Today, we were going on a walk as a family, exploring our new neighborhood. At one point, Danny, Alice, and I stayed at the playground while Jeff and Jill went to go find the other pool. (There are two different ones we can use.) They returned, and after a while I wanted to go see the other pool. Jill came with me, and we started walking away. Once Danny noticed my departure, he started to cry and ran after us, really upset. Jeff started calling Danny "Momma's boy" instead of "Danny."
I had never thought about it before, but perhaps Danny isn't just being clingy. Maybe I have a "momma's boy." I remember when I was pregnant with Danny, one of my friends who has only boys told me I would be surprised by how much boys love their mommies. I wasn't sure what she meant by that, because Jill really loves me, and I didn't see how a son could love me more than my daughter. However, I think I am understanding now what she means. Jill obviously still loves me, but she shows it in a different way than Danny.
It is pretty sweet.
But very endearing.
And it has culminated into him being very difficult to fall asleep. For instance, we flew home from Nebraska yesterday, and the poor boy was traveling on only four hours of sleep, because whenever I left his bedroom the night before, he would completely flip out and just cry and scream until I returned, but I needed to get things done like nurse Alice, help her go to sleep, do laundry, take a shower, and pack our suitcase. So it took Danny a really long time to fall asleep.
Last night, I read five books and sang Jill and Danny songs for about half an hour. Then I kissed them good night and walked out. Danny freaked out again. I didn't know what to do, because even being in there didn't help him actually fall asleep, and I didn't want it to take three hours again like the night before. I thought maybe he would just get exhausted and fall asleep (as harsh as that sounds). Jeff ended up going in there though, and whatever he did worked.
I asked Jeff today what his secret was, and Jeff said that all he did was tell Danny that Mommy was not going anywhere and that she would be here when he woke up.
That was it!
So, tonight, Jeff and I read stories, we said prayers, and then I sang songs. Jill actually fell asleep while I was still singing. Danny was restless. He was on top of his blankets, he was upside down (his feet were by his headboard), and he had his pillow on top of him. I thought I was in for another long night of hysterics. I stopped singing and told him it was time to go to bed. He put his pillow back where it went, put his head on it, and covered himself with his blankets. I smothered him with kisses and whispered in his ear. I said, "I will never leave you, and when you wake up in the morning, we are going to have a super fun day."
There were no hysterics. He did mumble to himself a little bit, but he fell asleep without leaving his bed again and without screaming or crying.
So all he seemed to need was the reassurance that I wouldn't disappear while he slept.
I felt really sad about telling him that I would never leave him. I have no intention to ever leave him, but there is so much in this life that is unpredictable, which I cannot prepare for. I can do everything I can to stay alive: take medicine when I'm sick, never jaywalk, never drink and drive, never smoke, keep a fire extinguisher in my kitchen, lock my doors, and never walk alone in dark alleys at night. But there are still so many factors I have no control over. It reminded me of friends who ended up widowed and alone even though their spouses did not engage in risky behaviors.
And it also reminded me that he would grow up and leave me someday. That my reassurance would be completely unnecessary, because he would not need me that way anymore.
So, for the first night in weeks, my kids went to bed really easily without completely exhausting me to the core and testing my patience in every imaginable way, but I still couldn't enjoy it, because I was too busy feeling sad for my friends who have been single parents and for orphans everywhere and for children who grow up and leave home.
I need to get better at being able to enjoy the moment and finding happiness even though this world is full of so many sad things. Feeling sad isn't very useful.
Danny, I promise I will never abandon you, and I will love you forever.
On a side note, while it has been really difficult to get Danny to fall asleep or just stay in his bed recently, there was one really funny incidence when I was staying at my sister's house in Nebraska. One rowdy night, Danny was discovered in bed with his cousin Hanna. He had gone downstairs, grabbed a loaf of bread, crept into her room, and sneaked into her bed. Isn't that funny? What a crazy party!!! BYOB toddler style. Bread. Who knew?
Tonight, just a few minutes before I wrote this post, I was holding Alice as she was sleeping. Twice, she laughed in her sleep. It was so cute and beautiful. I wish I could have recorded that sound to listen to over and over again when she is grown and gone and too big to be cradled in my arms.