Because hell froze over, my friends. Froze. Over. Hard.
The child? Fell asleep, in his bed, on his own. Like, as in, with NO parent in the room. And? No tears. No parents AND no tears? Inconceivable!!!
If you've been reading my blog for even 5 minutes, you know that Husband and I started out co-sleeping with Ethan, by choice. Happy snuggly baby in bed, easy breast-feeding access, no getting up and down all night long--worked out great for us. Because of his penchant for kicking and sleeping horizontally between us, we transitioned Ethan to his own bed at around 2.5 years old, but continued to lie in bed with him until he fell asleep until his 4th birthday. At that point, we moved to sitting in a chair in his room until he fell asleep.
We had planned to do a "Mommy's going to sit here for 30 minutes." then graduate down in 5 minute increments until he was just comfortable with us leaving after stories. That just led to Ethan being stressed out about how many more minutes were left before we got up to exit the room and ended in fits of hysterics every night. And honestly, if someone could promise me that said fit of hysterics would end in a sleeping child? At 4 years old? I would deal with the agony of hearing the screaming. But this kid? Strong like bull. And tenacious. It just wasn't going to happen within a time frame I was comfortable in for us. So fine. With a few deep breaths and a couple of attempts at reassuring ourselves that "he's just not ready; he does everything in his own time. We just have to be patient," we just resolved to sit in his room until he fell asleep each night. At least we weren't in the bed, human, adult-sized lovies, as we had been for the first 4 years.
But recently, as Ethan approaches 4.5 years old, I started to get itchy again. The "really? Am I going to be struggling to get this kid to go to sleep on his own when he's 16??!!" started to kick in (which for the record, I know is absolutely ridiculous). One night this week, after a considerable amount of him goofing off, I told him I was leaving the room if he opened his eyes one more time. Of course, he opened his eyes one more time & this resulted in me leaving the room and him dissolving into the aforementioned hysteria. And I decided something had to change before we both loathed each other AND bedtime.
So in a moment of uncommon clarity, I asked Ethan, "What can we do to make it possible for mommy to leave the room AND for you to fall asleep on your own like a big boy?" I had already suggested at one point that when I left the room I'd leave his bedroom door open. Alleviate those fears of being trapped and all that. He then said, "Maybe instead of going to the living room, you could just go to your room," (which is just across the hall from E's room, as opposed to the living room which is on the other side of the house entirely). Huh. What an idea. Sort of like Elizabeth Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution. Except the kid thought of it himself. Someday he's going to write a book on "Getting Your Baby/Toddler/Preschooler to Sleep" and support Husband and me in our old age & all of this bedtime agony for the past 4.5 years will have been TOTALLY worth it!
Last night, we gave it a try. Read books, snuggled for a minute, I got up, left the room, kept the door open and went over to my own room, where I sat quietly, reading blogs and watching the TV instead of sitting in the almost-dark of Ethan's room, squinting at books or being enraged by Angry Effing Birds on my iPhone (don't even get me started). I went to check on him once & he asked for extra cuddles (um, seriously, who could refuse that???!). I returned to my room for more not-sitting-in-a-chair-in-Ethan's-room time and listened to him yawn a few times from the other room.
The next time I went in to check? Five minutes later? Out. Asleep. In dream land.
I *may* have wept a little bit. With joy that this might mean that finally Husband and I get to reclaim that hour we've not had together in over four years. And honestly, also with a bit of sadness that such a huge part of my experience as a mother, to the only child I'm going to parent, is likely over. As much as we've longed for him to become more independent at bedtime, every milestone is a reminder that once he falls asleep at night, he'll never be as little as he was today ever again.
I may be a little overly emotional and weepy about it because of the narcotic-laced cough medicine I partake in right before bedtime. See, turns out I have a bit of The Pneumonia, which is always super fun when your partner in parenting is 6000 miles away (and is also sick, so when he comes home, chances are I'll be taking care of him as well as Ethan). But I've been lucky with good friends helping out, and possibly the single most fabulous child in the history of the world (remind me of that the next time I want to run screaming from the house like my hair is on fire).
I do realize this could be another 6 month bedtime-related journey & by then I might be cursing that hour I have to sit in my room going back and forth while Ethan falls asleep. But right now? Sitting here typing this, and listening to his big can't-fight-sleep-much-longer yawns across the hall? My definition of bliss.
So if you're chilly from hell being frozen and all of that? Get yourself a Snuggie and get used to it.