I have been struggling with sleep issues with my 3-year-old lately. She's been waking up in the night, having difficulty falling asleep, and waking up really early (5:30, 6ish) even when she goes to bed later.
I have adjusted her bedtime. I have changed when we eat. I have cut liquids off at 7. I have read books, sang songs, cried it out, let her play, yelled, whispered, rubbed her back...everything you can imagine. It really hasn't made much of a difference.
I've also gotten a plethora of advice from other moms facing the same problem, either now or in the past with their own children. I so appreciate hearing what other moms have been through, because that's where I gather my knowledge. Books are great, but they are not always written by someone who has wiped boogers on their pant leg or eaten a half-chewed piece of pizza off a high chair tray or read 25 books before bedtime. I rely heavily on the experience of other mothers because they've been there.
All these things, as much as I appreciate them, have not particularly helped with the sleep issues. And as much as I try, I just can't help rocking my daughter to sleep, despite chronic back pain and interrupted sleep.
The reason may shock you. Make sure you're sitting down.
I made a choice to become a mother. Maybe a hurried choice, a less-than-intelligent choice, perhaps, based on the circumstances surrounding her conception. I may have jeopardized a lot of things in my life, but the fact is that it was my choice to carry my child and keep her. I chose her. She didn't choose me. Her life, the lessons she learns, the morals she keeps, the core of her character - I am in charge of building and shaping that. I am the one she will look to when she falls in love. I am the one she will watch fail, fall, and hopefully stand up and try again. I am the one she will cry to when she loses. I am the one who will hold her when she is scared. I am the one she will call in the middle of the night for advice. I will be there for her, because I chose to be. From the moment I knew she existed, I chose her. She is my daughter - my sun, my moon, and my stars.
From the moment we start our day, there are distractions - work, play, homework, toys, more work, plans, etc etc etc. Practically every moment of the day is filled with things that beg to be accomplished, and typically on a deadline. I dedicate myself to those tasks, because I'm charged to do so. June does a great job of keeping up with me, and she is usually my little helper. She's along for the ride, but she's often in the side car, hanging out on the fringes of the day, grabbing pieces of me as they become available. At the end of the day, we unwind in our own ways, sometimes watching a movie, sometimes playing, but I'm not always as engaged as I'd like to be. There doesn't seem to be a time of day that belongs to just Juniper and I, alone with each other to nurture and to love, until bedtime. At bedtime, it's just she and I, reading, rocking, and relaxing together. I've come to realize that this time is sacred to me - a ritual, if you will, of mother and daughter togetherness.
I've decided that I don't care if I have interrupted sleep. I don't care if I have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning [as long as there is coffee.] I don't care if my back hurts or if I have to sing a million songs at bedtime. I will rock my daughter to sleep because she needs me to. That is the one time of the day when it is just us, just her and I, separated from the noise and the distractions of the world. Neither of us has to be to work, or a playdate, or the store. It's just me, June, and the creak of the rocking chair, as I breathe in the smell of her hair and she slowly succumbs to sleep in my arms.
That is why I rock my daughter to sleep. I chose her, and I will choose her every day for the rest of her life.
Brooke + JuneBug