The Politics of Bedtime
by Martinique Davis
Nov 18, 2009 | 1291 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RAISING ELLE

“Twinkle, ’gain,” Elle asks into the darkness from her nest of fuzzy blankets and overstuffed animals.

“OK… Twinkle, twinkle, little star…” I sing, for the thirty-sixth time this week.

I finish. Silence.

“Owie, toe.”

I try to ignore this. I doubt Elle has received an injury while lying in her crib. But she is nearly 2, and insistent.

“Mommy, owie. Owie toe.”

“You have an owie on your toe?” I mumble back.

“Yeah.”

“OK. Mmm-wha!” (which is a long-distance kiss.)

Silence. A minute passes, and my daughter seems to have finally stopped talking, and I hope, has fallen asleep. I bury my face deeper into my pillow and slip further into the comfortable nothingness that is the moments before sleep.

“ABC?” I hear the request echo from somewhere beyond my pillow. I am tired. I would like to lay here and not sing.

“ABC? Mommy? ABC!”

Damn it. I really thought she was asleep. The kid is growing at the pace of nearly an inch a month; doesn’t she need to sleep? How can the child still be awake when I am so tired?

“OK. A,B,C,D…” I sing, and on it goes; Elle asking when “Daddy, come?” and me explaining he’ll be coming to bed in a little while. Her requesting we chant “This Little Piggy,” and my complying – three times. Until, eventually, Elle has fallen asleep.

Elle is still stationed in our bedroom every night. I’m not sure if we missed the boat on moving her out to her own room or what, but with every passing night the co-sleeping situation seems more and more permanent.

At 20 months old, I realize she is plenty old enough to go to sleep in her own bedroom. But neither her age nor the fact that our sleeping arrangement pretty much dictates I go to bed myself at around 7:30 p.m. each night (I am the official singer-to-sleep) is what makes me feel the creeping fingers of insecurity tickling the back of my neck when I admit to people that my daughter still sleeps in our bedroom.

I’m actually perfectly happy to end my day early alongside my toddler, reading books like Peekaboo Puppies instead of yelling at contestants on Deal or No Deal, or, God forbid, being tempted by the ice cream in the freezer.

What makes me feel self-conscious about the giant crib still stationed at the foot of my bed actually has very little to do with how I feel about our family’s sleeping situation. I don’t know anyone who makes their dog sleep in another bedroom, so why would you make your child? And while the nightly concerts and imaginary owie-healing can be trying when I’m tired, that one-on-one time with my talkative toddler is in many ways the most gratifying end to my day.

The self-doubting prickliness surrounding our “untraditional” nighttime arrangement has, I know, more to do with what other people think about it than what I honestly feel about it. Yes, I am the awkward pre-teen worried about what the cool girls will say about the shoes that I actually really like. We don’t fit the mold, so we must be weird, right?

I wish I could be one of those self-assured Mothering Magazine mothers who un-self-consciously touts the benefits of co-sleeping and attachment-parenting, but, alas, I am just not that comfortable in my mother-skin.

In a world thick with every aspect of child-rearing parenting philosophies followed in almost cultish fashion, it’s difficult to be a mom who isn’t Baby Wise (one of the many how-to-parent books about the importance of rigorous sleep schedules and getting your infant to sleep through the night given to me by friends who assume I’ve failed at the sleep part of parenting because my daughter doesn’t lay down and shut-up when it’s lights-out.)

My co-sleeping insecurities have risen closer to the surface in the past few weeks, since we’re planning our first big Christmas – the kind with sisters-in-laws and grandparents and nieces and nephews sleeping in every available nook in our house. Where Elle is sleeping will, I fear, be of more interest to them than I want it to be.

So I’m working on my speeches: “With so many people needing places to sleep this Christmas, we didn’t want Elle to take up a whole room! Really, we don’t mind!”

How I’ll be able to clock out at 7:30 p.m. while they’re all here, without blowing my “responsible parent” cover by revealing I really am just wrapped around my little girl’s finger when it comes to lullaby-ing her to sleep, I’m still working on.

Why can’t I just be honest? Say, well, yes, she cries her head off when left in a dark room by herself and I can’t bear it. Furthermore, I don’t think I’ve failed at parenting because my child wants to be in the same room with her mommy, daddy and dog. Admit how I really feel – that I don’t want to sleep alone, either.

I know already that I will sing my daughter to sleep for only a short, sweet while longer, and sometime in the not-so-distant future she will move to her own bedroom, ten steps down the hall. Until then, I will sing “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” ad nauseam, holding my breath every time she falls silent in the hope she has fallen asleep so that I finally can fall asleep, too.

But will I be able to let go of my insecurities about what other people think about that crib at the end of my bed? Or the fear that they believe I’ve spoiled my child by singing her to sleep every evening? I like the mother shoes I’ve chosen to wear; they fit me perfectly. If only I didn’t care what anyone else thought of them.
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