As a baby little man was such a, er, challenging, sleeper. Mommy friends would eye the wild look on my face, my sighs, my chugging coffee, and say "um, so how is he sleeping?" They soon learned not to ask.
He was a hall walker. Or we were rather. Up and down the halls, for hours. I would nurse him and instead of falling to sleep like my other babies. He would just stare at me. "Hi Mom. Thanks for the milk. Now what's on our agenda??" And at first yes, I was trying to "schedule him" till I threw that out the window. I had an excel spreadsheet. Do I not seem like that type of parent? Oh yes, yes I did. I tracked his naps. His feedings. His poops. No seriously. You can laugh. I totally did this. But after awhile, once I trashed the tracking, it was clear. Child just didn't like going to sleep. This is about when we caved to the co-sleeping, which I fought against even as he was older. MAMA JUST NEEDS TO SLEEP. His little cocooned self tucked in my arm, finally, I did.
Then as a toddler we tried to push the pack and play. Maybe he could just play in there, like other kids, until he falls asleep? Don't some kids do that? NOT MINE. Ha. The first (and only) time I tried this move he looked at me like "What do you think YOU are doing?" Night night baby, time for sleep, lay down. Confusion. "You are going to shut the door and LEAVE ME HERE?? Hells NO!" Commence screaming. And mommy runs in, holds his hand, night night baby, lay down in your nice bed. I will hold your hand. Go to sleep. This was attempted ONCE. And never again. More typically it was both mama (who was expecting sister at this point) and dada lying exhausted on our bed while little man did silly dances, jumped, and was all around crazy until he would collapse into a ball of used up energy, and then fall asleep.
For years even after he was a baby we had to lay with him in his bed. Tell him his story about his mini action figures rescuing animals in distress (my specialty) or about his two bears Charlie and Alexander and their adventures with Curious George. Then there was the singing. For months it was that holiday bell song "Hark how the bells!" over and over and over.
And then the magic moment. His eyes would close. His breathing would get deep. And he was out. Sigh of relief. Kiss on the cheek. Parent performs the ninja roll off of his bed, tucking hands under the covers. Sweet Jesus. We did it. He's asleep!
Ah. The joys of parenting an intense kid.
Somewhere around five it changed. Bedtime. "AW MOM" Come on, go get in bed. "FINE" stomp stomp. Tuck boy in. Kiss. Song. Prayers. Walk away. He falls asleep ON HIS OWN.
It comes and goes in cycles though. The past week or so he has fairly much insisted every night that he must lay in our bed to fall asleep. Which means mama or dada picks up his gangly 7 year old self and hauls him into his upper bunk bed. (Kid is HEAVY) And of course, it is not ideal.
"But WHY?" I say to him last night after we finished our nightly reading (mama was doing solo bedtime). Both girls asleep on my lap. Mama eager to tuck sisters into the big bed (they sleep better when someone else is there, then little miss gets moved to her own bunk later) and drink some tea and watch some Netflix or just stare at the ceiling IN SILENCE.
Eyes well with tears. Little foot stamps in rage.
"Buddy. WHY? You used to sleep in your own bunk just fine!"
"I just want my mom!" was all the explanation I could get out of him. Fists balled up in anger. Tired eyes full of tears.
I sigh - and not a patient calm sigh. A crabby mama sigh.
"FINE. Okay, okay, go get in my bed. I will be there in a minute." Little girls get carried to the bed too. Tucked in. Arranged. Some discussion follows about WHERE little man is sleeping. I fold up my glasses and climb into bed next to him, impatient, upset at myself for being impatient (you know that spiral, right??).
But then. Oh, then. He curls up on his side, I curl up on mine. We face each other. His little expression melts into a peaceful one, he reaches out to hold my hand. Mama. And I watch him. My big boy. Who can carry on a conversation that holds the interest of adults, read a book, write in cursive, feed our chickens, make a cup of tea. My big boy, as he closes his eyes, becomes my baby again. His face soft and happy.
I kiss his forehead, and it hits me. Not too many more years left of wanting to cuddle mom to sleep. Not too many more years of "sing to me mama." And while I have hopes he won't be a stinky teenage boy who is repulsed by his parents affection, well, things will change.
And for now, as I have the chance, watching his still baby like face drift off to sleep is a precious moment. His dark lashes batting up and down to make sure I'm still next to him. Smiling when he sees me looking down, still there.
And his breathing deepens and his eyelashes finally stay down and I do the ninja roll, tucking him in (sisters too) and I feel like I have been given a gift, a chance to see for a second, The Big Picture of parenting. That it goes so fast. That I love his so much. That each moment, each frustrating, hall-walking, song-singing, please-dear-god-let-him-fall-asleep moment, is precious.