Last night I was late to put Ethan to bed. It was ten o'clock and he was jumping on my bed. "Jump! Jump!" He always says things twice, because, I've recently nocticed, I always say things twice.
"Time for bed sweetie. Common." I reach to grab him off the bed and he falls like a board, head on the pillow. "Sleep with mama? Sleep with mama?"
Ethan has never slept with us. It just hasn't worked out. I had high hopes of early morning snuggles and sweet baby morning breath ever since I read sixteen natural parenting books while I was pregnant; stories of whole families sleeping together with eight and nine year olds even. It sounded creepy but sweet and Utopian at the same time. However, Ethan was sleeping in his own crib in his room at two weeks old. At the very beginning we tried to have him sleep with us: if he was in our bed with us, he slept fine, up on my chest like a bag of beans so that I wouldn't roll on top of him, crushing and suffocating the poor innocent thing like you read about. However, even with that danger out of the way, I laid awake like a zombie, feeling his little breath--in and out, in and out. I closed my eyes but I didn't sleep. So then we rolled him up like you do little babies, tucking in the blanket to they won't get cold, and put him in his own bassinet, right by our bed. Every time he breathed or snorted or wheezed (which he did, every three seconds), I was ready to whisk him off to the emergency, at the same time being so not ready to do anything, even to move; I was so sleep deprived, so mad at him for breathing so loud.
So into his own room he went. He did fine, never even trying to make sounds of protest. I slept better.
Another time Ethan ended up in our bed we were camping. It was FREEZING in the morning, and Ethan would wake up with the birds, crying into silent, freezing air, his voice like the sound of a jet echoing through the campground.
Since it is always the mommy's job to get out of the warm bed and get the screaming child, I did. And then I wanted to get right back in the warm bed. Ethan did too, surprisingly, and we went back to sleep quickly. Later in the morning Joey and I were both off the mats, lying on the cold tarp-like bottom of the tent, getting poked in all sorts of places by all sorts of things like pebbles and pine cones; and Ethan was lying horizontally across the sleeping bags, so that our bodies made the letter, "H".
And then last night. How could I resist his sweet petition?
You want to sleep with mama?" I said.
"Uh-huh." Those eyes!
"OK." So I turned out the lights and crawled into bed with my almost two year old. He immediately made his way over to me and then started to smuggle his body into mine, leading with his head like a cat. He made little sounds, sometimes almost singing. I laid still, expecting him to calm down.
But he sat up. Then he reached for my nose.
I could see in the dark his little smile.
"Ethan," I said. "You must go to sleep. You must close your eyes and go night-night."
He burrowed his body into mine once more. He rolled away from me. Then he rolled back. Then he crawled up on my chest. Burrow. Roll. Murmur.
"Ethan, you must lay still. Otherwise Mommy will have to put you back in your bed." I was starting to feel irritated.
This got his attention. He found a spot half on my chest, half off, and was quiet.
Then he rolled, sat up again, and let his head fall into mine.
"Head butt!" he says. "Head butt!" He loves this concept. When he says it, the emphasis is on the "d" in head, and the "tt" in butt, like English isn't his native language.
I try to hold in a giggle, knowing that if I start laughing he will never calm down. But it doesn't matter. He's up and rolling and just going all over the place.
"OK Ethan. Let's go. I sit up and am about to grab him when he falls into dead-man's pose, legs straight out in front of him, arms at his side like he's in the army. Then he says quickly, "Ethan sleeping. Ethan sleeping." His little voice is quiet. I think, I can't believe this. I can't believe he isn't even TWO and he is doing this.
"OK," I say, and lay back down. It doesn't even last one minute. He's rolling all over, sticking his fingers in my eyes and then my ears.
"OK Ethan, lets go." I am serious this time. I can't handle this anymore, and I am going to stop it before I get really irritated. I make my move and he makes his, into dead-man's pose again. And then he says with the same quickness and quietness as before, "Ethan sleeping. Ethan sleeping."
I can't believe it but it is really cute, so it softens my growing annoyance.
We go through this routine two more times before I decide it's really over. I cradle him in my arms and tell him on the way to his room that I love him but he needs to go to sleep. He looks at me like he understands.
I don't want him to go. I am sure he is gong to cry when I leave him in his crib, alone, in the dark, but he doesn't say a thing. I shut his door and walk back into my bedroom alone, missing him like crazy.