It wasn't that long ago that I was still nursing Peter to sleep. We gradually tapered things off, but shortly before his birthday at the end of June, we stopped. That was, what, eight weeks ago, perhaps? Not a long time, but it seems like forever.
From the ashes of our breastfeeding time rose our pre-sleep snuggle time. At night, in a dark and quieting house, I would sing him a song and rock him for 5 minutes or so, then follow an exact tuck-in procedure: carefully positioning his little puppy next to him, placing his blankie just right over him and the puppy, turning on the little birdies that sing Beethoven (always after asking him), singing one last stanza of whatever I had been singing before, and then I would tell him goodnight and that I had to finish the dishes now (even if they were all done). He would happily hug his puppy and smile a goodnight and drift off to sleep.
In the afternoon, it would be harder for him to settle down with the sunlight streaming in and the distant sounds of his siblings having fun without him. But it would only take about ten minutes of gentle swishing in the glider rocker, and he would be fast asleep. None of my older four children ever enjoyed being rocked for longer than a few minutes, and it was a pleasant surprise when he started doing it.
An obnoxious voice in my head tried to tell me that rocking him to sleep was establishing a bad habit that I would have a hard time breaking. Years ago, I might have heeded that voice, or at least it would have caused anxiety as I fretted over managing his nap time routine while caring for the upcoming newborn. But I am older and wiser now. I pooh poohed that voice, reminding myself that rocking babies is the stuff that lullabies are made of and permitting myself to fully indulge in the pleasure of a toddler hugging me tightly as his little head grows heavy on my chest.
And I knew it wouldn't last long.
As surely as all change is, my gentle rocking ceased to soothe his excited and active body to sleep. I'm not sure how long it's been, maybe as long as two weeks; transitions with children play havoc with a mother's sense of time. Five days can seem like five weeks or even five months as we fight our way to new routines. I've been leaving him to get himself to sleep for his nap (sometimes with disastrous results). Soon, he'll be out of the crib, and it will be another wild adventure as he learns how to rest despite the temptation to wander.
I've missed the rocking.
On Friday, Jenny wasn't feeling well and by evening it was clear that she had some virus. She went to bed with a fever after napping most of the afternoon. Around 1:30 am, Pete woke up crying fitfully. He, too, had a fever. After a 40 minute bedside vigil, I brought him into my bed where I hoped we could both get some rest. Instead, he spent the next two hours rolling and fussing and kicking one parent or the other. Finally, I put him back to bed where he fell into a deep sleep and stayed there until nearly 10 am yesterday morning. The rest did him good, and he awoke with no signs of illness (Jenny spent the day on the couch).
Naturally, there was no chance this child would take a nap, and I didn't even bother. But after dinner, he started getting cranky, and I decided an early bedtime was appropriate. He didn't protest, but with the din of a household not yet ready for bedtime, I opted to see if rocking him would help him block out those noises.
He snuggled in my arm, taking a few minutes to find a spot around his unborn sibling who now takes up most of my lap. Within minutes his little body had completely relaxed and his head became a heavy weight on my shoulder. And still, I held him, not ready to let go of this moment.
It is not the child for whom this is a hard habit to break; it's the mother.