A toddler is complex, wanting security and independence sometimes simultaneously. It can be exhausting. It can be exasperating. It can be exciting. And just as I find my daughter to fit the “complex” description of a toddler I know that my feelings lately are just as complicated. There are times when I look at her and get wistful because she is not a baby anymore. But there are other times that I see a new relationship growing, and it is so exciting I find myself looking forward to the changes I know are coming.
I’ve mentioned a few times (or an excruciating amount to a select few) how hard it has been to get Abigail to go to sleep at night — even with a calm and predictable bedtime routine and consistent timing and all that jazz. So we lay down with her a lot. “Mama stay. Daddy cuddle.” Some people would say maybe that is our problem. We should just leave her up there to go to sleep on her own, but I just can’t. For Abigail it means adventuring around her room or standing at the top of the stairs bawling her eyes out. So we lay. It’s not a perfect solution, but it makes the happiest home for us.
There are many nights that I lay up there and think, “Please. Just. Go. To. Sleep…” There are other nights that I’m asleep well before she is, and when I wake up an hour has passed and my contacts are dry, blurry, and suctioned to my eyes. Many nights it’s Ryan who stays up there and falls victim to the unintended bedtime. Sometimes we get lucky and she’s asleep in a couple of minutes. At this point it’s a crapshoot.
She’s sick tonight with coughing and congestion. I sang her our special song and when I finished she was so still I wondered if she had drifted off at last. A few minutes went by and she sat up and started talking:
Play trains at E’s house. E’s clock octagon. Lolo’s clock broken. BB’s hat and orange tractor. Watch swimming races. Kids swimming fun! Kids put on black bathing suits and hats. Fun LoLo’s house. Pop’s garden pick cucumber. Bridge. Walk bridge. Pet Molly. Shh! Molly’s sleeping. Nanny and Gramps come, fun. Drive red car. Play outside. LoLo’s red car. Pop’s be right back – pizza party! Fun Emmy. Emmy watch BB tractor. Put sunscreen on. Guy door, play ball again. Walk stroller in rain…Go back E’s tomorrow. Play trains. Go back LoLo, Pops.
It was a running monologue of our trip to Virginia in unbelievable detail. For once I didn’t care that it was 8:37 and she wasn’t asleep. I wanted to keep whispering with her about the sweet memories we shared. My heart leapt as I realized how much she remembered, how vivid it still was to her. She said she wanted to go back and we talked about how we would — but not tomorrow or even very soon. And that’s okay, the missing something.
I don’t claim to have all of the parenting answers. I don’t. Exhibit A: Our bedtime situation. Every day we face new challenges. We evolve to meet the needs of Abigail and each other and our family. I could tell you what worked for me today and low and behold tomorrow it would be proven ineffective against the resolve of our determined two year old.
But I do know this. If I had not been laying with Abigail tonight I may have never known what was on her mind. So I’m glad I stayed. Maybe one day the staying will mean I get to learn a funny thing that happened at school or something she’s worried about or a problem she’s having. Maybe I’ll get to hear about her wishes or what she wants her future to be like.
I’m happy we’ve turned the corner into toddlerhood — into this world of give and take, big battles, and little conversations. There is a lot left to be celebrated. I am still very much in awe of this unique soul that belongs with us. I feel like I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of all she is becoming and all she is destined to be.