He started sleeping through the night when he was almost a year old, when I night weaned him. Since then, he's been the most consistent sleeper of our children, falling asleep almost as soon as his head hits the pillow, sleeping all night, and even still taking occasional naps. Ryan and I used to go out of our way to make sure he got the sleep his body needed.
As my first boy, I wanted to be careful that we nurture his feelings, making sure he felt he was always safe to express himself. It's so important to me that he feels safe and never stifled... But goodness gracious it's not an easy task for this mother! He has a lot of "big feelings!" For months we taught him deep breathing exercises, and finally when it felt like I was a big failure of a mother, he started catching on and doing it on his own. He just needed to do it in his own time.
And that's what parenting is really about, isn't it? We can't "make" them do anything... You can punish and time out and threaten all you want, but it's up to the child to make their own decision. For that reason, I've wanted to be a parent that maintains an open dialogue with my kids, and I hope that I've done that for them.
In our family, I can usually tell there's going to be a big change soon by the way a child is sleeping or acting. Before a baby starts crawling, they usually go through a few weeks of fitful sleep. Before they start walking, sleep always seems to suffer again. And as they've gotten older, I can tell there's going to be a big mental change after a more obvious physical change. Luke has gone through several growth spurts the past couple of years, it seemed like I was always buying him a new pair of shoes! (He wears a size 12.5 right now, the same size as Beth!) Recently, he went through a mental growth spurt. It seemed like overnight, he got very interested in writing and drawing, and sitting still for an hour- by choice- to draw. And draw and draw and draw. And his handwriting went from "zero-to-hero" almost overnight.
And all of the sudden, he and I are connecting so much better. I feel like I understand him more, can reason with him and talk to him in a way that makes sense to him...and maybe that's me or maybe it's him. It do feel like a rotten mom for having gone through years of not "getting" him. But on the other hand, I want to take advantage of the time we have now to play and learn and grow together.
Well...I think it was him who went through a mental growth spurt, but I wonder... Was it me? Did something in my brain change or click so that I could understand him better? My pregnancy was so wonderful, I had so many lovely hormones flowing through me- they truly did help me be a better mom!
Or maybe God has heard my desperate cries to connect with my son. With this little dude who has challenged me in ways I didn't think was possible. I won't go into details for the sake of family privacy, but it's been difficult. And boy, did I have to pray hard to get through some days. I know God wants me to rely on Him, to give Him my worries and anger and anxieties and let Him take this from me. And maybe He's trying to teach me to choose virtue instead of vice? It's so real to see your children have your own same faults... To realize that's what I'm like? Boy I wish I could teach him now so that he wouldn't have to go through this difficult time trying to reform as an adult!
But I won't be able to, because it's not totally up to me. He is his own person- a silly, genuinely funny, artistic, skillful boy- and all I can do is set a good example for him (what a challange!) and pray. Pray pray pray pray pray.
His face is changing. He's growing into a "big kid" and leaving behind my little boy. He still favors me, I think, but sometimes I catch him looking at a toy and he looks like his Daddy. So handsome and so old! I think he will be tall and have broad shoulders. He's definitely a soccer star but he tells me he wants to be a knight, a space man, and a daddy. At Sunday's mass he saw the Knights of Columbus with their swords and that caught his attention!
I will make it my prayer that whatever he decides to be, he follows the path God sets before him. And I am thankful for the opportunity to connect and reconnect from all the times I missed when the journey was too hard.