Sunday, March 3

Time and Again

Time. Really, basically, it is just an idea, not something tangible… Yet how powerful it is! Like the wind or fire, it can be soothing,  destructive, beneficial, distressing… It has a definition known to all and is yet an enigma. Maybe all this is why time is so fundamental, so significant in our society. Maybe our very mortality is the cause for the constant discussion and perusal, vilifying and worshiping of time. 

I think most of us move along our path of life looking forward. Likely, this is why milestones stir up feelings of nostalgia; they are a huge mile marker that has us pause to consider, which so often includes at the least, a glance back to see how far we’ve come. When your path has been joyful and interesting, it is more likely than not that the traveler will be quite surprised at the distance, the time that has become “the past” imperceptibly.

I didn’t start out this blog with the intention of so many of my words referring to that passage, those benchmarks, the looking back… and yet, it seems that has more impact in my psyche than I’d expected – and I knew how sentimental I was long before there was such a thing as “blog”.

Our youngest, Storm, is nearing 7½. Dave and I have recently begun starting quite a few sentences with, “I remember when… “ :~) Today was another bittersweet look back in surprise of where the time has gone; far, far more sweet with just a taste of sadness at what will never be again (though as I write this, more and more of those “never again” moments pop into my brain… ).

Storm has had quite a variety of sleeping arrangements. Far more than Wyl, though Wyl’s were much more like “leaps” than small adjustments. Wyl slept *hard* through the night from birth. I was a new mama and still feeling my way and when the well-meaning doctor told me that he needed to eat every 4 hours (me, being the people-pleaser/Good Patient I was), set my alarm and attempted to schedule breastfeeding. We tried *everything* we could think of: putting the nipple in his mouth while he slept, trying a bottle, making silly voices, taking off his onesie in a cool room and making him cold, jiggling him upright, talking with him loudly, tipping him upside down, sticking his hand in lukewarm water; in cold water, wiping his face with a wet washcloth… We’d spend an hour, sometimes, trying to wake that boy – never worked *once*. We still had some old-fashioned ideas that we were trying to meld with our new ones we were picking up with attachment parenting ideals we were reading & hearing about. Dave and I are both big people – both frame-size and weight – and though we were willing to accept co-sleeping, the possibility of the 2 of us or one of us smashing our baby in the night was too scary to attempt. So, he slept in his crib in his room during the night and we co-napped in the afternoon. At 2, he was climbing over the rail of his crib and falling on the hardwood floor below. He wasn’t getting hurt, but I was worried he would. Again, I still had in-the-box thinking and though I scolded him, the only solution I could think of was to put him in his own bed, since the distance was closer to the floor and had a pieced-together rug under it. Around 4 years old, he began to fear the dark and kept turning on the light after I’d tucked him into bed. I again scolded, taped the lightswitch down, and finally removed the lightbulb from the overhead light. Why I couldn’t think of the dozens of alternatives I can *now*, I don’t know, but it wasn’t a happy solution.

About that time, I started learning about unschooling and partnership-parenting and hearing “wild”, out-of-the-box ideas and my thinking started shifting. For quite a while, Wyl slept downstairs on the couch. Or, on the floor in a nest next to the couch. Sometimes, we’d take him up when one of us went to bed, but for the most part, he slept downstairs where parents & light were. The next sleeping spot was in a bed next to ours. That kept on for several years, working fairly well (though sometimes problematic, with Wyl having trouble keeping calm and quiet enough to keep from waking other family members up) with a few guidelines coming up as they were needed to keep it a win-win situation.

Around 11-12 years old, he began moving toward puberty and somewhere in his 12th year, he decided he wanted to sleep in his own room, again. I left space for  him in our room, should he feel a need (briefly for a night here & there or for several nights, a week, whatever he needed) to come back or need reassurance. Though, once his decision was made, it seems he knew he was ready for it, because he hasn’t slept there, since – and he’s just a few weeks from 14, now.

Storm, on the other hand… I smile warmly at the thoughts… First, he slept on my chest under my hospital gown in the NICU. I was ever so thankful that the nurses either “allowed” me to hang out in the nursing room off the NICU nursery or that they “forgot” that I was there with a baby out of the crib. Sometimes, I’d get a couple hours in, dozing lightly while he slept peacefully right under my chin on my bare skin, all curled up in a tight little ball. They’d come in and take him and say they needed to get stats and I’d go lie in my room and nap for a bit until I could pump again or visit again. (Maybe some day, they’ll bring the NICU to the mama’s room, so the baby and mama can actually be together all the time… I hope…! )

When we finally got to bring him home, 5½ years of learning after the first baby, we’d come much further in our understanding of co-sleeping, but we still opted for a bassinette right beside me, pushed up against the bed. He seemed *so* frail! Wyl was a big, robust baby, but Storm, being a preemie, was so thin and different than Wyl had been at that age. He curled up in there in his “signature pose”, a tight little ball on his belly, just as he had on my chest.

