Ali is one of those toddlers who wakes up fairly often in her sleep. She sleeps long, but it is usually interrupted. Sometimes I have to go in and pat her and tell her to go back to sleep, and sometimes she goes back to sleep on her own. Usually at night she doesn’t wake up, but if she does, she almost always goes back to sleep on her own. But during naptimes I almost always make one trip up to lay her back down. Odd, I know. But not the point of this blog.
The other night she woke up crying, and since I was in a deep sleep myself, I didn’t do my usual analysis of “does she sound like she is going to go back to sleep on her own?”, but jumped up and ran in there uncognizantly (yes, I just made that word up). I patted her and told her to go back to sleep and went back to our room.
A couple of minutes later, she was crying again. I went back in and asked her, “Do you want Mommy to hold you a minute?”, and of course she said “Hooooold you!!”. So I held her and rocked for a few minutes, falling in and out of sleep myself, then put her back in bed.
A couple of hours later she woke up again, except this time her cries weren’t heartfelt – they were obviously “I’m trying to get your attention” cries. After giving her a few minutes, I went back in there, and she immediately said (not really in an “I-need you” tone – more like an “I’m-the-boss-matter-of-fact” tone), “Mommy, hold you a minute”.
I knew that I couldn’t. I could see the dangerous curve ahead leading down a habit-path that I didn’t want to go on.
So I had to tell her, as hard as it was, (sigh) “no”.
I patted her on the back and she went back to sleep with no protests at all, and didn’t wake up again that night, or any of the nights following.
But it still hurts my heart that she managed to articulate “Mommy, hold you a Minute”, and I had to decline.
But that’s what parenthood is about – or at least the hard part of parenting. Kids have to know that they do not rule the world, that there are boundaries to which they have to be okay with. Especially when there is only one child. But whether she ends up with siblings or not (which is another subject for another day), she has to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around her.
And that’s hard.
Sometimes it’s so much easier to just let them have what they want than to insist on what they need. Whether it’s sleep, candy, one toy after another in the backseat of the car, or telling Mommy what to do. But what is easy in the short run can make things much more difficult – for the parent and the child – in the long run.
It is much easier to teach selflessness to a 21 month old to a 21 year old. It is much easier to learn selflessness at 21 months old than at 21 years old.
I have always thought that selflessness is one of the key ingredients to a happy marriage (or any other relationship, for that matter), and I want that for Ali. So therefore, I have to make the investment now so that it will pay off later.