Better Mothering

This past spring semester--I'm an academic and measure life by semesters--I wanted to improve my mothering. I wasn't sure what this was going to look like exactly, but I felt like Benjamin was struggling and needed something more from his mom.

I have read enough books to understand that even though Benjamin was attachment-parented for the first few years and really didn't experience any hardships or traumas, he behaves as if he did. His genetics and his personality profile show a predisposition to form addictive behaviors, and these next few years are crucial in his development toward non-addictive maturity. I want him to be person capable of managing stress and bad feelings in healthy ways. As a parent I feel like most of my job is figuring out how to prevent now what might be a whole lotta grief for all of us later.

Without any sort of plan about how I was going to mother better, I began tucking him in every night. Even at age eleven there is still a good deal of fuss and anxiety for him at bedtime. He's always struggled with the transition between being awake and sleeping. Most nights of his life so far have invloved the normal "I'm thirsty" or "I'm excited about x event" stuff that all of us experience. But for him, bedtime has also included a whole mess of other stuff like not being able to curtail negative thinking about scary things, bad pre-sleep dreams, and a general fear of sleep. This is something I understand well: pre-sleep is a time to be alone with one's own brain, which is not always a friendly place.
So, I started tucking him in every night and trying to be as gentle about it as possible. It's not like we didn't tuck him in before this, but since I have worked on weeknights for much of the last 6 years, we haven't been consistent about doing it every night in the same way. it averaged out to a few times a week, some nights mom did it and some nights dad. The consistency I applied this year has made all the difference. He falls asleep more quickly after a few months of tucking in, and there is much less drama about bedtime. We still have struggles, but fewer and to a lesser degree of distress.

The routine is he tells me he's ready for bed and when to come in ("three minutes" or "thirty seconds"), then I come in and fix the covers and hand him his ipod, and then I shut the light off and say "sleep good" or "good night." Shutting the light off is new! He used to never let us shut the light off and now he's more comfortable in the dark.

Part of this is physical maturity, I know. But I'd like to believe that part is better mothering. At least then I'd know I was doing something right.

P.S. He's only to listen to his ipod in bed. No surfing or videos.



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