TONIGHT, as the Little Mister fell asleep to the sounds of Tony playing him the guitar, I learnt that everyone has their own way of doing things. And just because I’m used to doing things a certain way with the little boy, it doesn’t mean that they’re the only way that’ll work.
I love putting the Little Mister to bed. The process starts way before I step in. A little before six, Tony baths him. This is their time. I potter around in the background, getting laundry sorted, tidying up, arranging things for dinner, finding clean pyjamas. And then Tony dresses him in front of the fire, giving him a massage along the way. Story books follow. Our current favourites are The very hungry caterpillar (still) and Goodnight moon. Then (a recent and highly successful development in terms of the sleep that follows), the Little Mister has a big bottle of formula which sends him half to sleep.
I bundle him up into his sleeping bag and take him into his room, which is already dark, with the radio tuned off station and humming static in the background. I might feed him some more if that’s what he wants, but either way, we’ll sit in my chair and have a delicious sleepy cuddle until he drops off. Quietly, I’ll put him down in his cot, make sure his bunny is within reach, and tip toe out – silently cursing the noisy door handle on my way.
But tonight, I watched Tony on the monitor, Hal, and what he did was very, very different. I even went in and offered to put Milin down myself. I was turned away. Tony and Milin have their own routine. They perfect it two nights a week, when I am at work.
Tony put Milin in his cot, wide awake. He picked up his guitar and started to sing to him. It turns out that Milin likes Bob Dylan. So much so that he listened quietly for a while, and then turned on his side, jutted his chin into the air, and assumed his sleeping pose. Tony stopped playing, the boy wanted to sleep. Tony left the room. The boy was asleep.
To me, there had been so many things wrong with this scenario. Milin didn’t finish the bottle – he will be hungry and not sleep – I thought. Except he’s already done a longer stretch than normal at this time. Too much stimulation at bed time, I thought. Except that it put him to sleep. He needs a cuddle, I thought. Except, clearly, he had already had enough cuddles.
As Tony pointed out, he didn’t learn the trick from a ‘how to be a good parent’ book, he didn’t steal it from his baby club mates, and he didn’t pick up the advice from facebook. He did things his way, and did what he felt would work. It did. I already knew the books don’t have all the answers. But tonight, I figured, that between us, we’ll get things right by the Little Mister, just by going with our instinct. And sometimes, that might mean, singing a little Bob Dylan at bed time.