This weird thing had been going on for weeks, and it was starting to drive me nuts. I know from other parents that it is nothing new and in fact very common, but it was still boggling my mind as to why my 2 1/2 yr old son was getting up multiple times in the night and just sitting there (there being wherever I was.) It could be 2 in the morning, and if I showed any signs of being awake, he’d walk out of his room and press up against the wall as if he had on an invisible cloak. At first, I didn’t think much of it and immediately put him back to bed only to hear his door creak open seconds later. Then I found it to be cute and decided just to pretend I didn’t see him. He played quietly in a corner until 1 am when I had had enough and was finally ready to go to bed. That’s when it became annoying and discouraging to realize that I was not only working full time and taking care of him alone in the evenings and on weekends. I would also be losing the two little measly hours (or more if I sacrificed sleep) that I savored to myself at the end of the night when he was finally off to sleep. Every parent, and especially my single mamas know what I mean. That is the time when you can wind down without having to hear all the whining and crying that seems to never end.
Things got ugly, and I waged a full-out war in an attempt to gain back my ‘Me Time.’ I tried spanking, yelling, threatening, bribing, begging, and even some super-secret ninja moves I had seen on Super Nanny, but to no avail. He whimpered when I yelled and cried when I spanked, but his desire to be on the outside must have been stronger than the pain of a good ole’ butt whooping because he would always come right back out moments later. Super Nanny’s advice of repetitiously putting the child back in bed without speaking or looking them in the eye was starting to wear him down, but not without wearing me out in the process. I tried this for three days and at close to 35 lbs, lifting him up to fifteen times a night was no fun. Then I finally had a breakthrough. I thought, if I lock him out of my bedroom, he may just get bored of not having anyone to spy on and fall asleep on his own. The best part is I could still have my uninterrupted peace minus a little jarring of the door knob. An hour after doing so I fully expected to see him knocked out in front of my bedroom door, but he wasn’t there! Amazingly he had put himself back in the bed, pulled up the covers, and was fast asleep. This method had worked perfectly, and I felt I was finally gaining in the war for peace. Then the feelings of worry and guilt overcame me. I thought, “Am I a horrible mother for locking my son out of my room every night so that I can be selfish and have time to myself? What if he gets into something and hurts himself while I’m enjoying myself?” That last part almost did happen when he got past me one night in super-stealth mode. He spilled a whole bag of peanut butter M&M’s that I’m sure he was planning to eat and just so happens to be allergic to. So back to the drawing board I went.
Finally one night I had an epiphany. It came while putting my one-yr-old niece to bed who was visiting. My sister’s instructions were to give her a bottle, hold her tight for a few minutes, and put her down. As I was going to pick my son up for the third time that night something told me not to just drop him back in the bed this time, but to sit and hold him for awhile like I did my niece, and like I used to do him as a baby. I noticed his breathing almost immediately slowed down as he held me tight, and I stepped outside of myself for a second. I tried to put myself in his two-yr-old little mind and to think what he might be thinking when I put him to bed. I thought, “It’s dark and lonely in here. I’m kinda hungry because I refused to eat all of my food, and I think I have to potty, but I’m not really sure. Most of all, my best friend and the center of my universe is no longer in my view. I wonder what she is doing. If only I can get close enough to see her and not get in trouble.”
Those thoughts just really opened up a whole new perspective for me and caused my heart to soften. I realized that my son was just a little boy who wanted to be with his momma. I had figured out before that he wanted to be around me and to be able to see me. Now I knew he wanted to be with me, to be held, and to have all of my attention. Even though we go through our routine of reading a book, singing a song, and saying a prayer I had stopped just holding him. Not long after sitting down I could tell he was asleep, and I wasn’t too surprised that he stayed for awhile and only got up once more (a huge victory over the eight more times I was expecting that night). This last time I slowed my pace and made sure he knew he had all my love and that Mommy wasn’t going anywhere.
*This story comes from a journal entry written several years ago when I was a young mom learning the ropes of motherhood (and still am!).