She didn’t sleep well last night, and woke from her afternoon nap today in a particularly foul mood; I guess I shouldn’t have expected bedtime tonight to be smooth sailing.
After Chad took P up to bed, I sat down with my computer to list a few things on Ebay (How did I accumulate so much stuff I don’t need, anyway?).
A few minutes later, I heard the familiar “thump, thump thump” of my husband’s footsteps coming down the stairs. The thumps were immediately followed by crying, P’s crying.
Usually, Chad or I take her up to bed awake, lay her in her crib (awake), and she puts herself to sleep. Not tonight.
“I’ll handle it,” I say.
I sit outside P’s door for about a minute. She is full-on wailing.
“Yep, way past the ‘ability to soothe herself’ threshold,” I say to myself.
Upon entering her room, I find P standing in her crib, tears streaming down her cheeks, bleary eyed. She begins cralking (cry talking), but I can’t understand a word between the sobs and the binky.
After about a minute, I manage to make out “daddy,” “downstairs,” and “all done.”
“Honey, it’s time for bed,” I say. “We aren’t going downstairs.”
P throws her leg over the side of the crib, and makes an impressive attempt to climb out.
I walk to the crib, gently remove her, sit her down on her beanbag chair (next to the crib), and plop down beside her. For ten minutes I attempt to soothe P; I sing, I stroke her hair, and I tickle her arms (she loves that). Eventually, she pushes me away, and stands up.
“Night, night,” she says.
“You want to go to sleep in your crib?,” I ask, skeptically.
I do as instructed. I place P in her crib, kiss her goodnight, and walk out the door.
Not ten seconds later, she’s screaming. Like, banshee, “I’m being beaten and tortured” screaming.
I slump down next to P’s closed door and hope maybe she’ll calm down in a minute or two.
Seconds pass, and then a full minute. She’s still screaming.
“Mama, Mama, Mama, Maaaaaamaaaaa,” she wails.
My child wants me; my child is crying out for me. How can I ignore that?
Then, there’s silence.
“Maybe she’s finished. Maybe she’s going to go to sleep,” I think.
Approximately eight seconds pass, and the shrieks begin again.
I breathe in deeply, and breathe out.
“I wish she knew how much I hate this, too,” I think.
I re-enter P’s room, walk over to her crib, and climb in. I should probably mention to those who may not know that I’m about six months pregnant.
Why get in the crib, you ask? Well, experience, mostly. I’ve only had to do it a handful of times, maybe five or six, but drastic times call for drastic measures.
You see, P does not do well in our bed; moving to our room would require leaving her room, which would mean catching a glimpse of the stairs, which would give her false hope that she was going to escape the evils of bedtime and venture to the great living room below (with toys and television, and all sorts of un-bedtimey things). Also, since our bed isn’t enclosed, it would be a constant battle to keep her on the bed. I knew P was tired, and for me, when it’s bedtime, it’s bedtime.
I awkwardly lay down in the crib, knees slightly bent, arms behind my head. I am immediately reminded how satisfied I am with P’s inexpensive, no-frills Ikea crib; the thing holds weight like a pro.
P is not calmed by my presence. She continues to shriek for at least two minutes.
“Daddy. Downstairs. All done!!,” P cralks.
It takes all my restraint not to shriek back, “Just go the **** to sleep!” (this day has seriously been one tantrum after another.. more like this whole week, really). Instead, I take a slow, deep breath, and manage a gentle “It’s bedtime, sweetheart.”
I pull P down to the mattress, lay her head down on her Minnie Mouse pillow, and hold her- firmly, but not too tightly. I begin singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” and tickling her arm. She whines, but lays still.
After a few off-key, breathless rounds of “Twinkle, Twinkle,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “ABCs,” “Days of the Week,” and tickles, P appears calm- she’s awake, but quietly cuddling her crocheted blanket. Now it’s time for step two: pretending to be asleep.
Step two is usually the longest. I close my eyes, and wonder how long I’ll be in the crib. If I go before she’s asleep, she’ll start wailing, and the process will start all over again (I’ve learned from experience, trust me.).
“Never give up,” I tell myself. “You are stronger than this tot.”
P lays for a few minutes, then sits up. She moves to the other end of the crib, rubs her face against the plush sheet, and then moves back toward me. She lays back down on the pillow and begins cuddling her blanket. At this time, a loud, obnoxious car can be heard racing down the street through P’s open window. I crack my right eye and see P startle, and sit up.
“Mama, loud car,” she says.
“Yes, it was loud. Now it’s time for bed,” I say.
People who interfere with my child’s sleep (like Mr. Nascar) are on my sh** list. Seriously, don’t mess with bedtime.
For the next twenty minutes, P rolls around, repositions herself, covers her face with her blanket, uncovers it, and mumbles to herself.
At one point, P lays her head next to my stomach, and her little brother begins doing fetus gymnastics.
“I wonder if she can feel that?” I think to myself.
P then sits up and pokes my cheek with her finger.
“Mama, mama,” she says.
I lay like a stone. After ten agonizing seconds, she lays back down.
I’m now mentally screaming “Go to bed, kid!” “Your sleep is regulated by nothing but circadian rhythms and your own desires. Sleep while you can!”
But it isn’t long before my thoughts shift.
“I could really use a nice, tall glass of milk. I’ve been drinking it a lot lately. Has milk always been so delicious?,” I wonder.
I then remember the mountain of things still left to do tonight: clean the kitchen, list the items on Ebay, study for a ridiculous math exam (long story, folks), work on our budget, get a shower, etc., etc.
“Man, I’m thirsty,” I think. “Maybe before the milk, I’ll drink some water.”
P sits up, moves to the other end of the crib, and lays her head down on my knee.
“Please, please don’t fall asleep there,” I silently beg. “Anywhere but there.”
It’s hard enough to move to a sitting position and creep out of the crib undetected when P’s not sleeping on me. The pregnant belly thing also makes the process a little more complicated.
I want so badly for P to move, but she looks so incredibly peaceful, eyes closed, nestled up to my leg.
“I really love her,” I think to myself. In spite of the tantrums, the whacks to the face, and the lack of sleep since her little butt entered the world, the love I have for her cannot be articulated with words.
I lay still for another ten minutes, or however long it is until my leg begins cramping.
“I think it’s safe, now,” I tell myself.
I look around the crib and try to piece together an escape plan. P’s head is still propped up on my leg, but if I move to a sitting position, I may be able to ease her head up, and sneak out. I stretch my arm toward the end of crib, grab the back railing, and lift myself up. The crib creaks, and P stirs.
“Like a statue,” I tell myself. “Just. Stay. Still.”
A few seconds pass, and I begin to ease P’s head off my leg. I look around for something to prop her head on in place of me, but she’s laying on both blankets.
“It’s now or never,” I tell myself.
I stealthily jerk my knee from beneath P’s head, stand up, and ease myself out of the crib (as well as any pregnant humpty-dumpy can).
I glance back at the crib; P is still peacefully sleeping. Without another second’s hesitation, I slip out the door.
Sixty-five minutes were spent trying to get P to go to sleep, 53 of those minutes were spent in her crib.
The household tasks can wait until tomorrow. On to that glass of milk..