’ll roll his eyes and say, Mom, it’s FINE.
So I just have to sit and listen and hope that he understands that he can talk to me or ask me questions about anything he wants to bring to me.
Which he does. Just before he sleeps. For he and I, there IS real magic in the night time. And as he gets older, and stays up even later, I just hope I can continue to be there to share it with him.