Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sleepus Interruptus

My daughter gave up her afternoon nap right around the time she turned 2. All the other children would be napping and she was just...up. That’s been well over 2 years now folks.

For those of you doing the math at home, that made for a very, very long day home with a toddler. A marathon day. I had to work to manage my already low energy reserves just to get through the day with her, just to keep up with her. I truly earned that drink come happy hour. It never occurred to me until recently that she might have been one of those “highly spirited” children. Maybe that was why I was so exhausted all the time.

Now that she’s at preschool, it’s really the teachers who have to manage her while all the other children are resting. I am grateful for the break. But then, we pay for it in the nighttime routine. The endless nighttime routine. There is no free lunch, as they say.

Up until only a few months ago, it used to take 2 or more hours to get my child to sleep at night. Seriously. I kid you not.

I think it was brought on by the separation anxiety caused by her first year at preschool, because prior to that we didn’t have this sort of problem. Suddenly, she just refused to go to sleep. She wouldn’t close her eyes. She was awake.

We had to start
sleep training her all over...reading to her, lying next to her, rubbing her back, making her feel secure. It was a slow progression to sitting on the bed, then sitting on the end of the bed, then sitting on the chair next to the bed, then across the room while reading my own book with a little booklight and trying to ignore her yet giving her the security of staying close. This went on for almost a year.

And then came the laptop discovery.

The laptop threw it’s own light, and I could get a bit of work done while still being in the room with her. A solution. Suddenly I wasn’t so resentful of all that precious time spent putting her to bed. I discovered that the sound of tapping out emails meant that I was seriously minding my own business and not hers, and she would ultimately, finally, give in and drift off to sleep. One night when I didn’t have any emails to type, I opened up a letter and wrote this story instead. Anything to keep tapping.

I came across it recently in my drafts folder. I had forgotten about it. I share it with a mixture of nostalgia and relief. Relief that she finally goes to sleep on her own again.


Once upon a time there was this very lovely child. She had blonde hair and a crooked smile. She was beguiling.

This is her story. The story of her life as we knew it. The story of how she came to bed. The story of so much love for life that she couldn’t stay awake, yet she didn’t want to go to sleep either. She was caught between the awake and the asleep...waking night, dawn of twilight, leaping, twirling, enchanting mistress. Lost sleep. Lost hours. Always awake, never tired. Never resting, never rested. Drove her parents to despair as they tired quickly of trying to tire her out.

Sienna was, in general, a good little girl. She had a big heart full of sunshine, and love. And many, many thoughts. She talked incessantly from the time she woke up, until the time I insisted she stop talking and lay her weary, un-weary head on the pillow.

“Close your eyes” I soothed.

She did for all of 3 seconds. They blinked open, arms waving, legs still rolling from side to side.

“No, close your eyes “ I repeated, as I ran my fingertips lightly down her forehead, over her eyelids, down her nose and cheeks.

“You can do it” I said with certainty.

She giggled.

“It tickles” she said wiggling again.

I sigh. “Go to sleep. It’s bedtime.”

“Again. Do it again, Mommy.”

“Go to sleep.” I tell her as my jaw clenches. I try to breathe deeply, the breath of an ocean, but my blood is boiling.

We go through this every time, every night, even after very long days, early, late, in-between. This is the drill that we know. Nothing is working. Perhaps the sound of my typing will lull her to sleep I hope longingly, as I anticipate my exit strategy getting closer. I also anticipate the nightly routine getting shorter, and so perhaps, it might. So it might.


One of these nights.

One can only hope.


The other afternoon when I went to pick her up from preschool, the teacher told me Sienna had actually taken a brief nap during rest time. She had actually fallen asleep.

“What? Not my daughter.”

“Yes,” the teacher nodded, smiling.

“For real?”

True story.

I think I'm going to cry.


Lee Wolfe Blum said...

I am with you girlfriend! I have even thought of having Super Nanny come...I just don't want to be on the show.

Great story...she is so sweet - and creative .What do you expect from two creative parents?

Suzy said...

How could she sleep with all the creative energy floating around your house between you and Chris?
She is one lucky little girl...
and she has YOUR energy!

kario said...

That energy will serve her well someday. My oldest was exactly the same and at almost seven, she is now a zipping ball of electricity during the day and falls asleep within 10 seconds of hitting the pillow at night, not to be awoken by a frieght train rumbling through her room. Hang in there, she'll find her channel at some point....