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Jan 11

Growing up is hard, but pushing them to grow up is harder

We co-sleep. Julianna Ruth has slept next to me every night of her life, and I’ve got no plans on trying to transition her into her own bed anytime soon. Sam and Jessie have lovely, lovely bedrooms, decorated, filled with toys, big inviting beds, with stuffed animals, special blankets and pillows on them. And really, given the option, they’d always rather sleep in bed with us.

It’s not an every night thing – mostly, they do sleep in their own beds.  While we were waiting for this new apartment to be ready,  we were staying with friends all last month, all in one bedroom. Breaking the habit is proving harder than I anticipated it would be. We all got used to kind of sleeping on top of one another. Staying all by themselves, in their own individual rooms, is hard now.

The other night, I had to gently push Jessie to sleep in her own bed. She had been sleeping in mine since we moved in, and I was beginning to think that she was just not ever going to sleep in her own bed again. At first she didn’t like her new room, so we went a little overboard on making it lovely.  Got her a new bed, new posters, rearranged it twice, and finally she reached the point where she was delighted by the bedroom.  We ended up finding a loft bed in one of Marc’s  aunt’s basements, and put that in there, with Julianna’s bed perpendicular underneath it.  Her room is so pretty now, and uniquely her, but she still doesn’t like sleeping in it.

The other night, I told her that while she was always welcome to sleep in our bed, I didn’t want her to not be able  to sleep in her own.  It was important that it be an  option – not the default.  She trudged off to her room, with this air of resignation and sadness, and I felt so guilty. As hard as it was for her to sleep in her own bed, by herself, it was much harder for me to make her do it.

And it occurred to me that this separation, this growing up, while totally necessary, it so hard. She has to grow up, she has to know that she’s perfectly okay sleeping without me, safe without me. It’s a lesson she’s been learning, and I’ve been learning, from the very beginning. And we do it over and over again. From the first time the nurse wheels your baby to the nursery on that first day, to the first steps toddling away, first sleepover, first day of school, etc… and it just never gets easier. I love that she’s growing up, I love the girl she is and the glimmers of the woman she’ll be. But I still miss my baby. I miss that connection, that all encompassing devotion and adoration on both our parts. Our relationship is bigger now. She gets mad at me, I get irritated with her. She’s got relationships that I’m not a part of – and that’s exactly as it should be.

But that doesn’t make it easier. I missed her terribly the other night, and after a few minutes, I peeked in to check on her. If she was still awake, I’d tell her she could come and sleep in our bed. But she was sound asleep, in her perfect pretty bedroom, clutching her teddy bear. I tiptoed back to bed, feeling both vindicated and sad. Because I was right when I told her that she needed to be able to sleep in her own room, and that she’d be fine, and a part of me, a small but still vocal part, wished I was wrong. I think I’ve always been like that – knowing that she has to grow up, gently urging and pushing her to do it when she’s ready, and feeling wistful and slightly sad knowing that she’s growing up all the time. One day, it’ll be completely foreign for her to snuggle up with her mama to go to sleep, one day, probably soon as adolescence is just starting to rear it’s little head, she’ll go to sleep, vowing that she hates me and can’t wait until she’s out of my house. She’ll be an adult soon enough, and I won’t always be able to whisper lullabies to help her sleep. And I know I’ll look back on this night, and wish I hadn’t pushed her to grow up, wish that I could go back and let her little eight year old self snuggle up next to me and drift off…

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