I write a lot about trying to establish rhythms in our home and the varying degrees of success in which we find them. Most recently, though, I've been thinking about the challenge of releasing rhythm and routine once we've outgrown them and they are no longer useful to us. When Silas was a baby, I developed and clung to a sleep routine for bedtime. Sleep has always been a priority in our house. All three of us function better when we are well rested, as I suppose is the case for most people. So, we have always put Silas down for bed at the same time at night and once he (finally!) settled into a clear nap pattern, there has had to have been a pretty epic event going on for me to have him away from home during that time. I absolutely cherish the brief window that I have to myself during the day while he is napping and Steve and I would not be a functional married couple if we didn't have an hour or two together sans baby in the evenings. But it took some time and more than a little bit of effort to get there.
In those early days when he was so fussy and he cried all the time and he refused to nurse and all we could do was to hold him and bounce (not rock...oh, no, we hated the rocking chair) in the dark, I maintained my sanity by counting. The bouncing would settle into a rhythm and I would count. 1, 2, 3, 4....the minutes would pass...56, 57, 58, 59 and the crying would slowly stop and his breathing would shift. It became meditative. Suddenly, I wasn't lost in a dark room, I had a purpose. I could track the time and knew that he would eventually fall asleep. It no longer seemed hopeless. There was no time or space in my brain for thoughts of frustration or anger, I was too busy counting.
For the past year, with only minor adjustments, our nighttime routine has been the same. Then a couple of months ago it just didn't fit anymore. Silas was cranky and would howl if I tried to hand him over to Steve for songs, as was our custom. Bedtime was becoming a battle again. Something needed to shift. Steve and I agonized about what to do. How about dropping the songs? What if I faded more into the background and bedtime become a Papa/Silas event? With more than a little bit of trepidation, we took the leap and changed. Silas took it like a champ, of course, and we have embraced a new, calm rhythm that is peaceful and effective. It includes cookies and warm milk. And as much as I do not long to return to those early days, I find it so hard to release my old habits. After he nurses to sleep I still count as I rock, waiting to reach some magic number that will allow me to lay him down without waking. My rational brain knows that he will either sleep or he will wake and which one it is has little to do with whether I rock him for the count of 200 or the count of 157. But, my habit-brain keeps whispering, "what if..."
I've been practicing letting go, trying to release to the universe my need for habit and control and instead trying to maintain my presence in different ways. Instead of counting to crowd out the negative thoughts and feelings, I'm trying to be blank and open to give the positive room to enter in. As I look down at my sleeping boy, so little of him still a baby, I embrace how far we've come and how far we have yet to go.