Clearly, as may be evident from last Friday's post, I was at the end of my rope dealing with Sam's bedtime troubles. Over the weekend, I decided that we needed to stop doing what we were doing.
There are so many different aspects and reasons. What we were doing, the putting him back, the crying, the screaming... it just wasn't good for anyone. It was really stressing me out, it was taking up a whole bunch of our time, and it was creating a negative environment for his bedtime, which made him wake up more often during the night.
For now, I've decided not to worry about it. Forget what "they" say, or what we are "supposed" to do. I don't care. I want to provide a loving and amazing environment for my child. I also don't want to add more stress to my life when there are already other things stressful enough going on in my life.
Here's the deal. Sam is a very active child. He's only 3 years old. He doesn't have the ability to calm himself down and put himself to sleep at bedtime without help, and really I don't think there is anything wrong with that. He needs help so he can get used to calming himself down and falling asleep. I think he's just not ready to fall asleep on his own. Not when he doesn't have a "lovey" - a special toy or blanket or stuffed animal. I am his lovey, he feels so secure with us that he doesn't need something else. And really, considering how well behaved his is almost all the time, this is a pretty small problem to have to deal with!
I've thought a lot about what I realized on Friday - that he spends such a large part of the day with me, in contact with me. He sits on my lap when we're watching TV and we play on his bed or our bed, pretending to go to sleep. We cuddle, we wrestle, we tickle. We go for walks and he rides on my shoulders. Now that it occurred to me, it seems completely unreasonable to expect him to do those things all day and then get in a bed by himself and go to sleep at night.
At some point, we might try a different method. After laying with him as he falls asleep for a while until we have a routine, we might try sitting up, then moving to the floor eventually, then across the room and then out into the hallway. This could take weeks, months even. It will take however long it takes, and that's okay.
Tonight he didn't even want to lie down in his bed. He's started fighting more - saying no to going to bed, then trying to play once we're in his room. I ended up putting him on the bed and holding him there. He cried for 5 minutes or so, but then started to cooperate. It took less than an hour for him to fall asleep tonight. Sure I could have been watching TV or reading blogs, but I'm not giving up anything by spending time with him.
Instead of looking at this as a burden, I'm going to choose to enjoy that time of day. Since we'd really like to have him actually asleep by 8:30, we'll just start bedtime earlier, around 7:30 or 7:45. I can lie there with him, talk to him about the day, pull up his covers, let him hug me around the neck with his sweet 3 year old arms. Instead of thinking about what I could be doing instead, I want to consider that it won't always be this way. He grows older every day, and before I know it, he's going to be a boy who doesn't want to hug his Mom or spend days cuddling and playing. He's going to have friends, he's going to grow up, become a boy, then a teen.
It seems like we are always in a RUSH. Parents brag about how old their child was when they were potty trained. Kids are enrolled in preschool at 3 years old, and it's almost expected. When I was a child, I feel like it was so normal to go from home to Kindergarten - what is the hurry to send our children away from us? Later in life, they get homework in 1st grade. As teenagers, they are pressured to choose a college, choose a major before they even graduate. Really? We expect them to make that decision then, before experiencing life for themselves outside the home?
But WHY rush? I want to savor him as he is now, I want to provide for him the way he needs it right now. I want to hold him in my arms before he's taller than me, to hold both his hands in mine while they still fit. If he ends up in my bed some nights, I want to enjoy him snuggled up against me. He loves me unconditionally, and he shows it. One day, he will not show it. But I will remember.