When my daughter Sophia was a baby, sometimes I would give her a shirt of mine that I had worn to sleep with at night. I had heard that the scent left on the shirt gives the infant comfort. She’s 9 ½ now, and bedtime has been more of a challenge with her since I’ve been home with Lyme. She’s been clingier at night, wanting me to lie in bed with her for a bit most nights. Some nights, I oblige. Other nights, I firmly say no. Last night, my husband went up with her to read at bedtime. I always check on her before I go to bed, and I couldn’t help but smile and give her a few kisses when I found her sleeping with one of my long-sleeved shirts on over her summer pajamas.
As a teacher and a Mom, I am all about teaching independence when it’s clearly manageable on the child’s end. When Sophia was about 3, we worked on brushing her teeth by herself. I would stand next to her as she brushed, and store her brush and paste in a different cup from my husband’s and mine. I was trying to make it easy for her to manage her things on her on her own. But I would always find all of our brushes together in the same cup. I have an adorable picture that she drew of us when she was that age, and I have it framed and hanging in our kitchen. Each of us is smiling in a window a house. Even though the windows separate us, we are clearly happy together. Much like that picture, we were always together, so why would it be any different for our toothbrushes?
Togetherness seems to be Sophia’s internal theme, whereas I am always trying to allow her to be her own separate person. I was never a co-sleeping type of parent. I firmly believed a baby should learn sleep in their own crib, in their own bedroom, starting from the first night at home. I was, and still am, a light sleeper. The first night in the hospital after Sophia was born, she had to sleep my room because the nursery was full. She slept very well. I, however, did not. I heard every little gurgle, sigh, and hiccup she made that night. The next night, she slept in the nursery. It was a much more restful night for me.
When she was about 3, she would start to ask if she could “sleep over” in my bed. Once in a while on a weekend, I’d let her “sleep over”. Again, it was not a restful night for me because she’d take over the bed. But, she slept very well and enjoyed these nights. Even at age 9 ½, she still asks to have a “sleep over”, and occasionally, if I’m not too much in need of a restful nights’ sleep, I oblige.
One of my favorite times with her when she was little was when I would read to her at night. It started the first night in the hospital, and it has continued in our home ever since. When she was in first and second grade and other parents were praising how well their kid read by themselves, my daughter still loved to be read to a night. And that was fine by me. Over the years in her reading life, we’d take turns reading and listening to each other, our kitty Max bounding up the stairs and making himself comfortable on the bed to listen to the story, too. More recently with my Lyme, she’s been doing more of the reading, and I have been doing more of the listening. Even when I am so tired, I will make my way upstairs to her bedroom. After rearranging her 4 blankets, 3 pillows, 1 oversized duck and her 6 stuffed animals, we snuggle down together in her twin bed, and she reads to me for a time, her body resting against mine, her head cradled in my arm just like when she was the listener and I was the reader.
Since the time she was born, we have taken numerous trips around the neighborhood with me guiding her towards independence. From me pushing her in the carriage to pulling her in the wagon to following next to her on her tricycle and then her big girl bike, then riding our bikes together, and last year, me walking while she navigated the sidewalks on her roller blades, she and I have travelled many miles together.
This afternoon, she went on a bike ride with a neighborhood mom and her child. I haven’t even pulled my bike out yet to ride with her because I am unsure of how long I’d be able to keep up. Before dinner, I asked her to put her bike away. I would guess that most kids would just quickly throw their bike in the garage when asked, not really paying attention to how or where it was placed.
When I went to shut the garage door later on tonight, I paused when I noticed she had parked her bike next to mine. From shirts and toothbrushes to books and bikes, my daughter is still showing me ways that we connect together.
And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Yours in Lyme Adventures,
Bike, Goodnight Moon, and toothbrush graphics from Google images