Don’t you love it when they’re asleep? Don’t they look so sweet and innocent?
For me, checking on my sleeping children at night is a treasured ritual. Stepping into their dark, quiet bedrooms becomes a moving meditation. The whining, sassing, yelling, and fighting from the day are nowhere to be seen on their dreaming faces. I give them gentle hugs and kisses, I breathe in the sweet baby shampoo scent on their still-damp hair as I re-tuck them into bed. Watching them sleep, something I don’t see as often now that they’re out of toddlerhood, reconnects me to my mama self and to the awesome, and sometimes overwhelming, experience of raising these amazing children.
This nightly meditation also reconnects me to my little ones. Their sleep patterns are reflections of their unique personalities. My son is always completely perpendicular to his bed by 10pm, with his feet and sometimes his head drooping off the sides. When I move him, he wakes up slightly and says random sleep-jumbled words like “Spider-man” or “refrigerator.” My daughter, on the other hand, has rarely moved from the position I tucked her into at bedtime. Her breathing is audible and deep.
Sleep is so peaceful. By contrast, bedtime (as parents know) is often anything but serene. I can envision a nightly celebration of ringing in 8pm, a la New Year’s Eve, as parents around the globe toast a glittering diamond bearing the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Hours (or perhaps even minutes) after the chaos of bedtime, spending a few moments watching our children sleep can be a gorgeous practice. I have found it makes me more compassionate in my parenting. I see my children differently when they are asleep. And then those lovely nighttime reflections manifest themselves in the crazy daytime: I remember my angry, sassing daughter is the same slumbering child I kissed gently on the head the night before. My tantrum-throwing son becomes the same sweet boy I snuggled in his bed while he slept.
Checking in on my dozing little ones each night has led me to one of my most powerful parenting mantras: “They are not their tantrums.” They are not their anger or frustration ~ those sweet, peaceful little buddhas are beneath the surface emotions their little minds and bodies struggle to control.They are not their tantrums. Don’t yell, mama. Practice compassion. Try a hug instead.
That approach helps me sleep better at night, too.