I'm writing this as I listen to him cry next door. It's torture, so why am I doing it? Because waking every hour of the night is a worse kind of torture. I don't really expect it to work. My mom told me once about the power of positive thinking--"Imagine yourself passing the test and you will." I've always struggled with that concept. I'd rather be pleasantly surprised. I'd rather think there's not a chance in hell and then cross the finish line in a heap of glory.
I've talked to a thousand people about Gideon's sleep problems. I've read lots of web pages and at least three books. I even called a so-called Sleep Expert to have a consulation. Today I took Gideon to the doctor even though I knew full-well he didn't have an ear infection. I needed a pat on the back, a "Go ahead, you can do this!"
I told her we had let him cry for three hours before. She said that was too long. I felt like shit.
Two hours she said was the max she'd let him cry. I'm 99% positive he'll cry for the full two hours tonight. I'm 99% sure we'll be right back where we started from. I'm not sure why I'm doing this when I know it's in vain. Maybe because of that 1% of me that really, really hopes it's not. Maybe that 1% is bold and beautiful as it shouts to my soul, "Ferber is right! He makes perfect sense! Break the sleep association. You're not just doing it for you; you're doing it for him. Sleep is a gift. You're teaching him to sleep."
But I know this is what will happen: After two hours, I'll go in there. I'll sit in his rocking chair and he'll lay down and go to sleep. It'll feel like relief until 12:45 when he's up again and notices I'm no longer in the rocking chair. Then he'll be standing there again, "Na, Na, Na, Na, Na!!!"
Then, he'll be up again at 1:45, 2:45, 3:45, 4:45. The Ferber people will call me a coward and a failure. The Co-sleep camp will call me a heartless bitch.
The timer just went off. I just went in again to say, "I love you. Good night." Ferber says to keep doing that until he settles down. I don't get it. I think it just fires him up more. He. Is. Pissed.
On the other hand, if I just let him cry for three hours, I'm a monster...and a quitter, depending on who you talk to.
You'd think by this point, child three, I would've realized that everyone has their own strong opinions about parenting and really, I just need to follow my own instincts. But you'd also think by child three that I'd know how to put a child to bed without a complete shit show. I've learned nothing from this whole parenting venture except that it's hard to retain anything you learn when you're running on five broken hours of sleep.
I remember wondering with Finny how he would ever get potty trained. How would a child who has been pooping in his pants his whole life, suddenly decide he'd rather do it on the potty? And bike riding...how would they suddenly just take off and go?
Now Gideon, Gideon who's never been a great sleeper, but who used to sleep a whole lot better than this, how will he ever learn to put himself to sleep again? Maybe I should read the book to him. Get him on board with Ferber's logic. It makes a lot of sense, Gideon. I just need to train you to put yourself to sleep. You just need to learn to sleep without me there. If you are simultaneously developing trust issues and a general sense of abandonment, I hope you'll just forget all that by the time you're eight.
So, it's a different kind of countdown this year. It's not a 5-4-3-2-1 at midnight. It's more of a 5-4-3-2-1 every ten minutes on my phone timer. Then I go in, tell him I love him and he screams bloody murder at me. I'm pretty sure if he was a gorilla, he'd throw a ball of feces at my head. Thank God he's in a onesie.
Your letters will be shorter and your blog posts and pictures will be fewer, but that doesn't mean you are any less loved.
All it means, is that instead of getting the camera out, I'm just adoring you longer. Instead of writing everything down, I'm snuggling up tighter. The moments of the day are full right now and so often you play contentedly on the floor by yourself or wander from room to room exploring your world on your own. You are shuffled from car seat to stroller to car seat to shopping cart countless times a day because you were born into this busy family with busy brothers and life is moving too fast to sit down and play pat-a-cake.
Or is it?
A few nights ago, I was giving you a bath, one of the items on the get everyone ready for bed to-do list. You were washed and clean and I reached over to drain the water so that we could move on to the pjs, the bottle, the bedtime stories, and then repeat the same for your brothers before I could finally collapse in a heap on the couch with whatever treat I felt I deserved that night--ice cream? chips? wine?
But I stopped short. You were having so much fun and I didn't want you to have to get out and I didn't want to have to stop watching you. So I sat back on the toilet beside the tub and I watched you. You love the way the plastic yellow cup sounds when banged against the side of the tub. You love the splash of your little hands in the water--the feeling, the sound, the way little drops of water fly up into your face. You love to occasionally dunk your whole head forward and take a little face dip, a little sip of the water. You get up on your knees because you can now and you crawl around in there and sometimes that's all you do, just crawl and flip, sit and laugh and splash and smile at me.
