I mean, I wasn’t there for the every-two-hour feedings my little preemie required all through the night in those early days. She wasn’t yet in our custody, although she’d taken over our hearts — so ultimately, I can’t speak with authority about her first six months.
But since my partner, our eldest, and I first held Miss E in our arms, she’s been an awesome sleeper. There was that one week we had to wean her from our presence as she screeched over the side of her crib at 16 months, and those few weeks when we traveled and she demanded to sleep in our bed, which we allowed at some point, finally, so we could really truly and for more than an hour at a time all SLEEP. And there may have been a few other hiccups along the way, but for the most part? When it’s bedtime, she goes down.
I won’t take the credit. She likes to sleep. But yes, there were lullabies. For years, there were lullabies. And yes, there were stories. There are still stories, although now, we often read side-by-side, each of us with our own book. Now, too, there is cuddling and a late-night chat before tuck-in. There is and has been all of this – and I love it all.
At the same time, I know that my girl is officially a Tween. I mean, the library bookshelves call it “10 and up” and there are some other definitions floating around out there, but as her mom, and as someone who experiences the eye rolls and attitude, re-directing, pausing, scolding, and shooting her my best mom-eye on a daily basis, I can tell you with absolute certainty: My daughter is a Tween.
It’s nothing like the British show, Tweenies, by the way, which we watched daily when she was two and we were in London and the television was our frequent friend. But I digress.
The point is – I know what comes with Tween, and I know what comes after. I’ve witnessed this once before, and as mom to a new Tween now whose life I’ve had the privilege to observe and guide since infancy, I understand that while she will always be mine, she will not always be mine in the same way she is now, to care for and cuddle at will.
Earlier this week, she made me a homemade strawberry rhubarb jam sandwich for breakfast, presenting it with raspberries just after my shower. She made one for Kelly – my partner, her Mama – as well.
Our little girl is growing up.
So I fear for our bedtime ritual. I see the writing on the wall. It’s painted in strawberry rhubarb jam, right there in our kitchen. Within reach.
I’ve begun to scan our days together for new cuddling opportunities, new chat-time or side-by-side reading time, but I’m loathe to make the shift. Should I wait until she really does shut her door with an, “I’ve got this, Mami,” turning the lights off on her own? My heart and my head are not yet aligned. Is this how it works for everyone? How do we truly – yet artfully, lovingly – let go?
And how do we make new lives for ourselves?
There is nothing quite like sitting on my daughter’s bed at night, just past lights-out as she sinks into sleep. No matter what the day has held, no matter how we’ve connected or disconnected from one another, no matter what we’ve learned or shared or played or said or walked away from, this simple quiet is… breathtaking. I hear what escapes my notice in the day – the scratch of dog claws against a pillow, the wind rustling leaves outside, a distant voice, a closer meow, muffled dialogue on the TV. My daughter’s breath.
I stand. I kiss her head.
“I love you, sweetheart. I wish you wings in your dreams,” I tell her, as I have every night since I can remember.
“I wish you wings in your dreams, too,” she replies, rarely completely asleep before I go.
And quietly, with a smile that warms me inside, I shut her door.
If you love something, set it free.
We will evolve. Our rituals will evolve with us. I don’t know how, but – I trust this. I must. Every day. So she – so we – may grow.