He’s too old to need this. He shouldn’t need to be cuddled and huddled to sleep. But I do it. I shouldn’t need it either. But we’re simpatico this way.
Like him, I too am refusing some transitions now that I know there’ll likely be no return, no future facsimile, no one ever who will need me this way again. It’s really hard early on, but it’s also so simple. The hours are neverending but the repeated need–once the electricity is on, the fridge is stocked, the house is clean and warm, the bum is wiped, powdered and covered–is just love. Hugs and kisses and cuddles. It’s all I need really. Its what he gives me in exchange for everything I can provide him.
I’m getting the better end of the deal. It’s not even that close.
He was sleep trained before. At least this part. The “going to bed” part of the sleep training. There was a month or two about six months back when he could be read a story or two, put down and largely left to fall asleep.
It was a miraculous thing. At first. Until it dawned on me that I’d made myself obsolete. It’s my job to give independence and I relish it, but in such a task as this it was too soon. All the sacrifice this little angel has demanded of me, I’ll be damned if I’m going to drop this one exhausting, truly taxing, wonderful hour of my night just because he’s ready.
Gone is the swelled-brain, feverish, red-eared exhaustion of the newborn phase. The nights aren’t ridiculous anymore, they’re just tiring. Tiring is okay.
So I did it. I untrained him. I once again insisted on holding him to sleep. I cursed myself for bringing all this work back but I was and suspect I always will be, happy that I got it back. He’s gonna get these added perks denied his older brother who does more teaching of us than we do teaching of him. It’s a balance to all the things the first gets that the second can’t.
We’re on vacation now and naps are hard to come by. Our days are filled. Sleep routines be damned. When the occasion does arise for me to once again “put him to bed” he enjoys it for a bit, then, from time to time, asks to be put down in his bed. It’s a sweet request and one I surely oblige immediately. I kiss him goodnight and tell him I’ll see him soon, as we still like to take him in with us when he wakes in the night. It used to be consistently between 2 and 3 but now is often at 4 and even later.
I can’t really untrain him anymore. I won’t do it, I’ll let him grow up, of course. But from time to time, when it won’t hurt him, I might take advantage of my position and keep him my little boy a little boy for a little longer than he needs to be, and a little shorter than I’d like him to be.
We’ll meet in the middle between his need to grow up and my need to hold on. Time will come when he will need to shed the burden of me, the burden he can hardly see as it is so buried in his need for me at the moment. Someday these roles will be reversed. I’ll need him more than he’ll need me. Perhaps it will have always been the case, for that matter.
But someday he’ll surely notice. When he does, when he sees that my need for him is more than his need for me I hope he’ll know how much I’ll appreciate his concern and his efforts. I hope he’ll have an understanding of how much it will mean to me.
Joe Medler lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons. He is a contributor to Sammiches and Psych Meds.
Photo: Roland Tanglao