Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Thin Line.

There is a line between the moments when my toddler is genuinely in need of help and affection or if she is, well, straight-up playing me. And it can be such a thin one. Kitty whisker thin. Spider web thin.

As an example, Opal was sick last week with a snot-filled nose and a whiskey-drunk cough. That was also a week that Jesse was out of town.

Because of her bug-induced discomfort, Opal was having a very hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. During her normal bedtime routine, she is transported to her crib after three songs, regardless of her level of obvious fatigue. When sick, she requires being rocked and sung to until a near comatose state, lying on my chest on the rocker, a folded crease down her center as she collapses around her beloved B. But even then as she omits a little whistle of a snore with arms like limp fillets, she will often catch me as I pause or slightly shift to relocate her little body, and say notha song mama.

Don't you go anywhere.

An extra 20 minutes of singing and rocking is a small price to pay for a sleeping sick baby. In fact, early in the evening there is nothing more splendid that doing just this. At midnight and then at 2 and then at 4:30am, different story.

I gave her similar leniency while we were away last weekend on a precious, low-budget family getaway. She was at the tail end of the cold and in unfamiliar environs.

Now she is better and we are home.

But she still, understandably, wants to lay wiss mommy.
One more time! she says with a plump little pointed finger and a face quickly squinching into desperation. One more time!

Last night was the first night she's been well and back in her own bed. Clearly time to tighten up the loosened elastic that our hallowed bedtime routine had become.

After our 3 songs, after tucking the "floor animals" in for bed (the ones who did not make the elite selection to be in the crib), I started to take her to her bed. No, I DO IT! she shouted, wriggling out of my arms. Predictable phase one of the stalling process. I helped her "climb into her crib" followed by telling her how delighted her ragtag crew of stuffed animals was to see her. Time for bed, honey. Mommy will tuck you in as soon as you lie down. The child has no intention of lying down on her own accord.

No, I do it! I do it! She says, meaning she wants to lie down in the crib by herself, which she is perfectly capably of doing. She just doesn't do it. She stalls and jumps around and begs for more songs or a drink or more chamomile or a band-aid. She even says she pooped (untrue).

So I tell her I love her and kiss her on the head and say for her to call me when she is ready for mama to tuck her in.

Honest author's note: I really hope walking away from her while she is upset doesn't fuck her up somehow in the future. I'm also a bit concerned about when she can simply crawl out of the bed and follow me. But nothing good comes from wrestling with a toddler. There is no creature out there with more stamina.

She never lets me get very far, though. Screams and screams, I'M READY! which is usually necessary for her to finally calm down enough to willingly go horizontal and to which I respond immediately. This is pretty standard bedtime fare.

Last night, she woke at 10:30pm screaming MOMMY! MOMMY! (That's a killer.)

I went in and she was hoping for a revisitation of the song and dance from earlier. I allowed for her a quick song in the rocker and put her back to bed, relatively smoothly.

But when she called again at midnight, I realized we were embarking on some unfortunate habits. This time I went in, hugged her, kissed her forehead—without picking her up—and said, honey it's time for bed.

The blood curdling screams that followed were the variety that, if heard from a different room, would have sent me launching over furniture, careening through any hapless barricade to get to her. Witnessing this while looking her right in the eye felt like allowing her to shut her hand in the door without stepping in to intervene.

Opal sleep wiss mama! she bargained, desperate. This, for the record, would not be something I was opposed to if we actually slept while in the same bed together, which we don't.

Mama PICK YOU UP! (pick me up.) PLEEEEZ! The screaming was so devastating and alarming that I came very close to going in and waking up Jesse as an allied force. (He wears earplugs and can often hear her through them but he slept through the whole thing this time.)

My fear was that picking her up would lead to being expected to do this every 2 hours every night from here on out and it was this thought that made it possible for me to not cave.

Finally, I said calmly, Opal, mommy loves you very much. But mommy is tired and Opal is tired. Call me when you are ready for mommy to tuck you in.

The screams peaked I'M READY MAMA!! and she let me lay her down and allowed kisses from all her stuffed animals. She kept crying a tired, throaty cry—Opal tired, Opal go night-night—for another minute as I left.

She woke up a handful of times throughout the night and gently called for me. But I knew from the sound of it that nothing was wrong and I let her find her way back to sleep.
And luckily I found my way back as well.

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