My Favorite 2 Little Words

“Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in”
– Leonard Cohen

The corners of blackout film we’ve applied to this bedroom’s large windows have started to peel back, lighting the room just enough for me to have a sense of shapes and depth.

My daughter lies on the twin bed in the corner. A body’s length away, a comforter lies haphazardly on the empty king bed, not having been made since our early rise this morning.

I bounce gently on a yoga ball 10 feet towards the door from Lily’s bed. 7-month-old Theo fell asleep at my chest in the Ergo just moments ago.

“Mama, mano,” Lily cries as she stretches her arm out from under the covers, hand reaching for me, “Mano, mama, manoooooo!!”

“I know it’s hard, honey,” I reply calmly, still bouncing, “but I am not going to give you mano tonight. I know you can fall asleep on your own. I am right here. You can do it.”

We go back and forth for 10 more minutes. She cries and negotiates. I acknowledge her distress, empathize, and hold the boundary. My stomach churns, and I remind myself that helping Lily to fall asleep on her own is good for her and all of us.

We’ve been a co-sleeping family for almost 3 years now, although we have reached the final season of this arrangement.  Going on months of waking 5-15 times a night, I am choosing a new path for all of us, one that supports my children in becoming independent sleepers.

Here we are at the first step – helping Lily to fall asleep on her own. Since her birth, we’ve laid with her as she’s fallen asleep, whether that process took 5 minutes or 2 hours.

After studying infant sleep over the past few months, I have come to believe that this is the right choice for us.  I know that being there for my children while they go through the rigor of learning a new skill can foster connection rather than break it.

And, I can still feel my heart start to well with grief.

“Mama, mano,” have been of the most endearing words my daughter and I have shared. Likely thousands of times now she has asked for my hand, and I’ve responded with my hand, heart and presence.

“Mama, mano,” has beckoned my love and called me into purpose. And now, I tell my daughter, “No, honey, I cannot give you that hand you want.”

As she draws her hand back in placing it against the other in prayer position under her head, she sighs and begins to hum herself to sleep.

I feel that weight that precedes tears come over my heart. Watching my girl in the dim light, feeling my son breathe deeply on my chest, I break open.

I continue the gentle bouncing as the emotions pass. Lily sleeps peacefully now.

I know that one day I will crave those words, “Mama, mano,” and rather than go down the mental rabbit hole of whether or not holding this boundary is the best decision, I offer myself some compassion. I get up from the yoga ball and quietly exit the room.

Today is July 5th. I have been sober now for 2 years. I am filled with gratitude to have been able to feel the sweetness, the subtle nuances, and the grief of tonight’s experience.


  1. Kristina Baker Au on July 8, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    Beautiful post Stephanie, and as a mother of a 16 year old boy, your own story of compassion and boundaries in parenting is balm for my own bruised (but intact) soul tonight. Thank you.

    • Stephanie on July 10, 2019 at 10:05 pm

      You are welcome, Kristina. Thank you for your note and for the compassion you’re offering yourself during this time. ????

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