When my son was 22 months old, he started falling asleep in his crib by himself at bedtime instead of being held until he fell asleep.

When he was a baby, we held him for a half-hour while he slept before putting him down. Eventually, we cut the time down to 15 minutes of being held while he was asleep. Then the time came for us to snuggle before bedtime but then have him fall asleep by himself.  

The first few nights of putting him in his crib to put himself to sleep went smoothly.  We’d snuggle before bed, and as he started to drift off, we’d move him to his crib. He never cried for more than a minute before being content to fall asleep on his own.

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I kept waiting for things to take a turn for the worse. Surely this was a fluke. My boy was going to cry and need to be held until he was fast asleep again as we had always done.  

And then something I never expected happened. 

My not so little anymore boy blew me a kiss and waved at me when I put him into his crib one night.

Everyone I told the story to thought it was so cute. He was growing up.

The only one who didn’t think it was so cute was me. Yes, it was cute in a way, but he blows me kisses all day, and those are much cuter. This time he was telling me goodnight like he didn’t even need me.  

Soon after that night, my husband put him to bed and told me the same thing happened.

“Didn’t he seem like such a big man to you when he did it? Where is our little boy going?” I asked.

“He seemed like a big boy to me. Not a big man,” my husband replied.

“I guess the fact he still wears a diaper means he isn’t a big man,” I said.

“And the fact he still sleeps in a crib,” my husband reminded me.

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Clearly, our toddler was growing up. Then a few nights later, he grew up even more.  We were snuggling before bed, and then he looked at me and pointed to the crib.

This was more than I could take.

“He pointed to the crib tonight!” I told my husband after I put our son to bed.

“He’s a big boy. He knows it’s time for bed,” he replied.

I knew I should be proud of him. He was learning an important skill. I would not be holding him until he fell asleep until he was 10 years old as people liked to tease me.

And then I realized why this is the hardest job I’ve ever had.

It’s not because of the middle-of-the-night wakeups even though those are exhausting.

It’s not because of the toddler temper tantrums even though sometimes I feel like crying too when they happen.

It’s not because of the throwing food on the floor even though I’m tired of cleaning it up.

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It’s not because some days, I would just like some time to myself other than at the end of the day when my son is asleep and I’m exhausted from chasing him around all day and scrambling to get stuff done during nap time.

It’s because it’s my job to teach my son to grow up and learn to do things for himself. 

It’s a good thing when he does things for himself and no longer needs mommy or daddy to help him.

I know people say your child will always need you as they grow, just in different ways.

But it’s still hard letting go of the things he used to need help with.

Kimberly Keys

Kimberly is a stay-at-home Mom to her long-awaited precious son who joined our family through the miracle of adoption. She loves watching her toddler discover new things, especially when exploring the parks around her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. You can follow her writing on Facebook at Kimberly Keys, Writer