My 2-year-old requires that I spend about half his nap lying with him. Well, not requires it, but that's how it's always been. And if I don't come to him, he will take a shorter nap and probably be cranky. So when he stirs, I come. I check Facebook, maybe try to write something (thank God for the Notes app on my phone), close my eyes for a bit.
At this point in my life as a parent (8.5 years!), I don't really think about my parenting choices, at least not in the way I used to when my first child was a baby. I obviously err on the side of crunchy/attachment parenting. But what I do or don't do is just... whatever. Part of life. Nothing to be analyzed. It basically works, and if it doesn't, I'm too tired to question it.
But it occurred to me this afternoon that there are a ton of parents out there who don't or wouldn't or simply can't spend half of naptime lying there with their children. Some are working mothers, some have other kids to be with during naptime. Some of their kids have teddy bears, pacifiers or blankets to cuddle with. Some kids just don't need as much sleep assistance as my kid does. I totally get that. Every mom and kid does what works for them.
It was recently Pajama Day at my older son's school. He was supposed to come dressed in PJ's with a favorite stuffed animal. Like his brother, he never had a teddy bear or another security object.
My son said, laughing, "I guess I'd have to bring you to school that day, Mom."
He doesn't sleep in our bed anymore (yes, they do eventually stop), but we lie together each night before he falls asleep and his dad or I (usually me) stay with him until he's out.
My 2-year-old requires much more of me still. Naps, all night his body next to mine. I realize this level of need, sleep interruption and closeness is not for everyone. I forget how strange it is to some people only because I have been parenting this way for so long and it feels like second nature to me.
Can I tell you why I do it? Yes, it started partly because I'm lazy, and going to my babies anytime they cried was easier than figuring out a different way to soothe them. Yes, it was just my instinct to do it, and I'm pretty good about tuning out the naysayers and just doing what feels right to me.
But I also do it because I'm holding on. I'm holding on to their childhoods by holding onto them. I won't hold forever. Independence comes on its own, and time with kids just keeps speeding on, whether you want it to or not. My 8-year-old barely even wants to cuddle before bed anymore. I'm lucky if I get a second of it. Before I know it, he won't even want me to lie near him. He'll just go into his room, shut the door and collapse into bed.
My 2-year-old, though. He lets me hold him. He wants that. He's small enough to still curl into me. His damp head in the May night still smells a little like a baby. OK, a lot. And I just don't want to rush it. I can't. It hurts my heart to think it will end. I know it will. I'm certain of it.
So, even though I sometimes get frustrated when my "off" time is interrupted; even though I sometimes feel touched out; even though I sometimes wish I could sleep alone, I go to him anyway. I lie there in the dark, mostly just waiting, sometimes just resting, often zoning out on my phone.
I'm taking him in. I'm stopping time for a second. I'm holding on.
A version of this post originally appeared on wendywisner.com.
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