My children are good sleepers.
So much of that is innate, I really believe. I think it has less to do with scheduling and more to do with wiring. I know scheduled, routinized moms whose kids visit with them multiple times during the night, and I know families of which the very opposite is true. My kids just happen to go to bed early and sleep rather late... and I don't complain.
In fact, a fellow parent of preschoolers said these words recently: "Tricia's kids go to bed at six, they wake up at ten-thirty in the morning, and then they make her pancakes." Well, not quite. But I'll take what I can get. It's not a bad plan.
Tucker has this new routine (well, several months old now), where he wakes up in the middle of the night needing affirmation that I still live here. I definitely do. He calls for me, in a near panic, and I meet him in the doorway of his room. I usher him back to bed, I pull his blankets up to his chin, and I shuffle back to my bed while the sheets are still warm. He doesn't need very much: just a quick and instant reminder that all is right with his world. It's a routine that I have mastered. We wrap it up as quickly as possible, almost every night, multiple times. It's not my favorite, but my groggy response is faster and easier than waiting him out and wondering if I'm doing any damage by making him wonder if he's safe.
But Tyler is different. Tyler doesn't need me very often in the wee hours. He is happy to head to bed, blanket in hand, and he'll see me in the morning - thank you very much. It's very thoughtful. He's rather accommodating that way.
Except for last night. He woke up, crying. I don't know why, but that's rarely mine to figure out. They don't need a reason, they just need me. When I came into his room, he was sitting up in his crib, snuggling that faithful blue blanket. He looked at me and whispered, "Oh, Mommy."
Now who can resist this?
I scooped him up, and something about him felt very, oh, what's the word... baby.
This toddler with whom I had battled over his tantrums, sharing, biting, hitting, mastery of the water dispenser on the refrigerator door, stealing my hair dryer, misplacing untouchable ornaments on the Christmas tree, storing grapes inside his onesie, taking off shoes and socks during a four-minute car ride, and sliding books underneath the changing table... suddenly, he was once again my baby.
Suddenly this role, which felt so admittedly boring earlier in the day, was the most fulfilling place to be. In that moment, the scent of his milky breath was more peaceful than my own sleep.
I held him and rocked him until I felt in my arms that familiar heaviness of a sleeping child, the melting of boundaries, the strengthening of all that is maternal. In my head, I heard the parenting experts and critics telling me that I should let him go back to sleep on his own, I shouldn't reinforce this habit of midnight visits, and many other shoulds or should nots. But I ignored them... I've never agreed with them anyway. And those books were not written for these tender moments.
I have heard (and read) that the goal of parenting is not to treat children equally, but fairly. They are different; their needs are different. To respond equally is to ignore their individuality. To respond fairly is to meet their needs, uniquely. Tyler needed me in a very different way than his brother so often does, and frankly, I needed him too.
Tomorrow, when he's an independent toddler and we're battling it out once again, at least I'll have the nourishment of that quiet scene to remember.
When he was my baby. If only for a few minutes.