As I give each of my children a goodnight hug and kiss, a final check for water and bathroom, and a gentle tuck of blankets to surround them with cozy warmth, I think about how far we’ve come…

I reflect back on the Level I Intensive: Making Sense of Children with Dr. Neufeld in Montreal, summer 2005… I was deeply moved by the attachment themes that he was walking us through. I felt a profound sense of sinking into realizations already there about the deeper needs of children.

Dr. Neufeld had been discussing a child’s need for more attachment when facing separation from Mom and Dad, including everyday separations such as bedtime, daycare, and school. I approached him during the break to inquire about the sleep issues of my oldest child: she couldn’t settle at bedtime, anxiety was high, and her need to cling to me desperate. It was resulting in a long drawn-out process each night: I was pushing her into sleep, she couldn’t, and it was leading to huge frustrations. Dr. Neufeld listened to my story through to the end, and then simply said: But Darlene, she is still of a very tender age…

iStock_000034637758SmallInstantly I understood what he was saying. She still needed me to take care of her as she moved into the separation of bedtime, when dark surrounds a child in aloneness, anxieties surface sharply, and the shadows take the form of horrible monsters. I now had a sense of calling to support my child in facing bedtime separation with more of me. Unfortunately, my frustrated reactions were leaving her with very little to hold onto, other than an insecure feeling festering deep inside because of my impatience and frustration… and of course, the monsters then became bigger.

From that moment began a definite process of growth for both of us. With some combination on any given night of my taking the lead to provide extra kisses, cuddles, back-rubs, another story, firm reassurances, soothing tones to convey that I would let nothing happen to her, an old ratty robe of mine with my smell and all my love poured into it, magical ‘protection’ hugs that would stay with her after I left, invisible cords stretched between her heart and mine, ups and downs to her room as she eased into it, talks about meeting her in her dreams, rocking her through her tears while she adapted to the fact that bedtime in her own bed was definite, finding space for my tears, tempering tired frustration to hold the bigger picture of what I was doing, and repair work when I would unfortunately blow it, we weathered it.

As I turn out her light now five years later, I marvel at how my daughter faces the separation and fully embraces her sleep. I let go of the goal of ‘sleep’ and instead invested my energy in helping her to know she is deeply significant to me, I love her in the face of all challenges and even more, I seek to know her and understand her. Somewhere in the process [I’ve lost track of when], she moved to adapt to this dark aloneness within a growing feeling of security, warmly lit inside of her, that I will hold on to her.

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