By Kris Woll
My 6-year-old son is sleeping at another house tonight. A friend’s house, just down the street and over a few blocks. Today was the last day of school and tonight’s sleepover was part of the celebration.
This is a first for my son, and a first for me. He’s never spent the night on a friend’s bedroom floor. Just nine months ago, when the school year was beginning, he wouldn’t fall off to sleep at night without his lamp lit and without his father snuggled beside him. Until two years ago, I held on to him at night—but with the arrival of his sister, that changed. I moved across the hall, nursing and rocking and holding her, doing all the pre-bedtime things books and experts tell you not to, just as I’d done with my son before, creating yet another child who could not fall asleep alone.
My daughter early on proved rather independent, proved to be a better sleeper than her big brother. Maybe I was more confident, more comfortable; maybe we were busier and she was far more tired than he had been at that stage. While she liked the pre-bedtime snuggles, she fell asleep quickly and did not need me to hang around. I, on the other hand, wanted her close, had a hard time falling asleep without her little breaths on my neck, without her soft cheeks brushing against mine.
It was around Valentine’s Day that my son started to fall asleep on his own. When he first told Daddy not to bother coming in to read. Instead, my big kid paged through his own books all on his own in his big boy bed, turned out his own light, and snuggled under his big blue-and-white striped comforter—purchased when he insisted on replacing the truck comforter—all on his own. And he didn’t wake during the night to come into our bed, he didn’t even climb in come morning for a pre-breakfast hug. He grabbed a book until he heard Daddy get up, or stealthy located the iPad.
He was sleep trained at last.
So Daddy and I started to fight over who would read to the little one. I’ll do it! No, me!
We are not sleep trained yet at all.
And then, today, my son finished first grade and he went off to sleep somewhere else. We brought him to his friend’s house and he ate pizza and built forts and wrestled and made up stories. As I went to leave him there with that friend and that pizza and that night ahead, I was certain he would change his mind and probably tear up, get a pouty lip, be sad and grab me—the way he had when he was that small, chubby toddler starting at a new daycare, and I was the mommy kissing him on his forehead and promising to come back soon.
I was prepared for him to say he wasn’t ready, wanted to come home, wanted to read stories with Daddy and come into our room during the night.
But he didn’t. He was fine. He wanted to go build a fort, go make up stories.
He ran off, back to playing, while I took my time at the door—and then I headed home to snuggle his little sister as I fell asleep in our quiet little house.
Kris Woll is a Minneapolis-based writer. Read more of her work at kriswollwriting.com.