When you were about 6 months old, you started sleeping through the night. Most mornings, around 4am, you would wake, ready for your bottle and a diaper change and your father or I would stumble sleepily into your nursery and bring you into bed with us.
This went on for another 18 months until we transitioned you to your own big girl bed. At that point, early every morning, you would slide out of the bed yourself and make your way to our bedroom. I have been lifting you in a sleepy daze over my body and into the space between your father and I for almost two years now.
Your feet in my ribs, arms flopped over my face, and slow heavenly breaths in my ear have been a constant part of my sleep for your entire life. I kept telling myself, at some point, we were going to have to teach you to stay in your own bed all night long. She’s almost four, I’d think to myself, isn’t she getting too old for this?
You used to be a dream to put to sleep at night. We’d turn on your sound machine, rock you for a little while and lay you down in your bed to sleep with ease. You used to happily go to sleep with your door closed and all of the lights off.
But when we weaned you from your pacifier, all of that changed. You weren’t sure how to self soothe anymore and our bedtime routine suddenly turned into hour long sessions of closet lights on and doors wide open and rubbing your back and carefully sneaking out when you were soundly sleeping.
Over the months we slowly inched away. First sitting at the end of your bed while you fell asleep. Then at the door of your room. Then in a chair, just out of view in the hallway.
"Mommy?" you’d call from the darkness.
"Still here," I’d say back.
Eventually we started getting out of the chair when you were still awake. “Just stay for five minutes” you’d tell us. And then… a few weeks ago you announced you didn’t need us to do that anymore. After books and bedtime prayers and a couple snuggles, we were free to go about our night.
No more keeping guard, however briefly, outside your door. Every night since, you’ve reminded me, “Big girls don’t need their mommies to sit in the chair. ” And I’ve agreed with you and kissed you goodnight and walked out of your door to finish the dishes or to read a book or catch up on a favorite tv show.
All those months we’ve spent creeping farther and farther away and when you were finally ready for us to go, it stung more than I expected.
It’s made me realize something else. I am in no rush at all to convince you to stop your early morning visits to our bed. One day, you are going to decide you are ready to sleep straight through till morning. You are going to tell me again the rules of being a big girl now. You are going to assert that independence that we are so proudly watching grow in you.
And I’m going to ache for the mornings that I wake up nearly falling off the edge of the bed because you’re tiny body has managed to take up the rest. I’m going to wish desperately for the joy of watching your eyes, so sweetly, blink open every new day.
Sometimes we push you slowly into finding your own independence and sometimes we wait and let it come on its own. It’s a delicate dance, this whole business of you growing up. It is happening all around us, all the time. You may be a big girl when you close your eyes at night, but I’m thankful you get to be my baby just a little longer when you open them every morning.