I did some searching through my old blog posts this morning, looking for this one (scroll down to June 22, 2006). I needed to read it, and to read all the sweet and supportive comments that were made over 3 years ago.
Why? Max is now over 8, and for a while he slept well and was happily going off to bed on his own. His love of reading really helped - he would take a huge pile of books with him, and eventually fall asleep in the middle of them.
Things have not been so easy in recent months. Our little boy is now scared to be in his bedroom, even with the light on, and even though most nights one of us volunteer to be in there with him. As he goes to sleep, he hears noises, or gets strange feelings in his legs and arms. He desperately wants to and tries to go to sleep on his own, but ends up getting up with the excuse of needing a drink of water, or another book. After a half a dozen or so attempts, he is in tears and cuddles up with me in a lounge chair and falls asleep. Or Pete offers to lie down with him, until he is asleep. Without fail, every night by 1am he is in our bed.
Intellectually, I know that there are lots of reasons for his sleeping problems, going way back to an illness when he was very small.. and of course lots of guilty ways that we as parents are contributing to it. But emotionally we know that he is our son, who is smart, unique and sensitive, and while we can be here for him, we will.
Our society's expectation that children will sleep on their own in their own room is such an affluent, Western ideal. As adults we feel safe, secure and happy with another warm body to sleep next to, so why are we expecting our children to toughen up and be self-reliant?
The wrigging and kicking... that could be why ;). Anyway, this all reminded me of a beautiful poem by Bruce Dawe, which is not at all about sleep, but I'll share it anyway.
Easy Does It
- Bruce Dawe
I have to be careful with my boy
When he says tree it comes out hazy
very green and friendly and before I've got
the meaning straight he's up there laughing in it,
or working on the word for aeroplane
which is also a little above his head
so that he has to stand on tiptoe to touch it
-for him it does Immelmanns to order,
but when I try it becomes suddenly
only a model in a museum with props that slowly turn
when the button is pushed and a cutaway section
to show the engine in action…
I have to be careful with my boy,
that I don’t crumple his immediate-delivery-genuine-fold-up-and-extensible world
into correct English forever, petrify its wonder
with the stony gaze of grammar, or turn him into
a sort of Sunday visitor at the lakeside
who brings bags of specially-prepared bread-crusts to feed
to swans who arch their necks and hiss.
Poloroid photo made at http://www.rollip.com/start