The Garden Gnome of Change
Sometimes change pounces like a tempestuous feline.
Sometimes it comes in waves as the moon first ripens, then slims.
It can be as gradual as the darkening chill of night.
And once in a while you open your front door and boldly issue an open invitation to whatever change might be lurking like garden gnomes amongst the shrubbery.
Three mornings ago, I woke up before dawn with a bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed Platypup.
This is usually Thor’s domain while I live it up and sleep till 8:30. In my defense, I have been taking the lead night shift since Platypup was born, first with all the nursing, then bathroom voyages after both kids simultaneously nighttime potty-trained. But I realize sleeping in is a huge gift and am grateful even if I forget to show it when my alarm clock usually rings in the form of two wild half-naked beasties catapulting onto my head.
Anyway, that morning three days ago Owlet slept in until at least an hour after dawn (daylight savings having rendered clock time meaningless), woke up, came out to the living room where Platypup and I were hanging out, and did not ask for her morning milk.
That has happened a handful of times before, but not very lately, and she would always remember before long. This time, she simply skipped it and went a full 24 hours till bedtime milk.
The same day Platypup skipped his nap milk. I was flabbergasted.
Seizing a grand opportunity, I voluntarily took early-rising Platypup again the following (pitch-black) “morning.”
This time, however, Owlet did ask for her morning milk when she awakened in the actual morning, and instead of either capitulating or drawing a firm limit, I decided to describe to her the situation as I saw it.
I told her I was thinking of dropping morning milk for her, since she was getting big and was mostly replacing milk with food and water and cuddles. I mentioned that she hadn’t noticed that we skipped it the previous day. And then I waited to see what she’d say.
I expected she would simply refuse. I was not planning to insist should that be the case.
But instead she accepted the idea with a wistful grace, lifted her brave little chin, and countered with, “but… we’re going to have morning milk one last time… right now… right?”
Of course, child of mine.
So we woke up Daddy, explained the situation so as to hustle him out of bed earlier than was planned without protest, and curled up together in the glow of One Last Time.
It was a challenge to keep my heavy eyelids open, but well worth it as daylight and I both kissed her sweet face. I shed a few quiet tears, let her nurse as long as was comfortable for me, longer than our typical morning milk, and then gently asked her to have a few last sips and stop when she was ready, which she cheerfully did. And for some time afterward, we snuggled and talked, kissed and giggled, the better to demonstrate how future mornings might not be so bad.
I knew I was going to like snuggling better than nursing, because my milk is slowing down and also simply because to me nursing is mostly a one way street, which is blissfully essential for a baby and toddler but does not necessarily put the mother in a similar state of mind, no matter all the books blathering on about oxytocin.
But I didn’t know just how striking the contrast would be for me. It was like going from a long elevator ride — with nice music, definitely, and plenty of time for contemplation but still, you know, frequently boring and occasionally tedious — to what? A balloon ride? A jet pack? A water slide with lots of twists and turns? I really can’t think of an analogy better than the reality: a morning of joy with a dear cuddly child in your arms.
If I had been able to write that day, how the prose would have run purple!
But in real life, change is seldom the work of a single morning.
That night, as Platypup, Owlet, and I snuggled down for bedtime milk, she said, unprompted, that she wouldn’t be having milk the next morning, but we would snuggle instead. True, she also said she was a little sad about it, with a little quaver in her small voice. Still, I was euphoric. Triumphant! Nostalgic, even.
Then we woke up yesterday morning. Platypup slept in till a nearly-respectable hour and Owlet awakened as we crept out of the bedroom. Daddy got up to be with Platypup and I crawled into bed with Owlet, a big hug at the ready.
And she wanted her morning milk.
And she cuddled, and fussed, and squirmed, and started to cry a little. I kissed and soothed and rubbed her back and mentally set an indescribable but specific limit for the amount of crying that would mean this was not going to work out and I would agree to go back to doing morning milk.
I do not have a problem changing my mind in the face of a legitimately distressed child. Preschoolers are not very good actors; I can easily distinguish between serious upset and an innocent attempt at manipulation.
But she soon quieted, and while it was not the glorious morning previous, it was wonderful nonetheless.
The behavior time bomb I have been bracing for has not transpired. And even more amazingly, not only was Thor able to put Owlet to sleep last night while I was out of the house, which is noteworthy because it meant a whole day without any milk in it for her (and assuming we make it till bedtime today, a whole 48 hours between nursing sessions), but he said they spent over an hour that afternoon while I was teaching and Platypup was napping just curled up on the couch together hugging and chatting.
This morning Platypup and I rose at dawn. Owlet appeared an hour later and said she had been a little upset when she first woke up, but had snuggled some with Daddy and didn’t want to go back to bed with me right away. Perhaps a half hour later she changed her mind, we woke up Thor, and had a very cozy time together before she bounced up and went off to play.
I am over the moon.
It gives Owlet and I the daily mother-daughter time we desperately need. Platypup benefits from my renewed patience with his nursing. And Thor finally gets the elevated status he deserves as equally capable of delivering comfort.
So is this what it feels like to nail perfect timing? Huh. I like it!