Long day today, said goodbye to Alden at drop-off-at-school (8:ish) thinking I wouldn’t see him again until maybe tomorrow evening…
I was working all day, teaching a class this evening, and the plan was for me to pull another long one tomorrow in order to allow me to be home with Alden on Friday.
**(Surprise bonus, in the afternoon, I had to scoot home to collect a variety of toys and materials for my evening class (with Alden’s permission– he said NO to borrowing Legos– but yes to paints, blocks, and Ideal Builders)–so, I got to give my boy some hugs and squeezes and kisses.)
But I got home from the class at about 10:40. I put things away, did the dishes, and finally sat down with a glass of wine and Colbert on Hulu, at about 11:15.
And then I heard Alden coughing, then drinking water, then climbing down the ladder of his bunkbed.
When I opened the door of his room, he was headed for the potty and confused at seeing me, in my clothes (not jammies) and lights on in the living room. He was asleep, basically. After he did his thing, I offered to help him snuggle back in to bed, but he said, WHY?
I thought, oh, jeez, he thinks it’s morning. But he also knows it isn’t. And he is half asleep, and all confused.
I offered him a hug, a snuggle…. but I finally had a brainstorm and asked if he still had water. I reached out for his water bottle and shook it. About a third full. I said, “I’m gonna fill this up for you.”
That action, those words, (shake, hm, I’m gonna fill this…) are part of bedtime– not every night, but often enough. I took the bottle, filled it, brought it back, set it in its spot on the header of his bed.
He sat back up, sipped off it, placed it down, and lay down. I told him good night and that I loved him, and rested my hand against his head and I could see that he was already going back down into sleep.
As I left the room, I had in my mind this thought: He needed me to DO something for him– that helped him feel cared for and ready to return to sleep.
But the process of writing this has made me realize, the thing I actually DID–the checking and filling of the water bottle –was a deep and familiar, and possibly even ritualized, interaction. And there is nothing like ritual to reassure us, to comfort and ground us, and help us let go, and go back to sleep.