Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Co-sleeping and bonding time

When we returned home from China with Kenzie, it was 8 am on a Wednesday morning, and having been up pretty much the whole trip (with the exception of a catnap here or there) we were exhausted. We got Kenzie ready for bed and took her to her crib. When I put her in it, she screamed in terror. This wasn't a cry of "I'm mad and I don't want to go to sleep" but a look of panic in her eyes and the scream I will never forget... I just couldn't ignore it.

We took her to bed with us that day, and have pretty much every night since. (We tried once to get her in the habit of sleeping in her toddler bed, but that didn't work out.) I can honestly say that co-sleeping was one of the best bonding tools we employed. And we did it without even knowing at the time it would be so valuable in helping her bond with us. I just knew it was the right thing to do, to help her not be afraid, and let her have peace of mind knowing we were there for her.

I know this kind of mechanism wouldn't work for everyone, but in our case, it was the right thing to do. Kenzie wanted to be with us, near us - and the intimacy it allowed between us was nothing short of beautiful - to see her cuddle up to us, and relax to sleep. To say to her early on when we first got back "Mama ai ni" (Mommy loves you) and see her smile, yawn and fall asleep while I ran my fingers through her hair or rubbed her back... I felt like I was making up for the time we didn't get to have together when she was an infant.

Besides, I am there to calm her fears or dry her tears when she has bad dreams. But I'm also there to wake up to her laughter or see her smile when she is having a good dream, or to hear her talking in her sleep. And I can, any time I want, run my fingers through her hair and whisper to her "Mama loves you."

By the way - I tend to be a little bit of an insomniac - so I am up several times a night checking on her... that is to her advantage.

So, she surprised me last night. As we were laying in bed and getting ready to settle in to go to sleep, she says, "Mama, can I ask you a question?" Of course you can.

K. I want to talk about you. I want to know about you when you were a little girl.

Me: What would you like to know.

K. When you were a little girl, did you do things that were bad?

Me: Yes. I was little and I didn't know any better.

K. What did your mommy or daddy do when you were bad?

Me: I always got a spanking. Always. They didn't take away my toys or put me in time out... It was just a spanking.

K. Why did you get a spanking?

Me: I didn't listen to my mommy or daddy when they would tell me to do something, like pick up my toys, or not to tease my brother. I don't think my mommy or daddy realized that there were alternatives - like time outs. All they knew to do was spank.

K. Why did they spank you?

Me: I think that my mommy and daddy loved me very much, and wanted me to do the right things. I should have listened better to my mommy and daddy, but I was little and I didn't do that. Even when I got a little older, I didn't always listen, and now I wish I had. They knew more than me, and just wanted to protect me and help me be a better person. But I didn't know that then. And they didn't understand that there were other ways they could have punished me for not listening or doing what they said.

There was silence for awhile, and then...

K. So they spanked you when you didn't pick up your toys?

Me: Yes.

K. Like I don't pick up my toys?

Me: Yes, but I don't spank you for that, do I?

K. (grin) No.

I could see this was going to be one of those times when she would repeat herself ad nauseum - so I closed it by telling her it was late, and she could ask me tomorrow anything she wanted to know about me tomorrow, but she needed to go to sleep.

To which she backed up against me, grabbed my hand and wrapped it around her and held on to it with both hands and patted it a few times, and fell asleep.

You can't get that when they sleep by themselves in another room.

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