Every time I pick you up, I am reminded that I should do it more often. You snuggle your dark hair into my shoulder and sometimes you try to bite me. You are so sweet I want to eat you up too.
I will not be sad as you grow up because every new thing you do is so much fun, but I hope I do have some memory of the way your face feels warm on my neck, the way you climb me with your legs when you don't want me to put you down and the way the feeling of bath water through your fingertips was the absolute highlight of your world...and mine.
They say it every time they see a Volkswagon, something they picked up from the boys in the neighborhood.
They're constantly on the hunt for Ferraris, Porsches, and Lamborginis. If it's a bright color, they almost always think they've spotted something magnificent.
A red car in the Panera parking lot..."Mommy, look! A Ferrari!"
"That's a Kia Forte, Finny."
"Well, it looked like a Ferrari..."
At the bus stop last week..."A Porsche! A Porsche!"
"Ford Taurus, Finn."
And the one time they actually did see a red Ferrari zooming down Kenwood Road?
"That's it. Now we're famous!" Famous just because they saw it. Next stop: Jimmy Kimmel.
Often times, the car is a stressful place for a momma with three kids or any kids really. Finny is shouting at me from the backseat and I can't hear a word he's saying. Charlie is talking incessantly and expecting validation for every last word he utters. "Wendy's! Mommy, Wendy's! Can we go there?"
I've given up on trying to keep Gideon awake until we get home so he can get a "proper" nap. And if we have to drive anywhere farther than 20 minutes, I have to have a full mug of coffee on hand, so that I don't join him.
I've daydreamed about owning a Limo. Press a button, voila! Privacy glass. Then they could drive themselves crazy while I zone out to my music. Then we'd certainly be on the fast track to Kimmel. Limo drivers...soooo famous.
But yesterday morning, as we settled in for a 30 minute commute to West Chester for a doctor's appointment, I found some kind of magic Zen in my coffee mug and I actually found myself thoroughly entertained by the constant chatter.
"Mommy! Mommy! Look! A guy is getting pulled over by a police officer and he's in handcuffs! I hate police officers. I never wanna be one when I grow up."
"Police officers? No, Finn. Police officers are good guys. They're here to protect us. That man was probably doing a very bad thing and that police officer is protecting us from him."
"Oh, I just thought police officers were annoying because they just pull people over all the time."
"No, no honey. They're trying to protect us. They're the good guys."
And then Charlie chimes in in his deep Charlie voice, Captain RandomPants: "All right. That's it. I'm just gonna be a zookeeper when I grow up."
"Me too," says Finn.
And I smile and hold back a chuckle because there you have it, Zookeepers. Of course. A couple of zookeepers cruising around in Ferraris. Sooo famous.
I put the baby bathtub away yesterday. My breast pump went in the "donate" pile a few weeks ago. The playmat, the bumbo seat, the boppy pillow, the swing, the bouncy chair all went in the storage section of the basement. He's too active, too mobile to sit still, to lay around and play at dangly things hanging above him. I think I'm supposed to be sad to put these things away, like a last baby mourning thing, but I'm not. I like getting rid of the "stuff". The "stuff" stresses me out. There's more room in the bathroom now without the tub being shifted around. And breastfeeding, while lovely and valuable in so many ways, is not something I cling to nostalgically.
There are too many things I love about right now to be sad about what we're moving on from. When I lay him down to change his diaper, he immediately throws his hands over his eyes and shows me his big toothy grin when he pulls them away. Peek-a-boo--soooo much fun. He claps at everything--toys, people, the fact that his heels make a fun pounding sound when he kicks the hardwood floor. And he's not much of a snuggler, but he will press his forehead against my face and close his eyes, he will cry "Na, Na, Na" when he's looking for me, and he will swat my face and laugh when I sing him Baby Beluga before bed.
I do get a little ache in my belly though when I think about lunch time, when I think about the 10 a.m.story hour when we would snuggle up with books and a blanket and read together on the couch. That is something I will miss this year. The bathtub can happily find a new home, I still have my Gideon to snuggle and play with, but come lunch time, Charlie and I will no doubt be lonely for our Finny this fall. He will be chattering away with his friends in the school cafeteria, but we will sit around the kitchen table missing his constant silliness. "Sit down and eat, Finny!" I won't miss yelling that every 4 minutes, but I will miss his little face full of mischief and the things he would reveal to me as we sat across the table from each other chomping our grilled ham and cheese. It's not the more room in the house that gives me pause; it's the more room in the day that makes me ache. He says he's more excited to start first grade than he is for his birthday, and that delights me to no end, but I will miss wiping the peanut butter off his face. It's a soft face and I love to hold it in my hands.
