On rocking kids to sleep

As hard as we try to get out of the bad habits of parenting – or, at least, the bad habits we stumbled into the first time around, with Sierra, who at times (like most first children, I assume) served as more of a test subject than a child, our best guesses at sound parenting nothing more than a series of experimentation – we often fall back into them.

We understand that children don’t learn to fall asleep on their own until they are set down while awake – no rocking to sleep, no snoring before letting go. We know this firsthand, thanks to the nightmare of Sierra’s sleep schedule through the first 15 months and her refusal to sleep without a full narcotic dose of rocking and singing.

Yet, I can’t help at this point – a full two and a half years into this parenting business, and over nine months into trying to figure out kid #2 – but want to rock him to sleep. To closed-eyes, shallow-breath, oops-I-let-go-too-early-but-he’s-totally-not-waking-up sleep.

I don’t care if he wakes up, wondering where he is, confused as to how he got to this point, crying and wailing and wanting someone to help him return to the state he was in before he zonked out: in the arms of a parent, safe from the world.

I don’t care if he takes a few extra months before we’re able to set him in bed, turn off the light and say “good night!” without swaddling and rocking and feeding and snuggling and the rest of the routine.

I don’t care, because, as I realized while rocking him tonight, he’s only got a few more months of needing us to fall asleep. Where Sierra is totally self-sufficient in the sleep category, Isaac still clings to us for protection, still curls up in the den our arms form around him, still looks to us for that basic need.

I don’t care, because I know someday that will be gone. He’ll fight going to sleep, but in a different way. In a combative way. No longer looking to us to help him, he’ll see us a foes – as the adults standing in the way of another hour of television.

So for now, I’ll rock him. To sleep. For whatever he needs. And wait for the day when he realizes he can let go.

This was lovingly handwritten on March 29th, 2010