Nine and a half months have passed since I first held you in my arms and touched each tiny feature of the little face I had wondered about for the nine months that you grew into existence.
Bedtime has become the time to memorize you as you change from day-to-day and stage-to-stage.
Chubby cheeked as you always have been. You lay against my belly and kick your feet to make yourself jump as you nurse. You hum busily and meet my eyes with yours in the dim light of bedtime. Your dark hair holds the shape of the ponytail you wore during the day, making it stick up comically. I smile at you and your chubby little hand reaches out to bat at my smile. I kiss your hand and you grin as you nurse. I gently rub your back to help you wind down and feel how your shoulders and your hips are squaring out into the form of a toddler as you leave infancy behind.
I could be annoyed that you are still awake. I could ask you when you’ll sleep on your own. I could leave you to cry it out. I could choose to relate to books like “Go the F*CK to sleep” which has its cult following. But why? I do not wish to rob myself of the joys that this time offers. I do not wish to rob you of the comfort and closeness that you desire at this stage of your life.
Instead my finger traces the curve of your ear as it disappears behind your chubby cheek. Instead I’m amused to find a smear of blackberry from your bedtime snack that evaded your bath. Instead my thumb traces one of your eyebrows and I discover that as soon as I do that your eyes close. So I trace your nose and then your cheeks. You smile. And this is how you drift off to sleep this night at nine and a half months old. Smiling, cherished, and at peace with how life is.
I cannot go back to that first moment of meeting you. I cannot go back to when you were a newborn for one extra day of holding you when you were too young to hold your head up for long. I cannot return to kiss you once more when you were three months old. I cannot go back in time to capture one last second when you were six months old. Each day is spent as it passes, and it cannot be spent again.
I wish to spend as many of these moments showing you the joy of peace and calm. The safety and warmth of sleep and love. I’m happy for these moments at the end of our day.
There are those who would rob us of these peaceful gentle moments. Sleep trainers say that you are learning to “manipulate” me by crying to be in my arms when you are sleepy. They say you will never learn to sleep. They say that is “failure” as a parent to set limits. They don’t want me to understand what I understand already to be true- that I can easily and gently teach you to sleep all on your own in your own room in your own bed without tears when you’re ready. Just as your brothers learned. That you learn independence through security and not through being pushed away and left to cry alone.
Soon you will learn to sleep through the night all on your own. Soon you will learn to fall asleep all on your own. Soon you will sleep as well as your brothers have learned to sleep. Soon I’ll be grateful for the sleep that I can get at night and which I’ve missed during these months while you have been small.
For now, though, I’ll be grateful for this time that I have had to memorize all these little things about you.