Friday, February 27, 2015

CIO: Cuddle It Out

My youngest is going through a phase (or so I hope) that involves quite a bit of crying and screaming at bedtime. Despite my best efforts to determine the source of his present distress, I've yet to figure out exactly why Going to Bed has suddenly turned our house into a real-life version of Hogsmeade's Shrieking Shack. He hasn't quite reached the age at which he can fully articulate his feelings (one of the greatest parental frustrations of raising a toddler), and I’m not sure if he’s scared, or just craving attention, or nervous about something. (His latest origins of psychological malaise include loose threads, the recent discovery of veins in his wrist, and the visual and mental awareness of lines on his palm; he’s actually been walking around with his sleeve pulled over his hand so as not to see these. It’s endearing, but makes for a lot of post-meal laundry. I have a feeling that if he actually left his palm exposed long enough to have some quack read those lines, she’d see a teenage glovephile.)

"Grim" must be an acronym for "Gloves Required Immediately, Mama."
[via Giphy]

This has been going on for roughly a week now, and there was one night in particular a few days ago when I could just feel my patience running thinner than Dobby’s hair:

Gosh, this post is gonna sound like gibberish
to anyone that’s not a fellow Potterhead.

[via Giphy]
Anyway, back to the Muggle topic at (fear-mongeringly creased) hand. Here’s the thing: I am not a fan of “cry it out.” It’s just not for me. I’m sure there are people out there who think that makes me “weak” or something. I’m not dissing parents who employ that method, nor am I attempting to spark some sort of debate about it. I’m well aware that there are probably certain situations that necessitate some unwiped tears. I was blessed not to have colicky babies, so I can’t speak from the perspective of someone who does. However, I do feel I should at least explain the rationale behind my personal philosophy.

This is how I look at it: I don’t like going to bed worried, anxious, or afraid. It doesn’t matter if the issue causing me personal anguish seems silly or inconsequential to other people. If it’s keeping me up at night, then it’s a big freaking deal, even if I’m crying over a load of unwashed laundry or cupcake-eater’s-remorse. I don’t like lying in bed with a layer of unease between myself and my comforter (too bad it's not nomenclaturally relevant to one's emotional well-being), or falling asleep upset. I doubt anyone does. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the platitude "Don’t go to bed angry" dished out as "sound advice" for married couples (speaking of "sound" advice: I could really use some regarding my stop the screaming). Why should it be any different for our children? It shouldn't matter what a child’s source of fear or apprehension is; the thing that matters is that it’s causing him obvious emotional distress. I don’t enjoy crying myself to sleep, and I don’t think my kids should have to endure something like that simply because it would make my life a little easier.

But, yes, I’m human, and sometimes it’s hard to "walk the walk," especially when I’m so tired that the best I can even hope to do is "shuffle the walk"—in my worn down house slippers. So when my typically-happy-toddler once again started wailing at the moment of contact with his bed that particularly exhausting evening, my immediate reaction was annoyance. I had a headache, I’d gotten about five hours of sleep the previous night, and both my boys were suffering from a bad case of cabin fever. (Texas had endured a rare ice storm, which put a temporary hold on our nearly daily playground visits. It seriously looked as though Elsa had…umm…"let it go"—as in, a euphemism for s**t her brains out—everywhere.)

No, Elsa! Hold it in! Hold it in! Quick, someone get the Imodium!
[via Giphy]

So I left the room, shutting the door behind me, and resolved myself to just "giving him five minutes" so I could sit down and watch American Idol (a slightly embarrassing guilty pleasure). I lasted about two, but when his little wails started to drown out the particularly shrieky Idol contestant on the TV, I couldn't—in good conscience—allow them to continue. So I turned off the boob tube, returned to his room, swept his trembling, delicate body up into my arms—making sure to grab "Zih" (his beloved blankie) as well— and made my way over to the glider.

The hallowed "Zih" of which I speak. Basically a third arm. Luckily it has no palm lines, but it does sport the occasional loose thread in need of yanking. 

Once I had him in my arms—his tiny heart beating rapidly into my own, my lips softly brushing his freshly buzzed scalp—all of my irritation melted away. His response to my touch was immediate, and as soon as we sat down in the glider, he curled his lanky little body into mine, rested his head against my chest, and started drifting off to sleep. In the quiet of his slumber, I started to reminisce about my pregnancy. I recalled occasionally getting frustrated when he and his brother were particularly rambunctious fetuses (Who'da thunk, right? I mean, they're so low-key now), and I’d get a kick in the ribs or punch in the bladder as I was trying to sleep. Of course, once the boys were born, I found myself missing the unique sensation of them moving inside of me, of breathing the same breath, pumping the same blood, sharing life itself. Sitting in that chair with this tiny human beingthis living fragment of myselfour breaths and heartbeats falling back in sync, I realized that these are moments to treasure, not dread.

Because there will come a day when he won’t permit me moments like this.

A day when being cradled in my arms can’t make all his problems go away.

A day when I’ll no longer know the gentle pressure of his tiny, familiar fingers pressed into my back.

A day when his fingers aren't so tiny.

Or familiar.

A day when his perfectly shaved little head no longer fits in the crook between my cheek and shoulder.

A day when we can’t both fit comfortably in a rocking chair.

A day when his limbs are too long for me to fold up like a secret love letter, enveloped in my arms.

There will come a day when I’m not the girl he wants to cuddle with.

A day when he goes to bed upset—over a bully at school, or a girl problem, or (gasp!) the discovery of more bodily creases—and he’ll push me away when I try to comfort him.

A day when I have to traverse miles, not a hallway, to get to him.

A day when I’m the one up at night, plagued with worry, because he’s not around.

A day when he may be the one wiping away my tears.


So for now, I will gladly sacrifice my evening TV time to rock my child to sleep.

There are things in life you can’t DVR. 

All images, excepting the two of my kid, courtesy of (Lord help him if you can't tell the difference).

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