Happy Birthday To My 16 Year Old Son

10 years old

 "Your son will hold your hand only for a little while.  But he will hold your heart for a lifetime."
-- Anonymous

Today is my son's 16th birthday.  One of the reasons I started My Left Breast was to leave a legacy for my kids in the event that something were to happen to me and this whole breast cancer thing didn't quite go the way I had planned.  I want so much for my kids to know how much they mean to me and how deeply they've shaped and changed my life in the best of ways.

The past few days I've been thinking back to when he was a little boy.  He's always been very creative with a vivid imagination and perhaps because of that imagination, when he was about 3 or 4 he started having bad nightmares.  I had read all of the books about how to make sure your kids have good sleeping habits and all of them were adamantly opposed to having your child sleep in bed with you.  But he'd come right next to my side of the bed and wake me up in a panic when he had one.  I would look at his eyes wide and scared and put my hand over his heart where I could actually feel it thumping loud and fast through his pajamas and knew he was scared to death.

It seemed ridiculous to make him go back to sleep alone in his room when he was having such scary dreams, so I would open the covers and let him crawl in to sleep between my husband and myself.  He would immediately calm down and go right back to sleep and we'd all get a good nights rest.

Then as he got bigger, it started to get kind of tight in the bed with him so if I were going to get any sleep, I knew I'd need to come up with some kind of solution to the dilemma of his night terrors. I started leaving his sleeping bag in his bedroom at night, and when he'd come to my side of the bed after a nightmare, I'd tell him to go get his sleeping bag and put it at the foot of our bed and sleep there for the rest of the night. He would immediately go right back to sleep as soon as he got into his sleeping bag down there on the floor at the foot of our bed.  I'd carefully step over him in the morning when my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and he'd sleep peacefully until 7:00 when he had to get up and go with me to day care or school, depending on his age.

Once he got to about 7 or 8 years old, I started a new plan.  When I'd tuck him in at night, I'd put him inside his sleeping bag on top of his bed and zip it up really tightly around him so that he was all snuggled in like in a cocoon.  He loved the feeling of being inside the tight, warm sleeping bag, it seemed to do the trick and he would sleep through the night without any nightmares and we'd all do the same.

I think you have to trust your own instincts when it comes to how to react to your children's needs. All the books told me not to let him sleep in our bed, but I knew that he needed the reassurance that we were there and were all right with his fear.  It would have been cruel and foolish to make him go back to his own room, just to make the point that he had to learn to sleep in his own bed, on his own.  And, of course, he eventually learned how to sleep on his own, at his own pace, in his own time.

The handsomest 16 year old in the world

Now fast forward to last year when he started High School basketball.  He started as one of the only freshman on the JV team and at the first scrimmage, I walked in the door and was stunned by the size and heft of the other boys on the team, most of them Juniors and Seniors.  They were huge boys with buzz cuts, big muscles and a generally scary look and attitude about themselves. And my son fit right in, without a blink of an eye, he just got right in there with them and played as aggressively as the rest of them.

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