At 3 a.m. this morning my husband and I were awakened by the sound of hysterical little-boy laughter and lots of to-ing and fro-ing (we can tell by the way the crib knocks against the wall). At first we thought he was dreaming about being tickled (it’s happened before). But no; the party lasted for a whole hour. By himself. In the dark.
Only this morning, when I went in to get him, did I realize what could be so funny at 3 a.m. Yesterday afternoon, he discovered that it was the best thing ever to put a blanket over his head and walk around blind. I guess he must’ve woken up and realized there was a blanket in the crib with him. (It’s Maine, after all.) Playtime!
I’m a wreck this morning as a result. It’s an unusual state for me to be in. When he was tiny, we solved sleep problems through co-sleeping, right from the time he was a newborn. We never really did suffer sleep deprivation as brand-new parents, because it was so much easier to roll over and nurse him than it would have been to sit in a chair. We dealt with reflux, teething, illness, and nightmares that way. It was bliss.
But then he learned how to sleep by himself, and he realized he was much more comfortable in his own bed. Therefore, his sleep problems have become our sleep problems.
Last night, for instance. Lately, he hasn’t wanted to go to sleep alone at night, so Daddy has been taking the time to cuddle up with him in our bed long enough for him to go to sleep. Last night, Daddy had work to do. I’d been feeling guilty anyway for focusing too much on work that day, so I took bedtime duty. As I lay next to the boy I thought about the editing I was supposed to be doing on a late article. And it was tempting, a few small fingers up my nose later, to put him back down and go back to work.
But then he settled down and held his doggie and sucked his thumb, and it felt like the old co-sleeping days, the two of us snuggled together post-nursing. Before long he was well on his way to sleep. With a lot of regret I picked him up and put him back in his bed. I wanted to leave him be and let him sleep with us, but I knew things would become exponentially more difficult for all three of us once Daddy came to bed. The boy likes to spread out, you see. It’s not much different from being 8 months pregnant and trying to sleep, only the male genetic contributor isn’t as tolerant of little feet in kidneys. I can’t blame him entirely. The only thing more frustrating than a toddler playing with a blanket at 3 a.m. is the toddler deciding you are the blanket.
Eventually I’ll figure out how to improve brain function so I can deal with deadlines despite sleep deprivation. I’d better; other parents of older toddlers tell me it becomes much more complicated when children can get out of bed and walk around.
In the meantime, given that it’s so much harder to snuggle with him these days the way I used to, I’ll take sleep deprivation. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to call it a blessing. There’s always another deadline to replace the last one, but nothing can replace the moment-by-moment bonding. I think knowing this is why so many working parents feel guilty, even when they know they are making the right choice to work.
Play on, son.
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