You were only three. So little yet not so little anymore, so dependent yet fiercely independent, vulnerable yet so self assured.
During our days together you would want to go to the park, visit people and generally keep busy, but when the sun went down and it was time for bed, your energy shifted, something changed, night times were difficult. Going to sleep in your own bed, by yourself was something that didn’t come easily to you.
Each night the clock struck 6 o’clock as we were finishing up dinner and getting ready for a bath and bed, I would feel the anxiety begin to churn in my stomach. My chest would tighten and I would question whether I had what it took to be patient with you tonight. Can I be understanding? Do I have enough left to be kind? When will this end?
Sometimes I would entrust the support of a glass or two of pinot gris, which seemed to always have my back and give me the extra bit of energy I needed to get us over the early evening hump, especially when Daddy was travelling with work.
Reflecting on that time again now, as I have many times over the years since, the pilot light inside me was just a flicker. I had forgotten what bought me joy and I had failed to attend to my self care needs.
Making the decision to put the child safety gate up in your door way to stop you from leaving your room after I had put you to bed was my desperate attempt to break you into submission. Hope was fading, I was riddled with guilt and the shame was crippling ……….. I was a Paediatric RN for god’s sake! I know better than this, I know what damage leaving you to cry alone is doing! But I was so desperate, desperate for my own space, to have adult time, to do what I wanted to do in the evenings after doing what everyone else wanted or needed from me during the day.
I wanted to read or I wanted to talk with Dad or I wanted to do or watch something that was stimulating and educational, sometimes I just wanted everyone to leave me alone.
Even though I never left you crying for long, when I came down and opened the gate and laid with you while you went to sleep, instead of my heart being filled with compassion, love, and trust this will all be ok one day, it was filled with anger, resentment and frustration.
Your older brother had started prep that year and had a delightful teacher’s aid who worked three days a week to help out in the classroom.
She was a Mother of four boys, two of them in high school and two now in university.
As you can imagine she’d seen it all. She was a wealth of knowledge and a wonderful resource for all things family. I would look forward to our casual chats at pick up on the days she worked. I loved her care free nature, her non-judgemental approach and in this instance her ability to provide options for what seemed like a very black and white issue.
I had shared with her, the challenges I faced with getting you off to sleep peacefully at night. She mentioned she had experienced similar issues with two of her children at different ages which immediately made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
“I know what the parenting books say, and I know professionally you know the right strategies to implement. I also know and can see, you don’t have it in you right now. I get it. I’ve been there. Let me share something with you that may help you both that worked really well for us.”
She went on to say “set up a mattress, pillow and blanket next to your bed on the floor that will stay there permanently. Always attempt to pop her to sleep in her own bed first, if it doesn’t work, gently and kindly bring her up and pop her to bed on the mattress. Be sure to explain to her before this is all set up, why you’re doing this and what the rules are including if she mucks around on the mattress, she’ll be going straight back down to her bed and that she is welcome to sleep here all night.”
“This will come to it’s natural conclusion Karina. Let her be with you, she needs you during this time, soften, allow and this too will pass.”
So I chose to soften, I allowed and almost immediately even before the night time fell, I could feel my tenderness for you return. I realised how hard I had been on you, how my black and white rules were crippling our relationship and the way I cared for you.
You slept so peacefully there next to me from that time on. No more anxiousness, tight chest or glasses of pinot Gris to get me through.
You felt safe, connected and understood and I felt shame free and at peace knowing I was caring for you in a way that felt right for both of us.
This chapter did find it’s natural conclusion around 3 months later when you decided you were “a big girl now.”
Bed times were rarely an issue from that time on and although still to this day, you don’t find it easy to go to sleep at night, we work together to make sure you feel safe, connected and understood.
I love you so deeply my beautiful girl. My daughter. My teacher.