I haven't posted a blog post since January. Because...I'm too busy, too tired, too distracted by everything/everyone else. I've written things on occasion but never posted them because they weren't "finished." I'm sad about it all the time. Because I have a terrible memory and know that I will forget. Because I take pictures but don't print them or organize them. Because we have lost home videos in computer switches and general lack of understanding how the software works, what's compatible and indecision over where we should save them that won't soon be outdated or disappear.
I know one thing for sure: This time is fleeting and precious. I know another thing for sure: I am exhausted--physically, mentally, emotionally.
I need to forgive myself for not getting it all done, for not having everything in its place, for losing my sunglasses, my phone, the overdue library book. We all do.
Since THIS IS HARD, since this is WONDERFUL, since I can't figure out how to find a quiet, uninterrupted moment to capture it all, I am going to try this--the fifteen minute blog. Whatever I can capture in fifteen minutes I will write down and record. It won't be long and it may not end with closure, but I will take the picture, snap if fast and put it here. And hopefully, God willing, it will remain in a format that my children can still find and read some day. Done. Gideon is crying and I want to see his little face and all his big new teeth.
And suddenly, he grabs for me, reaches out with his arms and
his soft hands and wraps them around my arm, my rough hand that is trying to
change his diaper and he won’t let me go; he just opens his mouth wide, smiles
with his eyes, his tongue, sticks his feet in the air. Suddenly, he loves me with every part of him
and he can’t believe I’m there, again; I came back to him just as he hoped I
would-- his mommy. He will never remember
this moment, and it’s likely I won’t either unless I write it down, unless I
capture it for us both—this morning we spent together, 5:30 a.m., just the two
of us, smiling over the changing table, only the soft glow of the small lamp to
light our joyful faces.
And suddenly, he’s funny. Not the kind of funny Charlie is at four, where every ridiculous thing that comes out of his mouth in his tiny man voice makes us giggle. Finny is funny on purpose, with intention. And his comedy is not one-dimensional. He’s experimenting with it all—quick wit, wordplay, deadpan, impersonations, physical comedy, and the good tease. It’s just what I had hoped for him.
“Daddy, you have your girl socks on.” How does he know that a little bit of a polka-dot makes David’s socks a little more feminine?
“Startin’ to choke,” he taunts when David starts missing baskets on Wii three-point challenge.
“You treat me like an inferior!” he exclaimed to me a couple days ago when I was telling him to go upstairs and get dressed.
“Do you know what inferior means?” I asked.
“No. Daddy said it this morning.”
“Well, it was perfect.”
He drew a picture this week of God and the devil (who greatly resembled a rabbit hiding in tall grass). God looked a lot like how he draws me—two one strand pigtails coming out either side of his head to represent long hair. And then he narrated it for me in a silly God voice, “Oh, Devil, I went to the hairdresser this week and got a horrible haircut. Just look at it!” And I can hear David in him and I love it.
And then there was my favorite. [WARNING: David, I’m about to embarrass you on the world wide web.]
David came home from work at lunchtime. He had gotten some pee on his pants in the bathroom at work; I will not go into details, but it involves an improper tuck; it happens to the best of us. He went upstairs to change his jeans and came back down singing the Pete the Cat song: “I got my new pants. I got my new pants. I got my new pants. It’s all good.”
“Look,” I said, “Daddy’s Pete the Cat!”
Without missing a beat, perfectly straight-faced, Finny between bites of sandwich, says, “More like Pee the Cat.”
Biggest laugh I had all week.
All that big emotion, that giant sensitivity, the anger, the tears—he’s figured out how to turn it into a laugh. And this is what will get him through life, will draw people to him—finding the humor, instead of the embarrassment of getting pee on your pants, the frustration of losing at Sorry, soccer, Rock/Paper/Scissors, the sadness of a lost toy, a ripped Pokemon card, a favorite story character’s death. Oh, he will cry when he and Daddy discover what happens to Charlotte this week as they finish the last chapters of Charlotte’s Web, but then maybe a joke, a silly voice, a little dead spider humor--something to bring himself out of the dark place.
And that can’t be measured--not by a growth chart, not by a standardized test, not by a quarterly report card, or a scoreboard.
The ability to bring himself out of the dark place, that will be his greatest gift...