One of my daughters, now twelve years old, has always been a champion delayer of sleep.
From the time we brought her tiny little newborn body home she would fight sleep until everyone in the house was beyond reason. She was a beautiful baby, with wide curious eyes and white blond hair. Her skin was pink and smelled delicious. Of course, it was usually pink because she cried so much!
Getting her to settle down into a sleep that was peaceful enough for everyone involved has always been a challenge. I used to joke to friends that the moon had to be lined up just right, I had to do the right dance and then turn around four times for her to feel right enough to rest. She has gotten better with age, but I’m going to go back to a time when she was at the height of her compulsive bedtime routine – the preschool years.
At four years old this child had a list of bedtime needs that rivaled the daily to-do lists of most Fortune 500 CEOs!
The night would start as most nights start in any family. She would have a bath and a snack. We read “Where The Wild Things Are” every night. I would carry her up to bed and on went the list.
“Tell me about the night I was born?” She would ask. I indulged every single night. Not necessarily because I was patient enough to tell the whole story, mostly because I had it memorized and rehearsed exactly the way she wanted to hear it.
“You were born late at night. Everyone said you were the fastest baby ever born. You came out screaming and yelling like you wanted everyone to know you were finally here.”
“Where is everyone in the house right now?” She needed to know this. It was her security. I would rhyme off where Daddy was, where her sisters were, where the pets were, goodness, even where the plants were!
We said goodnight in seven languages. We lined up all of her stuffed animals. We made sure Bunny was in her right hand and Blankie in her left. The covers had to be folded just so (and let me tell you, sometimes it’s tempting to short-sheet the bed of a child this picky!) and her pillow fluffed just right. Once all of this was done, I could leave the room.
That’s not the end of it though.
After I had finally planted my butt firmly on the couch in celebration, there arrived the parade of her nighttime ailments!
“My foot hurts.”
“My head feels woozy.”
“My hair stings.”
“My earlobes freak me out. Why are they so jiggly?”
We solved every single one, and managed to yell and get mad only occasionally. This adorable yet completely frustrating stage was hard to get through, especially at the time, but now I realize how important it was. Sure there were nights where I would suddenly yell “That’s it! Get to bed and don’t come back out one more time!” but overall, this list was something she needed to feel comfortable and relaxed. Once she was asleep she stayed that way until well into morning. For a few years her needs came before me knowing everything that was occurring on Survivor, but just like I was won over by that beautiful newborn, so was I by that beautiful preschooler and by a beautiful preteen now.
You do what you have to do for your amazing children. You do what you have to do to get them to sleep!