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This Is What It Looks Like When Your Child Needs You to Fall Asleep

Photograph by Twenty20

When my first child was born, the only way he would fall asleep was if he was bounced up and down in my arms. Sometimes I would gently set him down, positive he was asleep, and he would jerk awake. As he got older, he needed to lie in between my husband and me, one hand on each of us in order to sleep.

We broke him from this habit just before his sister was born. I felt horrible about it, and it was torture, but I didn't think I could get him to sleep if she needed me to get her to sleep, too. The only way I could get her to sleep was if she was swaddled in her fleece blanket and walked back and forth for at least a half hour. If she would wake up, we had to repeat the ritual or her crying would wake her brother.

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When your child needs you in order to fall asleep, it can be lovely and difficult at the same time. It means snuggles and gentle breathing. It sometimes looks like crying and being crammed into a toddler bed. It can mean hours of reading, playing with their hair, getting three drinks of water, or sitting on the floor next to their bed for so long you need a chiropractor the next morning.

You get really good at holding your breath as soon as they fall asleep, slinking out of their room, and hoping you don't step on the creaky part of the floor.

One night you're wishing they were able to fall asleep on their own and the next you're hoping it will last longer.

There are evenings when you are thankful for the time to decompress. You inhale every scent and study every angle of their face. The sound of their breathing or sucking on their fingers is pure bliss. You know they won't fall asleep without you and are grateful you can drop everything and tend to them.

There are times when you feel suffocated. You long to not be touched, you crave some alone time.

You have a life you want to live when they are asleep because you are more than just a parent. You feel like you can't leave them with a sitter for fear it will be hell for both of them. And if you have friends over for dinner (because you can't be away at bedtime), and have to step away from your guests to lie with them until they fall asleep, you may feel resentful.

But you do it because it's so much easier than having a struggle every night where they get out of bed a hundred times.

One night you're wishing they were able to fall asleep on their own and the next you're hoping it will last longer. You know you should treasure these moments, and sometimes you do, you will just appreciate them more later.

You feel guilty, you are exhausted, you adore them to pieces, you love these moments, you need a break from these moments, you wonder if you are coddling them by lying with them, you wonder if you are damaging them if you don't.

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Remember, it's hard for everyone. Remember you are human. And remember, especially when you feel like you can't do it anymore, there will be a day they don't need you to lay down with them each night.

They won't ask you to count to a million, or read five books to them. They will get a drink and go to the bathroom on their own, and checking for monsters under the bed and tucking them in eight times will be something you used to do.

They need you to help them feel secure and safe, and you are doing just that—even if you don't stay with them as long as they'd like. Nothing is wrong with them for needing you at bedtime, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with you for craving time without them some nights.

My kids are older now and sometimes I miss how much they used to need me like they did when they were little. And when they crawl in bed with me now, after they've had a bad dream, or they ask to sleep in their sleeping bags on the floor next to my bed and have a slumber party, my answer is always yes.

It will always be yes.

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