Friday, September 18, 2009

Breathing to the Rhythm of Walker's Sleep

One of my greatest parenting challenges is sleep deprivation. Peter and I make a conscious choice to respond to our children's needs and cries at all times, during the day or night. While it is en vogue to ignore a child's cries at certain times in order to teach them to "self soothe" and sleep on a schedule that is convenient to the parents, I know of no mental health association that condones this practice. Never mind article after article after article discussing ways in which controlled crying is harmful to the child.

That being said, it's easy to understand why the promise of a quick solution is so appealing. When, night after night, you have to find a way to practice compassion and patience while being inflicted with that which is literally a method of torture. This has been the story of our last few months, as Walker has been suffering through teething, developmental leaps, and dietary changes. Tonight, like far too many other nights recently, he was having a terrible time falling asleep. We snuggled on the couch for about an hour after bedtime, him bouncing between Peter and I, never comfortable and increasingly irritable. Then we walked in the sling and sung songs. Finally, I took him back into the bedroom to bounce between laying in bed and rocking in the rocking chair until he fell asleep.

Unlike any other night recently, though, I consciously breathed. I'm not going anywhere, why not meditate a little? My friend Clea recently made a blog entry about the electric current of the mother's heart, and how our little ones are constantly bathed in it. Tonight was the most phenomenal example of this. As I breathed, through throat, ribs, stomach, and c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e exhalation, Walker relaxed. The moment my mind began to wander, he would jerk awake and cry. Over and over again we repeated this dance, until finally he grabbed my arm and tried to pull it around his head.

He's been doing this for the past few months, and I could never figure out what he was doing. Tonight, being present and open to him, I finally figured it out. He wanted me to slide my arm under his head so he could use it as a pillow. I did, and he drifted off to sleep almost instantly. It was such a sweet, delicious moment watching his little eyes grow heavy, heavier, asleep. Amazing what a little presence can bring to a relationship.

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