For over two years, we’ve not spent a night apart. From those early days when he would keep me awake kicking me constantly, to the night he was born. The long nights spent sat up at all hours feeding, trying to stop my body from doing the one thing it wanted.. sleep. The nights where he snuggled next to me, happiest curled in the warm middle spot of the bed; spread-eagling himself in a way only a toddler can do. And the nights where I’m dismissed at bedtime and woken at an ungodly hour, ready to play with an enthusiasm that defies the darkness outside.
For every, single night of his life, I have felt him move, I have heard him breathe, I have been there. But this weekend he wasn’t. This weekend he had his first sleepover.
I surprised myself that it took us so long to get to this point. He spends a day every week at his grandparents and seems to view it as an extension of the empire over which he reigns. He’s taken up residence in my childhood bedroom; a cot that he uses weekly for naps and overnight when we stay on special occasions. To say he lives a life of luxury there is no lie; he’s as close to spoilt as can be and seems to take great pleasure in bossing my parents around far more effectively than I ever managed.
It’s been me that’s been holding us back. I haven’t been ready to let go. I didn’t want to do something that might stop his incredibly short bedtime feeds. I wasn’t sure I could go to bed without that final check in on his bedroom before I turned off the lights… knowing that he was safe and happy in his own little dream world.
But with a new addition fast approaching, reason had to take precedence over my heart. I didn’t want his first experience of waking up somewhere away from us to be associated with the new arrival. I didn’t want to worry about him; whether he was okay in the middle of the night, if my mum had remembered to put his drink in with him, or any of the little foibles of his bedtime routine. I wanted to know that he would be fine.
“What if he missed me? What if he didn’t?”
So this weekend, he had his first sleepover. Before I’d even had a chance to leave, he was outside ‘helping’ his Grandpa chop logs (some things I would rather not know about!). He waved me off and that was it, home I went. To a house that felt strangely quiet and a peace that unnerved both my husband and I all night. We shouted to each other as we went to bed, we enjoyed a lay in (having woken at 6.15 typically!), we popped to the pub for dinner. We laughed about how strange it felt to return to a life that was ours less than two years ago.
Typically, I needn’t have worried. When I arrived late morning to collect him, he barely acknowledged me; his pancake and strawberries (his third breakfast!) being of far greater interest. He gave me the briefest of hugs as I sat dissecting his night away with my parents before whining as I strapped him back in the car to head home. That evening he cried at not going back there for the night… talk about gratitude for all those nights I’d put in!
As we went to bed that night and I stood in the doorway listening to him breathe softly in his sleep, I felt everything settle again. Yes, he can manage the night without me, and me without him. We survived. But I know where I would much rather he be.