People ask me how I can stand it. The sleep deprivation. The every-other-hour wakings. I mean 18 months of this! How have you survived? I can’t believe he’s STILL NOT SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT!
I know they mean well, but that doesn’t help. The incredulousness, the pity, mixed with undertones of, they must be doing something wrong…
After really bad nights, I start to believe them. He’s a walking, talking, happy little toddler. Why doesn’t he sleep like he’s supposed to? Why can’t he be normal? And I hate that I let that crap in every once in a while, because really? For the most part, we’re cool with it. We joke around, we’re self-deprecating, and I suppose it comes up in conversation. Because sleep seems to be like, the most important topic when you have children. But whatever. This is our life, we roll with the punches, we love our son so much, and truly? It’s only been 18 months. Of a LIFETIME. His lifetime. Our lifetime. He was a baby for like what, a year? Not even. It was gone like that, before I even realized it, that bald head was covered in scraggly blonde hair and those squishy little sausages he had for legs were walking (running) him all over his little world, which was just getting bigger and bigger by the day.
I feel like toddlerhood is just the same, fleeting, and I’m not going to get hung up on trying to make him sleep like we want him to sleep, because I truly think it’ll happen eventually. I’m not going to waste these precious days on sleep training, and I’m not going to get so obsessed with having a perfect sleep schedule that I have to constantly refuse invitations for family gatherings where Gus so joyfully participates in trouble-making amongst his numerous cousins and aunts and uncles.
He’s been sleeping a lot better over the last few weeks, after pushing through 2 of the 4 eye-teeth he’s been working on. (His poor gums are big giant puffs of redness.) A few nights ago he only woke up once, at midnight, then afterwards slept six hours straight. Not going to lie, it was glorious.
For some reason, that night when he awoke at midnight, he was so alert and wide awake, his big blue eyes staring into mine. We snuggled together in the rocker, and he pointed at things throughout the dark room, his sweet voice, jabbering on, telling me things in his own little language that I couldn’t understand. But I insisted with him that it was nighttime, and we needed to go back to sleep. So he laid his head on my chest and spent about fifteen minutes trying to get comfortable, changing positions, turning his head. He would sit up and look at me, then reach his arms around my neck and pull me in for tiny kisses, then lay his head back down.
Oh the sweetness. I held him long after he fell asleep, his delicious little head in the crook of my neck, still smelling of bath time. It was one of those moments… where I thought… if this is wrong, well then screw them, no this is perfect.
Of course I wish he slept better, but no, I don’t think we’re doing anything wrong. I think I have a sensitive little boy who wants his mama or daddy when he wakes up all alone in the middle of the night. Sometimes he chooses to go back to sleep on his own, but most of the time, no. He wants one of us.
We have a little boy who doesn’t brush off things like teething or sickness like they’re nothing. No, he needs help. He demands help. On those nights he gets up constantly, and he wants someone near him when he wakes up in pain. I do not love it. And sometimes I drag my tired body into his room and grumble under my breath in frustration. But he’s only been alive for 18 months, and I’m not going to expect him to be able to handle those things on his own. Sure, it’d be nice if he could, but I’m not going to push him. And I’m his mom, I brought him into this world, and I just can’t let him fend for himself when he so clearly tells me that he needs me.
Yeah, he needs me a lot at night. But in the morning, he is an exuberant, independent, and ferociously funny little boy. He is a blur in almost every picture I take. He climbs up on coffee tables and dances and cackles until you drag him off. He jabbers on and on, tells us jokes and long stories about trucks. Dan will draw him little pictures and he tells us what they are. Bus! Stop! Aaaps (Apple)! Ask him where something is in a book, and he points, “There it is!” He dances and jumps all over the house. He laughs and laughs as you sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and then pounces and attacks you in a fit of giggles when you put your arms up in the air singing, “Out came the sun and…”. (Sometimes we do not know why he does the things he does.)
He is a normal 18 month old. And maybe there are a lot of normal 18 month olds out there who don’t sleep very well, like our little guy. Maybe people just don’t talk about it? Maybe they all cry themselves to sleep? I don’t know. Whatever. He’s happy, growing, learning, and constantly changing. And so are we. We’re not just “surviving”, like I think people sometimes believe. We don't deserve a "medal". We’re living and laughing and smiling and having adventures every day. And at this point, we're quite used to doing it all on little sleep!