I woke up sounding like a frog again. Remnants from my cold on Thanksgiving, I suppose. But as I sit here in bed, sipping my coffee that my husband has brought me, with my son ensconced in my lap playing on his iPad, my thoughts are not on this nasty scratchy throat I cannot get rid of, but rather, on how, for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have done something right in this world of parenting. That somehow, something I did, or didn’t do, was actually a good decision. The sacrifice was worth it. My children, at this exact moment, are all happy.
I don’t recall this feeling. It is foreign to me. But it feels damn good.
You see, my 3-year-old son has never liked to sleep. Never even seemed to actually need sleep. At least not like all the other kids I know. Parents would roll their eyes at me when I said he didn’t go to sleep at night until 10 or 11 p.m. Surely I must be a terrible parent, or a push-over, I could see their judgment in their eyes. But his teachers and caregivers have continuously told us he has more energy than any other child in his class. Whether or not that is a good thing is up for debate, but clearly, not sleeping 12 hours a night worked just fine for him.
He would wake up easily and happy. He didn’t drag his feet or lounge in bed. He would wake up bright and early, happy and raring to go. And he took one fantastic nap every day. Not until 3 or 4 p.m., but I didn’t care. I was determined to listen to the rhythm of my child and not work against it. It seemed unfair for me to try to force him into a schedule that clearly would be easier on me and but not necessarily what his body wanted from him.
Not that we didn’t try. For two weeks we tried to get him to go to sleep at 8 p.m. The only result was tears all around. I hated that after he was a happy little guy all day we would ruin it by making him cry hysterically for over two hours. It just didn’t seem right that I would cap the end of his fabulous day in histrionics. And for what? He still wasn’t going to sleep any earlier.
He was sleeping in his own room, in his own bed, for a while. He would get up in the middle of the night like clockwork and crawl into bed with us. I didn’t mind. Even with the more than occasional kick in my face. He was soft and warm and filled with love. His little arms reached for me like I was the best place in the world to be. It was intoxicating. And then I left for a few days and came home with two baby sisters.
Co-sleeping with itty-bitty preemies was dangerous, so their fancy shmancy swings came into our room and the co-sleepers meant for the bed went onto the floor, and then into a closet. The babies were nearby, but not in our bed. So when Aiven came into our bed that first night we were home, I embraced him. I did not want him to feel like someone had taken his place. He could still sleep with us. And since that day, he has kept on sleeping with us. Peacefully, smiling, happy.
For the last couple of weeks we have been experimenting with him not napping at school. OMG. Life changing. He comes home from school happy and tired and usually passes out before I can change his clothes or give him a bath. Sometimes as early as 7 p.m.! What a change! It had been over three years since I had last known what it was like to not have a child awake and wanting attention all evening.
And the twins! They are usually asleep by 7 p.m. I say usually because Ellie takes after her brother and doesn’t like to sleep much either. So sometimes, she is awake, but she is pretty chill and doesn’t need constant attention. At 10 or 11 p.m. the girls get a bottle and both sleep until 6 or 7 in the morning.
So for several nights in the last couple of weeks, two or three of the kids have been asleep by 7 p.m. And I am at a loss. So is my husband. We don’t quite know what to do with ourselves. We can’t fathom this could be the way it is moving forward. We might be able to take up an old hobby. Maybe I can get through the pile of papers that I have neglected for weeks (ahem–months). Maybe read a book or make a phone call. Maybe eat a meal together. Slowly. Not rushed. Maybe watch a movie without pausing it 20 times. Maybe just spend time together.
I am still holding my breath. Waiting to see if this is real. If it will last. If I am dreaming.
But this morning, lying in bed with my son, after having said good morning to my smiling girls, I knew I had made the right choice for my son, for all of us. My husband and I finally have spent adult time together which we appreciate more than words can convey. Our children are sleeping and waking happily. Our house is chaotic with a constant whirl and sublime cacophony. And, in this moment, I feel like I am a good mama.