Normally if she stirs during the night or during a nap, we do not go to her. We've had great success with letting her self-soothe and spend time alone [awake] in her bed [crib]. So much so, that we are able to put her down wide awake at nap time or bedtime, and she [usually] happily whispers or sings to herself, or to her animals, cuddles her big teddy bear, and falls asleep completely on her own. Typically if she wakes up at odd times, we allow her to self-soothe, especially if she's whining or we can tell it's just a ploy to control us by having us come into her room for no reason.
This time it is not a whine, not a manipulation. Her voice is scratchy.
For some reason, I think 'I bet she would like a sip of water.' -- something she's never had in her room. But just a hunch.
I go down to the basement, to her room. She's standing in her crib in the dark, sniffling.
Despite the nice long shower with lavender body wash and the doTerra fractionated coconut oil that Dan put all over her skin before bed, I can still smell the chlorine on her from our family swim at the community pool tonight. We think they must have just added chlorine today because it was really really bad, even Dan complained, and he never complains. Mid-swim, Penny's face was pretty red and blotchy and her eyes pretty swollen, and I think in all her bravery and fish-ness, she probably accidentally got some of this chlorine-infested water in her throat.
I go to the side of the crib.
"Hi Penny, would you like some water?" I whisper.
She nods her head yes and lifts her arms for me to pick her up.
"OK, I brought you some from the kitchen."
I hold her on my hip while she takes four sips from her cup. My lower back aches and baby girl in my belly gives Penny a warning kick. I don't plan to stay in her room very long. In my head I second guess myself. I hope it wasn't a mistake coming down here and "rescuing" her. I hope this doesn't become an ordeal.
She sips one more time.
"Tanks." she says.
I stroke her hair. "Are you ok Penny?"
"Yeah. I kokay."
She rests her head on my shoulder and pulls at her ear [her "tell" that she's tired.]
"Alright, time to go back to bed, you can cuddle your bear again."
I brace myself for a protest, or a plea that I rock her, or sing to her, or read her a book, or get her something else to eat or drink. Or worse, a tantrum. God, please not a tantrum at this hour.
Instead she leans her whole body toward her crib for me to put her in it. I place her feet gently on her crib mattress and she immediately lays back down, clutching her blanket and burrowing her head into her teddy bear's feet.
"Night night, Penny, I love you very much."
And she waves bye-bye to me with just the tips of her fingers as she falls back asleep.
Sometimes kids control their parents too much. Sometimes us parents are blind to manipulations and patterns of behavior that give even the littlest kids the upper hand in the household. Sometimes this is a real problem.
But sometimes kids are trying to tell us something when they cry, or call for us, or ask for things.
Sometimes it's ok to bend the rules we've made for ourselves as parents. Sometimes it's ok to go with our guts and trust that our emotions are not interfering with our judgment.
Tonight, especially in the darkest hours when everybody else sleeps and I stare into my computer screen, all of the above is grey and fuzzy to me. But I do know this: at least this time, my intuition was right. Parenting is hard, but there's always something to be said for a mother's intuition.