I did it to myself really, when I told my two and a half year old son that I would stay with him just “two minutes” more before leaving his room at bedtime some months ago.
Originally, I said it to prevent the daily tantrum that happened when we tried to leave the room before he had fallen fully asleep. That transition period between cradling my very big baby (i.e. toddler) to sleep every night and helping him learn to fall asleep on his own in his big boy bed is tough on any parent, let alone one that is grieving the loss of another child. The tears and the begging wail of a scared little boy were enough to rip my heart out and make me feel like the worst mother on the planet. And I’m sure my husband didn’t feel much better about it when it was his turn.
Before the “two minutes” was implemented, I would cave in, rush in to swoop him in my arms and rock him to sleep. Granted, at my most frustrated, that swoop was sometimes followed by a stern lecture that he needed to understand that he was a big boy and it was time for him to fall asleep in his bed. To which he would look at me like I was speaking a very hurtful form of gibberish that he did not care to understand if it meant anything besides him being rocked to sleep as per usual.
It took months to get him to the point where he would get into his bed by himself. He still needed us to stay in the room until he fell asleep, but we were making progress. There was a whole ritual. He would jump (sometimes literally) into his bed and after five or so minutes he would actually lay down so we could tuck him in. Then we had to sit in the rocker next to his bed and hold his hand until he fell asleep. I can’t say I hated that part, but he sometimes took foreeeeever to fall asleep. We already have so little time to ourselves after work. So to spend an hour and a half holding hands in a dark room while a two year old fights falling asleep can be torture if I’m feeling impatient. I fidget and there have been times where I startled myself when the back of the rocker banged into the wall because I was rocking so hard. “What doing, Mama?”, Pierson would ask. I’d chide myself inwardly, “Real smooth, Laurel. Now we get to start all over again.” There were many times that I’d think he was asleep only to have him sit up as soon as I took a step on his maddeningly squeaky, hard wood floor. I was getting pretty good at my stealth maneuvers, but still. I had to find a way to help us both through this daily bedtime struggle.
One night, instead of making it all the way out of the room, I stopped as soon as he started to protest. I was halfway to the door when he called out, “Noooo, mama.”. I turned and got to my knees beside his bed so I could speak quietly to him. “Pierson, tell you what, I will sit back down, but I am leaving in TWO MINUTES. Okay?” “Yayyyy, ooo inus, mama” was his reply. I sat back down and took his hand in mine. He turned on his side, facing towards me and hugged our joined hands. “Yuv you, mama” he said as he settled into his pillow with his favorite “choo choo ning” (Thomas the train) blanket pulled up to his chin. That, right there, was a frameable moment worth writing about. After roughly two minutes, I stood up, bent down to give him another hug & kiss goodnight and left the room. All was calm. I couldn’t believe it.
This went on for about a week until he got wise, stuck one tiny finger in the air and in the cutest two year old voice possible, he asked for just one more, “ooo inus, mama”. I laughed and gave in. Don’t judge, you would have too if you’d have heard him and seen the way he held up one finger to signify two minutes (shh, he knows how many two fingers are, he just doesn’t have the dexterity to hold them both up at once). My son just wanted two more minutes of my time. And then two more. And two more. Ha! How can I not feel like the luckiest mom in the world. To have the pure love and adoration of this tiny human is a miracle that I sometimes do not feel worthy of.
I sometimes worry that I’m being too lenient with Pierson’s discipline because of losing Merrick. I’m sure my guilt about the whole situation colors my judgment from time to time, but I’d like to think that I’m still doing an okay job of setting boundaries and remaining consistent. At the end of the day, I honestly don’t give a damn about the “right” way to do things. No, I don’t want him to grow up to be a mama’s boy who needs his hand held in order to cope with life. But he’s only two and a half. We have plenty of time to teach him independence, right? For now, can’t I just try to enjoy the time I have with him before he grows out of this stage? When it comes down to it, I really don’t mind the extra two minutes. Alright, that’s a lie. It has easily turned into thirty-ooo inus. But who’s counting.