When I was pregnant, I blogged about how watching the Anderson kiddos was great preparation for parenting. Talk about good blog-writing material. One day we took a road trip to visit Eric at work for lunch. Isaac was a bit enamored with Eric (who he calls Derrick, or rather "Dewick") so, despite Eric's attempts to get a conversation going, Isaac spent the first 30 minutes shyly eating his cheesy hotdog. But after a while, he got up the courage to talk to Eric. The culmination of this conversation has become a regular catch phrase in our house:
Isaac: Hey Dewick!
Eric: Yeah Isaac?
Isaac: (banging on the table) Am I a good dwummuh?
Eric: Yes, Isaac! You're a very good drummer!
Isaac: (jumping to his feet on the bench and crouching down) Am I a GWEAT snowbowduh?
Eric: (laughing) YES!
Well, as prepared for this parenting gig as I thought I was after last summer (on top of my many years of baby-sitting), I have something to tell you.
I repent! I repent! I will admit that I have been harboring a bit of self-righteous pride for my genius daughter's ability to sleep for long hours at an early age AND for the relative ease with which we have been able to get her to sleep. Swaddle her, bink her, kiss her, lights out. She would "yell" for 3-5 minutes and then she'd nod right off.
I ashamedly remember that silent tsk, tsk I would allow myself when other mommies would tell me about how they nursed, rocked, sang or bounced their babies to sleep, breathlessly laid them down and tip-toed out of the room with the hopes that they wouldn't be back in for round two, three or four. I would honestly think, "They're doing it all wrong!" And my sweet little sleepy angel was my proof.
But I repent! I confess my pride and condescension for, my friends, the tides have turned. Bedtime has become the torture that I thought we would never experience (at least with this child). Gone are the days when Eric and I would sit in the living room giggling at the cute little squawks of protest coming from Lila's room. They have been replaced with hour-long minutes of watching the clock, enduring the howls of anguish from my tortured daughter, telling myself "5 more minutes, then I'll go in there." She gets herself so worked up that she starts choking on her own saliva and her voice goes hoarse. Lila is screaming her little heart out for someone to come comfort her.
The thing is, it's not comfort she really wants. She wants to party. After a few minutes of calming her down, the shrieks stop and she grins at us through her bink as if to say, "Oh, hello! Is it time to play now? Are we done with all this bedtime silliness?" And I think to myself, "Self, you are a sucker."
So the only solution is to just let her cry. And as Lila cries, her mommy has to fight back her own tears (and guilt and questions about her sanity and the quality of her parenting and, and, and). In those moments, I think about how tough I used to be. In my many years of babysitting, I never let kids walk all over me like this! But there's something about your own baby. Not only does it just break your heart to hear her that upset, but you also have to fight the desire to be the rescuer, the comforter, the healer, the problem-solver! Because every time I give in to the crying, my self esteem gets a bit of a boost. She's so relieved to see me! All she wants is for me to pick her up and hold her! And I know that won't last forever - I mean, she's gonna turn 14 someday, right!?
But it's not about giving her what she wants or even what I want. It's about what's best for her. And the girl needs to sleep. So tonight as I was sitting at the table listening to her wailing and resisting the urge to barge into her room, Eric sweetly came up and kissed me on the top of my head and said, "You're a good mom." And then he added, "And a great snowboarder."