So, wow. That trip was a bit insane.
My baby sister Mawney is headed to Nepal (because, of course she is!) and my second youngest sister is going to Costa Rica (see above) and so I needed to make a trip to the Island to see them before they left. That hadn’t seen Olive since before Christmas, and two months in normal time is like light years in baby time.
We left here early on Tuesday morning, and Olive was not pleased to be woken up. The look on her face can best be described as “screamy”. We packed her up and headed out, five hours later we were in Victoria on my mom’s floating house, basking in auntie time and grandmummer time. Then, Wednesday night we got the bright idea that rather than stay one more day, we should try and visit our friends in Nanaimo.
We do this shit all of the time. Last-minute planning and obnoxious phone calls announcing our impending arrival and seriously, we are the worst. I would punch people in the throat for pulling this drop-in bullshit.
But they were excited and welcoming and happy to see us (there’s a reason they are some of our closest friends), and they made Olive laugh and she got pug kisses and petted her first bulldog and it took her a while to go to sleep because she could hear our echoing laughter down the hall. When she did get to sleep she slept beautifully, but then we had to wake her up early again the next day to leave, and haul her around a mall for four hours while we waited to go home.
I had a moment, on the second or third time she woke and I went into her room to soothe her. I picked her up and her chubby hands clung to my neck and she wasn’t even crying, just rubbing her face into my shoulder and she was tired, so tired, and she just wanted to sleep. I rocked with her for a few minutes, hummed and rubbed her back, and thought to myself that things needed to change.
When babies are newborns, they are incredibly portable, or at least Olive was. She slept anytime, anywhere, whenever she got tired. She wasn’t too aware of her surroundings and it didn’t really seem to matter where she ended up. But these days she notices everything, looks at everything, she is a little sponge taking it all in. And although she’s still napping well, she can’t just fall asleep anytime these days. We have to watch for signs of tiredness like yawning or turning her head and breaking eye contract and then help her go to sleep, otherwise she just stays up and gets overtired, worried she’ll miss one tiny minute of the action.
During that four day trip her naps were all messed up, her bedtimes were all over the map and we kept having to wake her up in the morning to go someplace else, when she just needed more sleep. And I started thinking to myself, as I felt her weight in my arms and she breathed into my neck, that things are going to have to change. We can’t just haul her all over the place whenever we feel like it. It’s not fair to her. She needs to have a regular bedtime and wake when she’s rested and be able to rely on us to help her naps.
She’s so accommodating, such a wonderful traveler, that it’s easy to forget this, and it’s easy too as a parent to want to hold on to your old life and deny that anything has changed. It’s easy to stay up till midnight laughing and talking and forget that your baby is down the hall and tired, t-i-r-e-d, and needs to sleep.
I find that Western cultures do this a lot, make the baby do all of the accommodating They need to get on a schedule that we set for them. They need to sleep through the night so we don’t have to wake to tend to their needs. They need to play by themselves and not need to be held and lie crying alone in a room to soothe themselves while we too cry, and tell ourselves we’re doing the right thing.
It doesn’t feel right, though. And if I have learned one thing in the past five months, it’s to follow my instinct. And my instinct was telling me to change.
So I rocked her and hummed, patted her back in soft little circles and stroked the nape of her neck like velvet.
And I promised, (again) (again and again) to do better. To be better.