Spending the Night Away — by Jamie Levine
Ever since Jayda started attending a new nursery school in September, she’s been so physically and mentally challenged that she’s been sleeping like a champ. She gets off of the bus between 4:15 and 4:30 pm, and most evenings, after I whisk her off to the playground or the library for an hour or so, we have dinner, Jayda plays for awhile, and she’s snoring away by 7:30. As a mom who desperately needs my nights for studying or freelance work, it’s ideal; and as a single mom who recently started dating someone, it makes me feel less guilty about leaving Jayda to enjoy an evening rendezvous. Several times in the past few weeks, I’ve put Jayda to bed, and unbeknownst to her, have run out to have a drink with Library Guy (while Jayda’s grandma or grandpa listens to her monitor), only to slip into bed after midnight and have Jayda wake up in my arms the next morning, clueless about my evening’s activities. It’s deceptive, but it works for both of us.
Of course once in awhile, I like to meet Library Guy even earlier, for dinner, and my parents put Jayda to bed, but Jayda always falls asleep knowing that when she wakes up, her mommy will be by her side—and I always am. For almost 3 ½ years, I’ve spent every night with Jayda (or least most of the night!) and have woken up with her beside me. Jayda and I share a very special bond and she’s incredibly social and secure, so I’ve never given our arrangement a second thought…until now. Plenty of kids spend a night at their grandparents’ house—some even spend a week when their parents are on vacations or business trips—and I certainly did, too. My parents went on trips together when I was a child and left me and my siblings at home with relatives or responsible sitters, and while I do remember missing them a bit, everything worked out alright.
At some point, whether it’s an overnight with Library Guy, or even just a short get-away with a good girlfriend, I’m finally starting to feel like it’s time I left Jayda to sleep on her own. It’s also time I stopped worrying about staying out too late or that Jayda might wake up before I get home and feel betrayed that I’m not there. But I wonder if making such a move is going to be harder for Jayda or for me. There’s something to be said about stability and routine, and what we’ve been doing for all of these years has been comforting to me, too. When I hear my little girl breathing comfortably next to me, I know she’s ok; and when she’s having a nightmare, I’m right there to comfort her. And as much as I complain about being woken by my daughter in the wee hours of the morn, waking to Jayda’s hugs and kisses is always a wonderful way to start my day. Being a mother is who I am—and I always put Jayda first. But I’m starting to realize that being a good mother is more than focusing on my daughter—it’s focusing on myself, too, and making sure I’m fulfilled. I always find the time to take care of myself, physically, so it’s time I did so emotionally, too. I’m working on it…and I’m hoping there’s an overnight trip in my future. Stay tuned.