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On sleeping through the night, and growing up

Poor Jonas has been attacked by yet another cold.  The kid seems to have inherited my wimpy immune system, which throws a welcome party for every cold and cough that comes its way.  At night time, the germy party gets crazy, with Jonas yelling every hour on the hour, waking up with a loud protest against the never-ending supply of snot.

His sickly nights have made me realize how it almost escaped my notice that my sleep fighting babes have become champion sleepers.

It turns out that, eventually, children do sleep.  They sleep for hours at a time.  I think I’m going to embroider that on a hanky to keep in my back pocket when (and if) a third baby ever comes into our house, because if you’d told me that, when Axel’s colic was keeping us both sad and awake, when Jonas wanted to nurse every 70 minutes, when the stomach flu overpowered us all, when I was so tired I found myself wandering the grocery store while still in my slippers,  I wouldn’t have believed you.

For month after month, the concept of children sleeping through the night was as foreign to me as taming wild animals.  Sure, people, somewhere, tame lions or convince elephants to wave their trunks on command, just like people are struck by lightening and they they get stringed instruments to release beautiful music not sounds that approximate the strangled death cries of an emu and also have children who sleep through the night at eight weeks of age, but not in my house.

Now, both boys sleep.  Somewhere, around the same time that he started to walk and began to stand up to his brother by grabbing fistfuls of Axel’s hair, Jonas became a champion three hour napper.  He snoozes with his butt in the air and his nose pressed against the crib’s bars, his filthy and adored stuffed DogDog clutched in his arms.

And sometime, around the same time that he began to climb into Jonas’ crib in the early morning and sweetly show his brother picture books before getting dressed for the day, Axel’s nightmares were replaced by happy dreams about playing the banjo and skiing-and-hot cocoa parties.  Now, when he falls out of bed – a frequent occurrence because, like me, he insists on sleeping on the edge of his bed, with an arm or leg poking out of the covers and dangling over the edge – he picks himself up and tucks himself back in.  If it wasn’t for the bump in the night, we’d never even know he’d tumbled to the floor.

We haven’t gotten used to having two sleepyheads.  Before we can settle in to this new routine, a sickness or an unknowable nighttime sadness interrupts one of the boys’ sleep for a couple of nights, and ours.  And, I haven’t been able to stop checking on them at night.  Once or twice a night, I creep into their rooms to make sure they’re breathing, to tuck them back in, to try to shift Axel’s body back to the center of his bed or just make sure they’re still there, with that drooling cherub look common to sleeping children.

This is how growing up happens.  For months, they struggle to sleep, or to blow a bubble with chewing gum, hop on one foot, link words together, to put on their own pants without falling onto their faces, and then, almost overnight, they’ve got it.  Their competence becomes the new normal, and the struggle is forgotten.

Now, those nights when Jonas does wake up, I cuddle him a little bit longer.  I tell Sean it’s my turn to go in, because I want to give my baby who’s no longer a baby a hug, to feel his head on my shoulder, to sing another round of Golden Slumbers.

Eventually, they sleep, they tuck themselves in, and they stop crying out.  I’ll welcome the sleep, but I know I’ll miss the chance to give my boys one more kiss goodnight.

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