Henry is a good baby. Toddler. He has a sweet heart. I don't know how else to describe it. He loves to hug and kiss us. He loves to hug and kiss his toys. He loves to lay around on the couch together and play together with all of his toys, or with nothing at all but noises and tickle monsters. His laugh is infectious. He warms our hearts. Oh, he has his non-sweet side too. His temper that flares up when he doesn't get what he wants. The way he is a classic first child, completely ruling the roost. But those things are little. At this point those things are still funny, seeing his temper flair and the injustice of being told he cannot jump on the couch or cannot have anymore brownie. Throwing himself into a heap on the floor in despair. Those are just things you expect with a sixteen month old. But when people ask us as parents what is the hardest part, what do we wish we could make better, we both reply without question: Sleeping. Bedtime.
It just feels like we have been going around and around on this issue since he was tiny. And things are better. Always getting better. Always working on a plan, but it just feels like it is always something. We finally got him to sleep in his bed, and that was huge. After he finished nursing we finally got him sleeping through the night. That was...I don't even know...monumental? Is that overstating it? I don't think so. To finally sleep through the night after fourteen months, it's monumental. But now we have a new sleep issue. Or maybe not new, maybe just now that the other two things are better, we can focus on the last (I hope?!?) of the sleeping issues. The bedtime.
We have rocked Henry to sleep nearly all of his life. I remember people telling me not to. Telling me to teach him from the start to lay in his bed and go to sleep on his own. That it will be better down the road. Did I listen? A little. I mean, we TRIED it. But... I don't know, maybe we didn't try hard enough then. When he cried we went to him. We held him and rocked him and loved on him until he was asleep. I don't regret it. I cherish it actually. The memories of that tiny little baby in my arms. Soon enough he started nursing himself to sleep. Another no-no. But what do you do? Wake him just to put him back to sleep? It seemed absurd. Then after thirteen months the nursing was gone and the holding began. We just didn't know what else to do.
So now we hold Henry to sleep. I want to say we rock him, but we don't. I told you all we moved from the living room to the Chaise, and that is where we are. Holding. Laying with. Loving. But he is getting so big. He doesn't want to be cradled in our arms. He wants to lay beside us, on top of us, in positions that make it nearly impossible to scoop up his sleeping body and lay him in his crib undisturbed. This makes the bedtime routine long and difficult. On a good night it is thirty minutes, but more often than not we are with him in a dark room for an hour or longer. It doesn't sound bad to read that, an hour to get him to sleep, but an hour holding a child in a dark room, just to have him wake as soon as you attempt to lay him in his bed is a long time. Trust me.
We talked to the doctor. I read books. We came up with a plan. After bath time and snack time and books and kisses we go to his room. We lay on the chaise together for about five to ten minutes. Five to ten minutes for him to relax and know it is nearly bedtime. The doctor said that is the appropriate amount of time for bedtime "rocking". Then we lay him down. We don't leave, not yet. We stay there with him, telling him it's okay, that we are there, that we love him, that it's bedtime. If he cries we pick him up, kiss him, and lay him right back down. We keep our hands on him for now. Not the entire time, but when he wants them. We try our best to sooth him as he goes to sleep in his bed alone. Laying in his own bed like a good boy. Like a big boy. A big boy that we love so much. That is what I tell him, over and over as he fights sleep.
It's hard you all. It's really hard. As I stand in his room for and hour and a half to two hours repeatedly laying him back down. Again and again and again. Telling him I love him, that I am here. Laying him back down. I want to give up. I want to scoop him into my arms and just lay with him on the chaise again until he falls asleep. Better yet, I am so tired by that point I just want to take him back to bed with me. But I fight that. That is why we are here. He sleeps so well in his bed once we get him in there, I don't want to go backwards. I want him to learn he can sleep in is own bed. He can lay down and go to sleep. And I am always there, willing to pick him up and hug him if he needs me. This is the long way, but we knew we couldn't do "cry it out" and this was the alternative. So we are doing it. And it is hard. And I am tired. But two nights in a row he has fallen asleep in his own bed. And he has slept through the night. A happy boy. A big boy. A boy that we love more than anything.
*I know I already showed you this picture, but I love it so much I am showing you again