During the newborn phase of parenting, I found it important to remind myself that those middle of the night wakings would end. I needed to keep up the mantra to myself that it won't last forever. Newborns take a lot from a parent; all of that missed sleep is such a difficult thing. Knowing that at some point I would get back to a normal sleep schedule was the only thing that got me through.
Now, though, every night at some point, The Munchkin will fuss herself awake. At 21 months, she goes to bed like a dream and sleeps most of the night through. But somewhere between 3 and 4, inevitably, she wakes and needs a cuddle.
I go to her and lift her from the crib, bring her to the rocking chair and we rock. Usually only five minutes or so, sometimes longer if one of us needs. Sometimes I have a bit of an internal battle with myself about this nighttime ritual. I tell myself that I am only reinforcing the waking by picking her up and rocking her. I tell myself I should let her cry it out. I do the thing that I often advise others not to do: I "should" on myself.
But then I remember: it won't last. No matter how I approach the situation, it won't last. She will continue to grow and change whether I wish it away or embrace it. It won't be long before, like her older sister, she tells me that I am making her too hot and asks me to leave her side so that she can get to sleep.
So, on nights when my eyes are bleary from tiredness, I remind myself of how fleeting it all really is. When my pillow begs me to leave the baby and stay, to get her fully sleep trained once and for all, I creep out of the warm bed anyway. I find the energy for those few minutes together (how few I will get in this life). I quietly enter her room and rub her back. She sits up and reaches for me and we rock. I nuzzle her head, smell her sweet hair and try to remember how fast it all goes. It's funny how in a year and half I have flipped that mantra on it's head. Now I know, really know, that 3AM won't last forever. And I'm going to savor every moment of it.