Gideon is still, at 2.5, a terrible sleeper. We can come up with all sorts of reasons why. We can blame him, we can blame ourselves, we can blame it on his tummy troubles, his ear infections, the move, the rain. Whatever the cause, I have needed a recent reminder that I am in charge. It is hard to say no to my children, to disappoint them, to listen to them whine and complain and kick and scream when they can't get what they want, but I am their mom and that is my job. To draw the hard line and stand firmly behind it.
It is not cruel to draw the hard line. It is necessary and loving. And I am the one who needs to do it. So I pray for strength. "Be tough, Jill," my dad would tell me when I was little. "Be tough, Jill," I whisper to myself to this day. Or as my sister-in-law Charlotte would say, "Sometimes, you gotta put on your big girl pants." I tell myself that quite often too and I always whisper it in Charlotte's Kentucky accent for emphasis. It works.
So, we've let the sleep issue slide for a long time, through a year of David working out of town, through an adjustment to a major move to Chicago, through travel and sickness and everything else that makes it hard to add one more fight to our plate. But now, the dust is settling and I can see with clear eyes what's going on. Gideon is old enough to sleep on his own. It's a life skill he needs to have. We are in charge of teaching him that. And it's time.
But there's another element at play that complicates things--he is my last baby. So, when I lay with him and he grabs both of my hands in his, when I lay with him and he insists that I wrap one arm around him, when I lay with him and he occasionally climbs over to my pillow to press his face onto mine--well, why on earth would I want to put a stop to all that?
Because it's not about me. I will have to take my snuggles where I can get them during the day. Gideon needs to learn to sleep on his own.
So, last night, we talked about it--man to man. I told him I would lay with him for a few minutes and then I was going to sit in his rocking chair. The last time I tried this, a few months ago, he would just hop out of bed and come over to the rocking chair. I had to keep putting him back in bed. Eventually I had to leave the room and put a baby gate up at his door. He cried for three hours. I pulled him into bed with me, exhausted.
But, last night, he stayed in bed. I read multiple chapters of my book by flashlight while he chatted quietly to himself. I continued to remind him to lay his head down, close his eyes, and get quiet--and eventually he did. He fell asleep without me beside him in less than thirty minutes. 8:30 and I could watch a show on the couch with David! Until I realized David was snoring beside Finny in his bed while both Finny and Charlie were wide awake and reading to themselves. You can't win em all.
The next miracle came at 11 p.m. Gideon got up and came up to our room. I didn't grab him and put him in bed with us in a tired stupor. I got up. Told him he has to sleep in his room. I brought him downstairs, tucked him back in and left. I didn't lay down next to him and he didn't cry. He went back to sleep. On. His. Own. Again!
And then, he slept through the night. It's 6:30 a.m. while I type this and he's still asleep. Miracle.
And I realize, if Gideon sleeps by himself, we all win. Gideon learns a valuable life skill, David and I get uninterrupted sleep, and this morning we all get the big, happy snuggles that come from missing each other, that come from a little time spent apart.
He is my last baby, but just like the others, I will still need to raise him up and gradually let him go. Without sadness, but with pride instead at the independent individual he will become.