I’m writing this as I’m lying in bed with our 2-year-old who is almost asleep after a bedtime routine that feels like forever. Her sleep pattern resembles most toddlers I know (“know”, i.e. every night between 6pm and 11pm I text, in exhausted solitude, with my friends who are also parents). On nights like these, I often find myself frantically searching the internet for a solution even though I already know the “options.” The options are mostly focused on conversations around sleep training, vitamins, and essential oils, but the one thing that seems to be a common thread is choosing and sticking to a routine. And we have a routine, but every so often—when it’s a seemingly sleepless night as a toddler mom—I start to doubt our current routine.
A few months ago, my husband and I decided that every night he would do the bedtime routine (dance party, bath time, brushing teeth) and I would put her to sleep. There are many valid options for how to help a toddler get some rest, but in this season I’ve made a choice to lie in bed with her until she’s asleep. Despite the studies that show that this will prolong her falling asleep and my bachelor’s degree in child and youth development (which doesn’t endorse co-sleeping), it’s a pandemic. Nothing is the same. And no matter how long it takes her to fall asleep, I know that holding her close is what she needs.
Everything about the pandemic has challenged the plans of every parent. You would think that a toddler doesn’t notice most things, but she has been affected greatly. And while we choose positive words such as “loving our neighbor” (by wearing a mask or social distancing), she feels the weight of these “unprecedented times” in her own way. She has never experienced a “normal” social life. There has been almost no consistency in her interactions with the world. The best we can do is choose when and where we can give her safety and security at home.
So, we choose to hold her close as she closes her eyes to fall asleep.
A chapter in my book, Finding Quiet, is called “Learning to Let Go.” I wrote it about learning to be okay with her spending a few hours with babysitters. She was only a few months old at the time, and I should note that the babysitters were my parents. They’re pastors, parenting coaches, and all around some of my favorite people. But as a new mom—and especially with my anxiety diagnosis—some of the most “practical” ideas seemed complex to me. Learning to let go was a daily battle that I faced, but ultimately it gave me more time to focus on myself, my marriage, my friendships, and overall to be a better mom.
However, even in letting go it’s important to find the balance—to know when it’s not yet time. And right now, it’s still time for me to hold on. Of course, I enjoy cuddling with the most adorable toddler there ever was, but it is a sacrifice of both an extra hour to myself in the evenings and occasionally the emotional task of coaxing and convincing as she protests sleep. But she won’t be this small for long, and I won’t always be around to hold her as she falls asleep, so this is definitely a sacrifice worth making.
Holding on looks different for every person, especially for every parent. I think we are all trying to grasp how to give our children comfort in a world that regularly feels uncomfortable. So here I am, lying in bed with our toddler as I type this. She is dozing off to the sounds of her noise machine and soft-piano-music playlist. As she has gotten older, I have let go of some things: taking every nap with her, co-sleeping, and many other parts of our mom-and-baby routine. But cuddling before bedtime remains high on the list, and this is where I choose to hold on.
What’s an area in your life where you’re learning to find the balance between letting go and holding on?Leave a Comment