I remember when my boys were babies and toddlers learning a new skill, they needed me more at night time. I noticed this mostly in terms of requiring extra nursing throughout the night. I could not always tie it to specific skills being obtained it just seemed to make sense. Though it was hard to be woken in the night it was easy to support these wee precious babes by providing access to reassurance whenever they needed it.
Recently my eight year old has been unable to sleep without knowing an adult will be in the bed next to him for the entire night. Prior to this he would fall asleep with daddy at his side and then daddy would leave and head in to his own bed. My son knew dad would leave and this was fine with him. And then one day it stopped being okay. Every time daddy moved to get up he would spring awake. He wasn’t doing this on purpose to make anyone’s life uncomfortable he was genuinely anxious about being alone in the night time.
We are a few weeks in now and he stills tells us ” I need a grown up close to me at night.” Though this can be frustrating, as we shuffle beds back and forth each night, once again it is worth it. It is worth it to be able to say to him we are here for you anytime of the day or night.
And because of the person I am it has got me to thinking about what could have shifted in his world. Just like a toddler striking out in the world to notice themselves separate from their parents, children growing in their understanding of the world beyond themselves need just as trusting arms to fall back in to. My son has been exposed to a host of new ideas and information lately. Some of it through the video games he plays and some of it through the events that have shown up in his life. He is making sense of ideas that are not just about him. He is growing a sense of compassion and empathy for others. This work is as big and overwhelming as learning to walk and talk.
As my son sees the world through other’s eyes he bumps in to scary things, like abduction, war and poverty. It is more then just knowing they exist in the world it is knowing these things happen to human beings. As he grows in his ability to see himself in relationship to others, he also grows in his ability to put himself in another person’s shoes. This is huge. When the lights are on and everyone is up and moving and learning the ideas show up as conversations. In the night when the mind is tired and the world is dark the feelings of the conversations can sometimes grow. So it makes 100 percent sense that he would want a grown up near by to remind him that no matter what he is safe.
Being there to recognize his increasing maturity and to see it play out as he exhibits compassion for others is a gift for which I am immensely grateful. Providing a warm body next to him in the night so he can sleep without hesitation, truly is the least we can do.