Can I call for you if I need to? She asks, every night the same question. Every night I feel a pang of regret that by trying to teach her to fall asleep alone in her big girl bed that we inadvertently conveyed the message that we were unavailable.
We’ve done everything in our power to make the bedtime routine simple and streamlined, but it’s still a weary circus. It works best when we all do it together, both kids in the bath with The Gorilla while I clean up dinner, then each parent takes a kid and we commence the jammies/potty/teeth routine. Sometimes there’s a book, sometimes there are extra snuggles, always there is a moment of frustration, always there are kisses and tickles.
Of course you can call for me, I say, catching myself before I give a list of conditions. Already at four years old, I’m walking the line with her between Of course I’m here for you forever and always, whatever you need and also You can try this on your own. I know you can do it.
Pirate is more simple in the way he needs, as they told me a boy would be. But he’s never slept as well as his sister and needs reassurance in the night. We’ve grown so used to it that a few weeks ago when we had the thought to talk to him about it, I was five minutes into it before I realized I was having this problem-solving conversation with my baby. My two-year-old baby who is now much more of a big boy.
The Gorilla and I have a system we’ve worked since Pigtail was born. I tackle all middle-of-the-night kid needs, because I have no problem falling right back to sleep. The Gorilla has early morning duty, since as a natural night-owl, I sleep heaviest in the early dawn hours. It also gives him guaranteed time with the kids each day, his evening work hours are unpredictable. He rises with the first who calls - usually Pirate, usually around 7am - and he makes a hearty breakfast every day. I wander downstairs in search of caffeine a little later, the kitchen table full of eggs and pancakes and fruit, a preschool lunch already made. We all sit together for about a half hour, until The Gorilla tags out to get ready for work and I do the last minute shuffle for a hairbrush and shoes.
I am so grateful for this modern rhythm. Maybe it’s because we’re in a different age, maybe it’s because he’s a different age, but as parents we share the minutia wordlessly. I’m still surprised by how hands-on my husband is with everything from diapers to sippy cups. When he’s gone, everyone notices. There’s no teeter to my totter. When I’m gone, the same.
The other night I asked The Gorilla if he thought we’d miss these days of all night wakeups, the way everyone tells us we will. Maybe, he said doubtfully. It’s hard to imagine, we both agreed. I know we will miss so much of this, and that we’ll forget the parts we want to.
I want Pigtail and Pirate to stay exactly the age they are right now. We’re in such a sweet spot. But then I remember that I thought that a few months ago, before Pirate was talking so much. I remember I thought that before he was even born, when Pigtail was my sole little angel and I couldn’t imagine our family changing. It keeps getting better. All of it.