Late at night when the house is still enough to hear the whirring of the refrigerator and the buzz of the odd car on the road beyond the high trees, there is a stirring. The groaning of a mattress spring, the creak of small feet on hardwood and the click of a door are hardly noticeable to anyone unfortunate enough to be awake in the late, late hours of the night.
The hasty thump thump of small steps on the carpeted hallway flee the horrendous monsters under the bed; monsters now locked in the bedroom with no one to frighten.
The door pushes open and a small shadowy pyjama-clad figure bursts in quietly. He is stealthy. His heart is racing. He is holding his breath. The monsters have lost their power with his arrival. He is safe.
He creeps up on the Big Bed, his stuffed doggie clutched in his right hand. He climbs up to the special pillow in the middle. Momma on one side, Daddy on the other, he slides his feet down into the comforting warmth of his safe place. His small hand reaches over to rest on my cheek and his doggie tucks under his chin. He exhales and shuts his eyes, asleep in seconds.
We followed all the rules when he was a baby. “Train him to sleep in his crib, in his own room” the book said. “Don’t let him get used to sleeping with you” the expert warned. He slept like a darn by himself and loved his own bed dearly, until he turned three and the monsters of his vivid imagination took over. The bedtime wails of his newborn sister didn’t help.
Now he is five and a half and eyebrows rise when I mention our little visitor who enters in the darkest hours of the night. A few years of parenting under my belt and I don’t care what others think. He is young and he is afraid. He is my boy and I am his momma.
I’m sure our nighttime ninja will be gone as swiftly as he came, older and stronger and independent. I won’t miss the odd kick in my side, arm flung across my ear and 5:30 wake ups. I know I’ll miss the running steps in the hall and the quiet, grateful hand on my cheek.
When I became a mother five years ago I naively assumed that having a child meant a woman had grown up. Gone would be the petty insecurities, comparisons and judgements that women so cruelly share during the teenage years and beyond.
I was wrong.
Two children, two cities and many play dates and hours at the park later, I’ve made some wonderful mom friends. I’ve also been blown away by the cattiness and cruelty of some women who are permanently suspended in a junior high, mean-girls mindset, even with their own children watching and listening.
The sidelong glances, whispers and blatant online bullying I’ve seen encouraged me to start a conversation with a group of my own mom friends. The stories each woman told me were sometimes hard to believe but they are all true.
- That mom you shun at the park because she’s single and living with her parents? Don’t judge her. She’s going to university full-time to create a good life for her son. In the blink of an eye you could be her.
- That mom who is losing her patience with a screaming child in the grocery store line-up? She had two hours of sleep last night because her children are sick and teething. Don’t roll your eyes at her. Help her out. You will be her one day, guaranteed.
- That mom who puts her five-year-old in diapers at night? Don’t judge her. Her child has a severe illness. Sleep is far more important than night-time potty training. She also has to pour salt on her child’s food to help with kidney function so don’t judge her for that either.
- That mom that picked up McDonald’s for her child on the way home? Don’t judge her. 99% of the time she feeds her child good food. She’s tired. She’s had a long day.
- That mom who took a nap when you were visiting and didn’t cook you supper?Don’t judge her. She’s suffering from a postpartum mood disorder and is just trying to cope and care for her children.
- That mom who lets her kids sleep in her bed? Don’t judge her. She’s creating security and comfort that will last a lifetime. She knows little-kid-snuggles only last for a little while.
- That mom who stopped breastfeeding too soon? Remember when you told her how sad it was that her child would get sick and die on formula? Remember when you told her that she and her baby wouldn’t bond? Are you for real? She had thrush, was on two different meds to increase her milk supply and had multiple lactation consultants. It didn’t work. She moved on and you should too.
- That mom who is still breastfeeding when her child is two? She’s happy. Her child is happy. Leave them alone and stop staring.
- That mom who is too rushed to say hello at preschool drop-off? Her son has a life-threatening illness. She is so focused on his care that she doesn’t even see you. Don’t judge her.
