My son, now nine, came to live with me when he was five. Well beyond the newborn middle of the night wake up calls. In many ways at age five we were beyond many of the parenting stages that are frequently talked about: sleep deprivation, terrible twos, potty training, etc. Sure we’ve gone through many different iterations of our relationship since that day in April almost exactly four years ago that we became family. But I was unique in that, as a mid-twenty year old with a young child I’d never experienced consecutive nights of disrupted sleep.
Until a few months ago.
My now nine year son suddenly became incapable of sleeping through the night in his own room. When AJ first came to live with me we struggled immensely with going to sleep. Many phone calls to my mom (she even wrote us Alec and the Sandman to help!) and internet searches later, but most importantly with time to develop a consistent bedtime routine, we had slayed:
The ‘I can’t fall asleep’ beast,
The ‘I’m not tired’ beast,
The ‘suddenly hungry despite turning down all snacks ten minutes ago’ beast,
The ‘just one more book’ beast,
The ‘I have to go to the bathroom again’ beast,
And my favorite: the ‘I just miss you when I’m asleep’ beast.
But throughout all of this, once the boy was asleep he was asleep for 10-12 blissfully quiet and calm hours.
The first few time AJ woke in the middle of the night, I was calm, I didn’t hit the panic button. I just walked him back to his room and sat with him until he fell back asleep. I did this, again and again and again, multiple times a night, night after night. I became a zombie – I lost my patience and I hit the panic button. The internet had fewer suggestions for this problem than it did when he was five. The suggestions I did find mostly boiled down to routine – which we had faithfully maintained for years. I was out of ideas, so I did what I always do when I’m stuck – I called my mom.
Her advice was to roll back the panic, to survive within it. This was a phase she said, it too will pass. In the meantime find a temporary solution that makes you both happy and healthy.
Enter the camping mat. For over two months this camping mat has lived in a corner of my room waiting. And for a little over a month and a half I woke up in the morning looked over and saw my little man snoozing next to me. Sure I worried throughout this time: can he possibly be getting quality sleep? is he warm enough down there? IS THIS GOING TO GO ON FOREVER? Well he never once complained about being cold or uncomfortable – he is 9 and not 29 I suppose. And low and behold about two weeks ago it stopped as quickly as it started. It has been two weeks of waking up to an empty mat and I’m ready to pack it away, it seems it’s need is gone – but if I’m wrong I won’t hesitate to bring it back. It won’t be forever, it’s just a phase and it won’t last.
I’m grateful to have had this experience and the reminder that sometimes there isn’t a true solution to a problem. Sometimes you have to look at things differently. This wasn’t a problem to solve; it was a phase in our lives to accommodate and find peace within. And believe it or not I already kind of miss this phase like all the others behind us – even if only a little bit.