You may know if you've been reading for awhile, that Husband & I have spent the past 4-ish years lying with Ethan until he falls asleep. For a long time, it was adorable, kind of like this:
Sweet, right? It's a lot less sweet when he's 4 years old & digging his feet into your back and telling you he needs another cup of water & shoving you off the bed with his butt.
So it was time for a change (am I the only one who hears Peter Brady singing?); something had to give on this bedtime routine. Something had to happen to give Ethan that, erm, gentle nudge towards bedtime independence. Husband & I decided that we would continue to lie with him while we read stories, snuggle for a few minutes, then we would get up out of E's bed and sit in a chair on the other side of the room, engaging with him as little as possible without completely ignoring him. Sigh
It's been a long couple of weeks. Ethan hasn't really fought us on our getting up out of bed. He seems pretty okay with us not lying down next to him. Because it gives him all that much more room to play. And play. And then maybe play some more. With what? I don't know, people. His toes, tonight. Can't really take his toes away. Sigh.
The first few nights I found myself, sitting in my chair, hoping against hope that he'd just pass out, alternately chewing my cuticles raw & muttering in various tones of frustration, "just. go. to. sleep.....sweetie." GAH!!!
"Why not leave the room, Sarah?! The child is FOUR!" you ask. And understandably.
We've tried that. With increasing degrees of stick-to-it-iveness. And yet. If you could compare screaming & crying to running a marathon, my kid is the long-distance runner of screaming. He will go, indefinitely. He will not get out of bed, which, at four years old, Husband & I consider to be a minor miracle. He will cry until he is red and puffy and sweating, but he will not get out of that bed. We have no idea why. We've never imposed any sort of stay-in-bed rules. And yet at night, it is like the child believes his bed is a floating thing, adrift in a shark-infested sea of doom. He has never once gotten out of bed at night. But he will cry. All night.
So that just doesn't work. Maybe we are weak. I don't know. Regardless, we are stuck in the room for now. With an Ethan who is happy to have the bed to himself. It has seemed like a bit of a mixed bag.
Last week, I brought a book to the chair with me. I was reading The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, which was FANTASTIC.
See, I tend to read before I fall asleep at night, which means it takes forever to finish a book. As a little girl, I used to laugh at my father for this. He would go to bed a couple hours before the rest of the house & as my mom and I climbed the stairs for bed, I could see into my parents' room; my dad, the light next to him on the table still on, his glasses still propped up on his nose and his book, probably 2-3 pages further along than the night before, teepee'd open on his chest, fast asleep & snoring. Every night, and I'd always laugh and make fun of him for it. And now guess how Husband finds me most nights when he comes to bed? Yeah, that's right. Like father, like daughter, I guess (without the snoring, of course. Please!)
But now? I am reading earlier in the evening, so I'm reading more than 5 pages and I'm actually remembering from one night to the next what I read the last time I cracked the book. This, you will know, if you've ever read anything, is a plus.
I'm now 3 books into our new bedtime routine. Ethan is singing to himself and playing with his toes & I'm reading. Eventually, 15-20 pages into my little escape into the book, I realize that the singing has quieted, the toes are still, and Ethan's breathing has turned peaceful and heavy. Oh my heart, he is so sweet when he sleeps.
I have no idea how long Husband & I will be sitting in that chair. It was four years in bed. I'm hoping it won't be another four in the chair. But at the same time, what am I complaining about, really? My kid wants me around. He won't always. And I get to read (something besides Knufflebunny) which is one of my favorite things to do. Hopefully Ethan (who already loves to be read to) will pick up on my passion for reading by seeing me immerse myself in a book every night.
It's not what Ferber would like, I know, but hell, he'd have hated us from day one. It's okay. For every time I've wished we had the kid who would have cried for a few minutes and then slept like an angel for the rest of the night, there are three or four times I'm grateful, even through my frustration, for all the cuddle time I've gotten these past four years, having had Mr. High Maintainance Bedtime Routine for a kid. It's so great to see him gaining his independence at bedtime, however slowly. But part of me is always going to miss that little baby who could not fall asleep without feeling mommy or daddy right there next to him.