Family life

A bittersweet milestone

Susan Goldberg is both thrilled and saddened by her eldest son's recent independence when it comes to bedtime.

2013-07-10 22

Rowan has started to put himself to sleep. Photo: Susan Goldberg

Thunder Bay, Ont. writer Susan Goldberg is a transplanted Torontonian and one of two mothers to two boys. Follow along as she shares her family’s experiences.

I remember calling a friend — a friend who was the parent of teenagers — when Rowan was a baby who woke several times a night. I was severely sleep deprived and, to put it mildly, kind of edgy. My friend, bless her, did her best to talk me down. It would be OK, she told me. He’d sleep through the night eventually. I wouldn’t always be so tired.

“It won’t be so long before he’s putting himself to bed,” was the last thing she said before we got off the phone.

At the time, her remark didn’t resonate at all with me. I couldn’t see past the next night, the next few sleepless hours, let alone the half-dozen-plus years before my baby would turn into a semi-autonomous child. I was deep in the throes of the soothing (well, maybe soothing for my kid) bedtime routine recommended for so many so-called sleep experts: quiet time, bath, pajamas, nursing and lullabies, blanky and putting-them-down-sleepy-but-not-asleep. The idea that, one day, my own slumber and that of my child wouldn’t be completely intertwined (not to mention entirely interrupted) seemed entirely surreal.

Well, welcome to my new (sur)reality. Rowan is putting himself to bed.

Not entirely, to be sure. He still has a soothing routine he likes to follow: snack, pajamas, brushing his teeth in bed, and reading. But in the past couple of weeks, more often than not, I’ll check in with him around lights out and find him in dreamland, sometimes still holding his book.

It’s a mostly welcome development, this new bedtime routine. I mean, it certainly beats protracted discussions about putting down the book and turning off the lights, especially in these summer months where my kids’ biological clocks move in time to the extended hours of daylight. I’ve pretty much given up assuming he’ll fall asleep much before 10 p.m., but at least now I don’t sweat his bedtime. (Or, I don’t sweat it nearly as much.) He’s in bed and happy upstairs, and I can begin to reclaim some of my evening hours.

Of course, the best of both worlds is when I catch him just before he conks out — when I go upstairs and gently turn down the lights and he rolls over and hands me the book and hugs me and falls asleep almost immediately. It feels like a little reward for all those sleepless nights of so long (and, really not so long) ago.

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