- That mom who can’t get her children to sleep well? She’s tried everything. She’s read all the books and gone to the seminars. You may be an expert on your own four children but you know nothing about her two.
- That mom you judged because she had a C-section while you had a natural birth? Even though you told her she didn’t try hard enough and is a failure, she’s pretty grateful that her child is alive.
- That mom who is too easy on her kids and lets them get away with too much? She grew up afraid of a parent and refuses to repeat the pattern in her own family.
- That mom who had too many kids too close together? Don’t judge her. Her children are happy and loved. On the other hand, don’t judge the mom who only had one child either. You don’t know the reasoning behind it and it’s none of your business.
- That mom who looks after her children 24/7 and (gasp!) doesn’t work outside of the home? Maybe she actually likes it. Maybe she’s doing what is best for her kids. She may even blog about it.
- That mom who struggled with infertility for years and finally got pregnant with IVF? Don’t judge her. You have no idea of the thoughts and pain that go into such an experience.
Things are rarely as they seem. I’ve grown a pretty thick skin when it comes to being judged by others for my parenting decisions. I do my best to accept that everyone makes different decisions for their families. Could you do the same? Most of us are our own worst critics anyways.
Remember, it’s not about us. It’s about our children. Let’s cut each other some slack.
We’re supposed to be the grown-ups.
First published on The Purple Fig (http://www.thepurplefig.com).
Also published on The Huffington Post.
Getting two children to sleep, stay asleep and sleep past 5:00 a.m. is an Olympic event in our house.
- Once your darling toddler is sleeping through the night again (after a brief, 9 month hiatus of getting 16 teeth), she wakes at 5:00 a.m. for a diaper change. This isn’t much to complain about if you usually rock her for 2 hours in the middle of the night, but still, 5:00 a.m. is early.
- Your toddler quickly falls back to sleep, at which point your 4-year-old immediately wakes up and asks “is it time to wake up, Momma?” in that really loud, awake-sounding voice that means he is definitely not falling back to sleep. You know the voice. Resistance is futile.
- You try everything under the sun to
forceencourage said child to stay in bed: night lights that change colour at parents’ preferred wake time, numbers printed above a digital clock with a hopeful “7:00”, begging, pleading. These things work sometimes with a singleton. It is all a little more complicated when there is an eagle-eared, sleeping toddler on the other side of a paper-thin wall.
- At every 5:00 a.m. wake up you promise yourself that you will go to bed early that night. Even if you dragged yourself around like a wet blanket all day, you will get an instant second wind the minute everyone is asleep. You stay up way too late, wake at 5:00 the next day and the pattern repeats itself over and over.
- On the day you have a babysitter booked and really, really want your toddler to have a good nap she won’t. She will have trouble getting to sleep. You will need to change her diaper two extra times. The minute she is finally sleeping your preschooler will run up the stairs, yelling, “Momma? Momma? Where ARE you?” and the little one’s eyes will burst open.
- When your youngest is between 12 and 18 months old and (some days) you manage to function somewhat normally, you will sit in the rocking chair, hum Ave Maria and stare at the beautiful, precious child in your arms. That vanilla-cupcake baby smell, the soft hair, velvety-smooth cheeks and tiny baby breaths make it all worthwhile. 🙂
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It’s pretty simple. The night your baby finally sleeps through the night a few different scenarios will play out:
1. Your older child will begin co-sleeping, even though he or she has always slept (relatively) soundly in his or her own bed.
2. Your husband will start snoring, louder than he ever has before.
3. Both of the above.
I’ve learned this the HARD way. My parents were booked weeks in advance to come and stay with the kiddies for a night while D and I went away (somewhere, anywhere!). I looked forward to that night like you would not believe. Little A was around 8 months old, had stopped nursing and was still up in the night, about a million times. Brother B was still yelling out at least once in the middle of the night, waking up Little A again. A real gong show. We were in the trenches of not-sleeping-baby, not-sleeping-preschooler and not-sleeping-parents. I lived for that night away. Lo and behold, as the day approaches, Grandma gets sick. Murphy’s Law. Anyone else?