I have a few posts brewing in my mind, and it occurs to me that they all touch in some way on the passage of time and my relationship with it. I hope by writing this little introduction I will have committed myself to following through on all of them. Poof!
I’ve often felt that I just don’t do enough for Gideon. He is the classic second child, but also the victim of our change in circumstances. When Akiva was little, it’s not just that was he the only child, but also that had two parents who were at leisure most of the time. We went places together, read books, played music, etc. Not so much with “enrichment” in the sense of classes and flash cards, but the universe of which he was the center was a rich one, and not just financially. By the time Gideon emerged from the baby phase and began interacting a lot with us, we were stressed both by the “two children are so much harder than one” dynamic and by our new financial situation. Instead of being able to read to him all the time, and take him to see interesting things, and sit and play with him for hours, I was on my own at home, trying to learn how to cook, clean (please try not to snicker), take care of the house, and all the myriad unnameable tasks that go with being an at-home mother. Adding to my general sense of guilt is that the two boys’ natures are very different. Akiva was not particularly interested in spending lots of time with me; Gideon would just as soon be glued to me all day and all night.
It’s recently dawned on me that my relationship with Gideon truly is a twenty-four hour affair, because he still nurses both day and night. Nursing has always been very important to him and I’ve done my best to keep up. Of course, it’s important to me, too, in that I aim as a parent to be in tune with my children’s needs. But I’ve got to say, I’m just blinking tired. I’ve hit the wall, and the name of that wall is I need some sleep. I don’t do enough for Gideon in the daytime because there is no there there.
So I decided to night wean. This is a hard decision for me because I can see how much nursing matters to Gideon. I worry so much that I’m taking something away from him that he really needs, that his psyche is being damaged by this choice, that he will feel that his mother has abandoned him in some crucial way. At the same time, I hope that by taking back my sleep I will be more present for him in the daytime.
The decision has seismic impact on our whole family. Bill and I talked about it (but not enough) and had mixed signals about timing. I wanted to take it slowly and have lots of conversations about his becoming a bigger boy and learning how to go back to sleep without nursing, etc. I also wanted to include Akiva in the empathy chain — Gideon is going through a challenging time and needs extra loving from all of us. Once the groundwork had been laid, Bill would sleep with him for a while and try to break the link between nursing and falling back asleep. We discussed the possibility of allowing Gideon an extra truck video if he could go through the night without nursing, a tactic I regarded as an ace up the sleeve to be used as needed and sparingly. However, Bill wanted to help me by moving the process along quickly, so he started basically the same night as I first mentioned it to Gideon — and told him right away about the video.
We’ve had three nights so far. The first night, Bill caved and came to get me because he couldn’t stand the crying. By the second night, Bill had done some research and was emotionally prepared, and it worked. Not easily, but Gideon managed eventually to fall back asleep twice without nursing. So of course, he woke up in the morning and demanded a video — which got Akiva all creased because he wanted extra privileges, too. (Even though he was thrilled I spent the whole night with him, what he really wanted was to watch more TV. Hmpf.) Third night same as the second.
During the day, I am much more present with Gideon. Which is good because he’s incredibly needy and clingy. This morning as I prepared to take Akiva to school, he burst into tears and said, “Ima, please don’t leave!” When I lie down with him for his nap, he holds onto me like I’m a life raft. He hugs my leg while I’m cooking.
My mindset going into nursing was that I would let things wax and wane naturally. That approach worked perfectly with Akiva — except now he says he regrets stopping at 16 months (Riiiiight) — but it’s clear that Gideon’s trajectory is completely different. (Why I expected anything else is purely a sign of my own delusion.)
Change is hard.