Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The beginning of the end

I started reading Peter Pan last night. It's a charming story; it makes me feel nostalgic for my own childhood because I really did jump around my bedroom as a youngster, convinced that at some point I would stick to the sky instead of plummeting to the ground. But then I learned about gravity and stopped trying.

Andrew seems to have solved the problem of our nightly visitor—Rachel—who wears out her welcome rather quickly with all her kicking, squirming, talking, and wiggling. We have a magnet board for her and when she does something good she gets to move a magnet up to the top of the board. When all the magnets are at the top then she gets to choose a prize. She can watch a movie, go to Macey's for an ice cream cone with Daddy, have Mommy do her nails, or earn a toy or book.

She's been rather motivated by this. Do the dishes? Sure. Put the dirty diaper in the pail? Sure. Clean up my toys? Sure. Ask for things politely at the dinner table? Yes, ma'am. Share with my sister? You bet.

Yesterday afternoon when I asked her to get a fresh diaper out for Miriam she said, "Sure! And when it's time to go to bed can I get a nighttime diaper ready for her, too?"

I realize she was only after another magnet but it's nice to have her offering to do things instead of me having to force her to do everything. And eventually the external motivation will turn into internal motivation, right?

Anyway, a couple of nights ago Andrew told her that staying in her own bed was a good thing to do and that she could earn a magnet by staying in her own bed. At 2:00 AM I woke up to Rachel scrambling over me and into the middle of the bed. Apparently she simply didn't think one magnet was worth the stress of ignoring all the monsters that come out at night because the next night Andrew upped the ante. He offered her three magnets for staying in bed.

That night instead of being woken up by being pounced upon I woke up to a blood-curdling scream.


Even though I knew deep down inside that nothing was the matter, I ran into Rachel's room with my heart pounding loud enough to be heard in neighbouring counties.

"What's wrong, Rachel?"

"I'm scared...but I don't want to get out of bed...I can't get out of bed because I really want to earn a prize!"

"You can do it!" I told her, "You can be brave!"

We turned on some quiet music, made sure there were no monsters in her room, said a prayer, tucked her in nice and tight, and then closed her bedroom door (to keep the light of her night-light from escaping into the hall and to keep the monsters in the hallway from entering her room). She was fine all night long. After all, nothing can harm a child when the night-lights are lit; "they are the eyes a mother leaves behind to guard her children."*

Last night Rachel woke up even more terrified. It took me twice as long to calm her down and I ended up climbing in bed with her for a while to keep warm while she tried to regain her senses. While I was holding her and she so sweetly cuddled into me, I thought of Mrs. Darling.

I realized that I. Am. Mrs. Darling.
"[Children] soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end."*
As crazy as it sounds, at that instant I didn't want the moment to end. I haven't had a good night's sleep in weeks (months? years?), and yet, right then, I wanted Rachel to never learn to sleep through the night or fight her own battles. I wanted her to always need me, but she won't because we're already at the beginning of the end.

I know the end is probably still a ways off and I won't lie and say that I'm not looking forward to not having to get up to soothe my children at all hours of the night (because—boy, howdy!—am I ever looking forward to that), but I also am loathe to let that part of motherhood go. I kind of like having my big baby girl come to me for her "safety high."** It makes me feel like she still needs me because now that she can get dressed, comb her hair, go potty, unload the dishwasher, and pour her own cereal I kind of feel useless sometimes.

Peter Pan is not only making me feel nostalgic for childhood, it's making me feel nostalgic for motherhood and I've only barely begun that journey.

Now I almost feel like I understand what my grandma was driving at when I stayed overnight at her house and slept through what was apparently a rather terrifying thunder storm.

"I was hoping you'd run and jump in bed with me and Grandpa!" she told me in the morning.

At the time I thought, "Ummm...I'm, like, thirteen. I haven't slept with my parents in, like, eight years.*** Why in the world would I jump in bed with you and Grandpa?"

But now I get it. My grandma was craving the opposite end of the "safety high." She wanted to once again be able to wrap her arms around a child and immediately erase all their fears. It's an exhilarating feeling, having that much power to soothe.

Tonight Andrew offered Rachel a "one-day only" sale. Two magnets for not screaming plus three magnets for staying in bed. If she pulls this off it is definitely the beginning of the end, folks.

It's a happy/sad thing.

* From Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
** Excuse the language.
*** Okay, maybe only six or seven years. I was bad at sleeping in my own bed and deserve every sleepless night I get.

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