Respect your child’s needs, respect yourself OR How co-sleeping with a sleep regressing son taught me to trust the program

We just went through a few weeks of restless sleep with Bodhi waking 5-10 times a night needing comfort, food or to eliminate after sleeping through most nights for months (except where he was sick or too busy to eat all day).

So finally, I Googled “restless sleep toddler” and there is a predicted sleep regression around 18 months due to cognitive development—particularly language. So interesting. I love learning about my baby and find that the more I am educated, the more I accept how things are as natural and needed.

I am glad I held up late at night without losing my cool. Last night, Bodhi slept straight through and woke up speaking in two and three word sentences to me. This was amazing as my bright cookie has developed ahead in all things, but has really struggled to speak.

Trust the program

I am in the middle of a very demanding fitness challenge at the moment. Strict meal plans and tough workouts requiring determination and resolve. The most sage advice I have had: “Trust the program.”

That is really what you are doing when you practice attachment parenting. You are answering the baby’s needs with a level of trust in our collective evolutionary “program” as humans. A cry is answered. A subtle cue is recognized. Baby is nursed. Baby is held. Any or all of the above will do.

This almost makes it sound like I have simply trusted in the process the whole way. I freaking wish!

Having dealt with post-pardum anxiety and depression, I struggled through early months. There are things I am great at as a mother and moments I have hated myself for my reaction. I have learned so much, come so far.

The Right to Be Me

What I have come to see is that my child has the right to exist in this world all on his own. He isn’t mine, he doesn’t belong to me. If I died he would go on living. He belongs to himself and this world. When I react in a way that denies this natural right, it feels wrong.

This doesn’t mean I am scared of guiding my child or that I let him do whatever he wants, but I am learning that even when I need him to do something, he is allowed to feel however he wants about it, even if that means being angry or sad. Counter to what I thought, the more I acknowledge his independence, the nicer, kinder, more trusting and more amenable he gets.

It took a long, long time to learn that Bodhi was his own person—it seems so simple, but it didn’t happen overnight. It came through months of struggles, of wanting him to be a certain way, sleep at a certain time, eat a certain thing, play a certain way. I believe because I was open to attachment parenting and the philosophy that my child has a right to need food, love and sleep at times other than on my schedule, the world of seeing him as this beautiful independent life force has opened for me.

Tomorrow….heck this afternoon will bring new challenges, and the independence of being ‘2’ is still ahead. For now, I will continue to let my heart open to my son and honour his need to be exactly where he is in life. To help him know his mind, heart and body’s needs, rather than teaching him he needs to listen to someone else’s. Who knows? Perhaps I will learn to do that for myself as well.

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