There are milestones and defining moments in both mom's and kid's lives that change the dynamics of their relationship forever. Successful potty training means no more diaper changing. Learning to walk gives the child more independence and requires less of Mom carrying them around. Starting kindergarten leaves Mom with more time to herself.
All the stepping stones on the path change the lives of both mother and child in some way, whether big or small. This week brought such a defining moment for me as a Mom and for my youngest son Kaleb.
Rewind to nearly 12 years ago...
Kaleb was roughly 15 months old and although he had slept through the night for several months he suddenly began waking at 2-3 AM and not just to be fed or changed, but he awoke in an half asleep stupor, screaming at the top of his little lungs. His father and I took turns pacing the floor, holding and trying to sooth him to no avail. We tried warm milk, soft music, singing- you name it, we tried it- but nothing worked and we quickly came to the conclusion that we just had to let him voice whatever he was feeling inside in the only way he knew how at his young age- by crying at the top of his lungs. After the first hour or so the crying would calm but he was still highly agitated and unable to return to sleep. We would turn on the one cartoon that he would watch during these episodes- The Big Comfy Couch- for another hour or so until he would once again get sleepy and then, snug in bed between his father and I, he would drift back off to sleep.
This was happening nearly every night for a few weeks when we realised "Okay, there's something going on here" and took him to the paediatrician. He informed us that Kaleb was having night terrors and that he would eventually grow out of it. Until then we just had to deal with it. Easy for him to say! We were exhausted and it was heart wrenching to watch Kaleb have these episodes and there wasn't a damn thing we could do except wait!
The night terrors lasted for over a year but the issue was far from over!
The episodes because less frequent towards the end, and we thought "Finally!" However the relief was short lived as Kaleb began sleepwalking, unable to be woken. Sometimes he would cry but most nights he would wander around the house calling out to us in his sleep which resulted in him sleeping with us still.
Years passed and Kaleb continued to sleep with us. We found he had less episodes when in bed with us and if he did get up in his sleep we were able to subdue him and get him back into bed quicker and sometimes stop the sleepwalking episode before it really began.
More years passed. The sleepwalking continued until slowly coming to an almost stand still by the time he was 10. By then he had been sleeping with one or both of us nearly every night except for the rare occasion when he would sleep with his brother. Even then he would wind up back in our bed before morning.
Opinions on co-sleeping are varied and the topic is one that is controversial with parents, doctors, and child experts. We believed that co-sleeping was good for a child, but for us it was much more than that. It was what worked best in order for both him, and us, to get a normal nights sleep, and often, a safe nights sleep for Kaleb. His sleepwalking had resulted in him trying to go outside on occasions and once starting to run his own bath!
Over the years, while co-sleeping for these legitimate reasons, it wasn't just Kaleb who had become accustomed to the routine and depended on it for a good nights sleep. Sleeping beside my little boy, cuddling with him and singing him to sleep or telling him stories until he dozed has become something that I too depend on for a peaceful slumber. While he has grown it is the one part of the day when it's just him and I, and a part of his baby like ways that I still hung onto tightly as I watched him grow.
It was a part of my baby boy that I clung to and wouldn't let go.
Kaleb turns 12 in a few days. He still sleepwalks randomly- usually no more than once a month. He has shared a bed with his father or myself his entire life and it is just the normal way of life for us. Sometimes him and his brother will watch movies together and fall asleep in the same bed and sometimes he will have a friend sleep over and sleep with them. But the normal routine is for me to sleep with him in his bed.
Fast forward to last night.....
Kaleb and I were laying in bed watching the family channel before we went to sleep when out of the blue Kaleb makes the declaration that broke my heart instantaneously.
"Mom, I don't want you to sleep with me anymore."
He proceeded to explain that he is big enough to sleep alone now and wants to do so. He tells me he is almost 12 and it's time for him to learn to sleep alone. He also says he wants to learn to sleep out, as in at friends places, which is something he has not been able to do because he couldn't get to sleep unless I was with him. All reasonable explanations.
I knew this day would come. It was inevitable. But I was in no way prepared to hear it and my initial feeling was of devastation.
Some parents might be thrilled to finally not have to sleep next to this squirmy little boy who talks, kicks and throws punches in his sleep; to finally have a bed to themselves. But I am not. Net yet anyways. All I am for now is heartbroken. This new found independence of my son's was a big step for him but for me it meant less dependence on me and this is something I struggle. This means he is growing up, too fast for my liking. As much as I want him to feel ready to sleep alone and be able to sleep away from home the separation anxiety ridden mom in me isn't quite ready. But will I ever be? Are we ever really ready for our children to grow up, to spread their wings and fly out of the nest, even just a little?
Someday the sting of it will wear off. I will adjust to this new sleeping arrangement and maybe even learn to like sleeping alone. There will be more room in the bed, no little arms and legs flaying all over the place. Someday I will be proud of him for taking this big step, and for deciding to do it all on his own. Someday sleeping side by side will be a memory I can look back on and smile. But for now, I am still feeling the impact of the moment when my not so little boy innocently and unintentionally broke my heart.
Until next time....