Last evening my family and I had errands to do, so we left the house after dinner. I sat in the back of the car with our son and my husband drove, as usual. We’ve been doing that, more or less, since our son was born. It began out of necessity; I could attend to my newborn’s needs without us having to pull over. That newborn is a toddler now who doesn’t need me as frantically, but sitting next to my boy when we drive as a family has become automatic and still feels easiest. I read books to him or make funny faces. I enjoy it as much as he does.
I thought nothing of our routine until one of our neighbors watched us pile into the car one day and kindly asked my husband why he was chauffeuring me. Then there was the time we were driving on the highway and I caught someone in the other lane staring at me, an adult woman in the back of a passenger-less car, as though I might have been kidnapped. “I’m fine!” I waved.
I have also received a few raised eyebrows about our sleeping arrangement. “He’ll be in your bed until he’s 16!” people warn me when I admit that we co-sleep with our almost 2-year-old. “Yep, still in our bed!” I say, and I roll my eyes in dramatic fashion, nodding in agreement, “I know, gotta get him in a crib soon!”
Because that’s what I’m supposed to say: That my husband and I need our own space, that our son needs to learn how to self-soothe, that we need to be fostering independence, turning him into a “big boy.” As if babyhood isn’t over in the blink of an eye. As if this phase of our lives won’t feel like a far distant memory, a sweet dream, in just a few years. The truth is, we love our family bed, and I’m as attached to co-sleeping as my son is. The truth is, he’s already a big boy. He’s a healthy, happy, rambunctious little lad who exerts his independence all day and seeks comfort from cuddling at night.
I have no doubt we’ll transition him to his own bed when the time is right, just as I know I’ll sit in the front seat with my husband again.
Last night, it was dark by the time we drove home, busy streets lit by bright headlights, the sky lit only by a thin slice of moon. My son was fading fast, and I knew that one of two things would happen: he’d either pass out in the car or cry.
Daylight Saving’s had blighted our schedule; he was out of sorts and spent.
“MOMMY!” he continued. I knew that all he wanted was to be at home in my arms. I figured we were going to have a rough rest of the ride, but I tried to compromise:
“Mommy hold your hand?”
He paused, considering it, then accepted the offer, placing his plump little hand in mine. His crying ceased, and a soft smile warmed his face and filled my heart. This was a first — he always fights the handhold. As dusk fell, it dawned on me that my son was learning to compromise — my strong-willed, vocal child was willing to listen to my side and meet me in the middle, instead of screaming all the way home, in good ol’ toddler fashion.
I’ve heard that my style of parenting spoils children and makes them too dependent. But if anything, it seems to have instilled in my son a great deal of trust in his mom and dad — a sense of security that enables him to try new things and be flexible, to be confident and kind. Learning to compromise, of course, is a natural part of development, but it’s easy to forget how hard babies work to get there — what large leaps these seemingly little moments are. I pressed my palm into my son’s and we stayed like this, hands entwined, until “our driver” pulled into the driveway.
Once home, we all changed into pj’s and laid in our king-sized, baby-safe bed. The pitter-patter of manufactured rain from the sound machine eased my son’s eyes shut. My own eyes fought to stay open, as I thought of how fast I’m always moving through life, how much of a hurry I was in to grow up.
For once in my life, when it comes to the boy who will always be my baby, I’m not in any rush.
I ran my fingers through his feathery, white sand-colored hair. How long it will stay this color? I breathed in his baby scent. How long he will smell like dessert? A tight fist formed in my chest, my heart aching with love and weighted down by the knowledge that the nights I can no longer do this will come sooner than I think.More On