Owen and I didn’t get along so well this weekend. I think we spent too much time together. He clings to me, can’t be without me, sits on me, suffocates me. I can’t read a book, it seems, without his leg being on top of mine, or his elbow on my shoulder, and sometimes it’s marvellous, and other times it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s even painful.
The other night he crawled into our bed at 12:30am. I can handle it when he crawls in at 4:30. But at 12:30, when I know I have a whole night ahead of me, I can’t. Or, at least, couldn’t. I told him he’d have to go back to bed.
I led him there. Sang to him. Tucked him in. He reads my falseness, I am sure. I was fairly sincere in wishing him sweet dreams, but I was secretly dreading that he would be up again, which of course he was.
“Fine, I said. If you’re sleeping here, I’m sleeping downstairs.” Mature, no?
“Fine. You sleep downstairs,” said Owen.
Fifteen minutes later, I heard his footsteps on the stairs. His small person stood, slightly belligerently, before me.
“Go back to bed.”
“I came here so I could sleep, Owen. Go back and sleep with Daddy.”
“But I want to sleep with you. You can make me a pocket” (We make a pocket sometimes for Saturday morning cartoons).
“No. Go back to bed.” (Do I need to add that I knew how ineffective I was being?)
“No! If I can’t sleep with you, I’ll sleep on the chair. I want to be with you.”
Then my heart broke a little. Terrible mother, terrible mother, my inner voice muttered. The boy wants to be with you, always. How is that a problem? Except that it is.
Long story short, after an hour of wrangling, Owen ended up in the bed between us.
He was as sweet as honey the next morning. “Mummy, I like your shirt!”
I was still begrudging. I told him that tonight, he would have to sleep in his own bed.
“OK, Mummy. I will.”
When I am in a good mood, discipline is easy and Owen does what I want, more or less. When I am in a bad mood, I parent badly. I lack patience and he knows it. Even if I think I am acting even tempered, he senses my short fuses and tries to trip them. He sees that I am rushing him into bed. He knows that I have no time for him. And it is precisely when I have no time for him that he wants my time. It makes sense.
At nap time (the second or third time I am trying to get him into bed) I have been known to say “I don’t want to see you until you wake up from your nap.”
Owen has responded, hurt: “Why you no want to see me? You don’t want me?”
And I do want him. And I spend his nap wracked with guilt for ruining his childhood.
Sometimes I do need a little space.