The bassinette worked for about 2 weeks. Then, I could lower him into it all the way to the mattress, awake or asleep, but the moment my hands started to move away from him or he touched or sensed that mattress in there, he burst out crying! A few times I attempted to make it work, thinking it was an isolated incident, but it was quickly clear that the bassinette would not do, so into our bed he came – curled up in that tight little tummy-ball. The crib was in our room, too, along with our queen-sized bed and Wyl’s double bed (plus 3 dressers!), but I don’t remember if we tried to move him from the bassinette to the crib before he came to our bed, or if that was just a standby. (There was a lot of missing sleep and my memory isn’t the best, anyway… :~)  ) Many nights, we’d move him to the crib after he fell asleep in our bed, and on the rare occasion he couldn’t be calmed in the night, we’d bring him back.

I’ll digress at this point to mention that I don’t really know what the definition of “sleeping through the night” *really* means. Clearly, Wyl did that, by any definition of the phrase, never waking – even now, he’s probably only woken in the middle of the night less than 10 times in his life. Getting him to sleep was sometimes rough, but once he was asleep, he was down for the count. Storm, however, would fuss a bit and/or cry out, though not usually coming full awake and could be back-rubbed or cuddled (or moved to the bed) back to sleep, usually in moments. I could probably count the times my sleep was actually disturbed by his night “adjustments” on both hands. I never really counted that as being outside “sleeping through the night”, though recently, sometimes I wonder what it truly means.

When Storm was somewhere around a year old, he preferred the crib. He was happy to snuggle in the bed with someone until he got sleepy, but then he’d fuss and toss and grouch until he was in the crib and then he’d sigh, turn over and go right to sleep. After a while, he figured out to gesture & point to the crib when he was ready to fall asleep! I was so astounded at first – from all I’d read, babies didn’t *ask* to be put in a crib alone!! But, that’s what he wanted.

It didn’t last *too* long, though I’m not sure how long it was. He started coming & crawling into the bed when he stirred in the night, then he decided he wanted to sleep with us again. Occasionally, he’d want to sleep in the crib again, but most of the time it was in “the big bed”.

At one point, we got a loft bed, trying to make a separate space for everybody, since Storm was always tall for his age and *I* felt the crib was too small for him. Yet, even after the loft was there, after Wyl moved into his own room leaving even more empty space, Storm wanted his crib. It was draped with dark blankets in a tent-style (top & sides) to keep out the cats & block the light, so maybe it was the “coziness” of it, I don’t know.

Eventually, he left the crib behind (he was quite a ways into his 6th year), unsure, yet firmly deciding to put it away – he enjoyed helping me take it down! :~) He moved into the double bed & we draped it all over like the crib had been, put in a string of dark purple lights, used the sheets he wanted… basically made it *his* space to his specifications. Yet, every once in a while, he will mention wistfully that he misses his crib…

A couple months ago, he decided he wanted to try to sleep in his (single) bed in his room. Dave hung out in there with him, but after a short while, he decided it was too noisy (our room is in the back of the house, Storm’s is right in the front, just feet from the street), with all the cars going by.

A week/week and a half ago, he decided to try sleeping in his own bed in his own room again. He hasn’t said anything specifically, but I get the feeling he has the idea that he is getting “too big” to sleep in our room. Plus, he’s really wanting to have friends sleep over, and I pointed out recently that he probably didn’t want to leave a friend alone in his room while he, Storm, came & slept with me. :~)

We made things all cozy to his delight, me giving him ideas to help make him comfortable in there (like having a small fan running to help block the noise) and when my back started hurting from hunching over there, I reminded him he could stay all night or come sleep with me whenever he needed, then went to wait in bed. I only waited a few minutes. :~) He was back and disappointed and complaining the fan was too loud. I reassured him and was happy to snuggle him a while.

Tonight, he wanted to try again. I needed a nap & went up early, so Dave stayed with him while I was sleeping. I fully expected to wake with him in the next bed, but when I did wake, I was alone.

I thought about parents I’d seen on t.v. shows, struggling to get their kids to stay in their own beds or their own rooms through the night and how they’d likely cheer, but I was a little sad. Just a tiny little bit, for the time passing too quickly for my liking. I am too comforted by the ideas that this is how it is supposed to be: children growing up smoothly, making transitions from stage to stage seamlessly, happily without struggle. This is what is *supposed* to happen – they grow up with our guidance with as little stress as possible; that is my job as their mama: to make it a journey that is tackled with me, as their partner and guide.

And yet…

As Storm snuggled with me, a bit sadly (he feels these milestones, too – all too much his mother’s child in that department! :~)  ), it cheered him as I talked about all the ways he’d slept over the years. I smiled softly as I told him how much I’ve enjoyed snuggling with him and we discussed all the different ways we could *still* snuggle, even if he slept in his own bed.

And, 6 hours after he was asleep in his own bed, he’s still there. Another milestone I wasn’t ready for. It *may* not be completely past, yet, but we’re there. I am awfully pleased with the people my children are growing to be… I am ever so grateful to have them in my life and to have a good relationship with both of them… Yet, I sure would love to nurse that baby again… bathe a wiggling little chubby boy again… discover a soap bubble blown from a wand with him for the first time again… hold a tiny little newborn baby and feel the weight of importance of responsibility and the awesomeness of new life in my arms again…


As my time as a closely nurturing mama coming to a close (and new times open), benchmarks like these, replete with the inevitable wanderings through the past, spurs me to grab the moment, do my best, to make the most of *this* moment… It will be gone in a flash, with nary a chance to “do it right” again.

Now is the time. 

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