Monday, June 13, 2011

Got Sleep?

Ah, the elusive nap. With S, I was borderline obsessive about making sure she got enough sleep as a baby. Unfortunately, I never mastered the skill of being able to lay the baby down (awake), kiss her on the head, and let her drift peacefully off to sleep. I hear of mystical mothers who can do this, but I have never met one in person.

Instead, I rocked, carried, wore, and nursed S to sleep. My memories of her first months are of me, sitting on the couch, holding my adorable, sleeping baby. Some may call this wasting time; I call it catching up on the fascinating world of daytime TV and finally reading The Mists of Avalon.

I vowed that things would be different with my second child, but who do you think is on my lap in dreamland this very minute? Baby N, of course. Oh well. I just don’t have it in me to listen to the tears or try to “train” my baby to take naps by herself in a crib.

Which brings me back to S. By the time she was three, we still had to use some tricks to get her to sleep at naptime. The main one was that we (gulp)…drove her around until she fell asleep, which would sometimes take twenty minutes or more. Despite the global gas crisis, despite global warming, despite the high prices. It was ridiculous.   

About a month ago, I decided enough was enough. We were wasting gas, time, money, and energy, and S was beginning to really resist the car rides. There were a few times when she screamed as I carried her to the car, waving to the neighbors—No, I’m not kidnapping her! She’s my own child! Please don’t call the police! It was insane, and something had to change.

I decided to try her preschool’s method for naptime. They would basically set the kids up on cots, blast some music, and they’d all miraculously fall asleep. Peer pressure? Chloroform? I really don’t know, but from 12 to 2 every day, it seemed to work.

So one Saturday, I set up an ancient stereo in her room (it even had a tape deck—so quaint!), and she picked out three stories. She snuggled on my lap as we read, and then climbed into bed with the stuffed animal d’jour.

When the cue-up for the Baby Einstein Mozart CD began, her face brightened. “It’s princess music?”

Now, you may have gathered that I’m not a huge fan of the tiny-waisted, starry-eyed Disney gals. In fact, I’ve done everything in my power to shield S from them, yet they’ve still managed to claw their manicured little fingers into our lives. But, whatever. That’s my issue, not S’s. And at that moment, she was cheerful, cooperative, and cozy, and if she wanted to call it princess music, well shoot, I’d hire the royal orchestra.

“It is princess music!” I said, clasping my hands as though thrilled.

“And ballerina music?” She was digging this.

“Yep, ballerina music, too!” (I’m not super-keen on the ballerinas, either, but hey, at least they have a career. And S is pretty darn cute decked out in a tutu.)

And with that, I tucked her quilt around her, gave her a kiss, and left the room. There was no bargaining. (“How about park first, then nap, Mommy?”) No complaining. And best of all, no shrieking. Just the sweet, sweet silence of a kid in bed. Who is not shrieking. (This cannot be emphasized enough).

After half an hour of blissful peace—most of which I spent gloating to my husband about my amazing child-sleeping skills—S appeared. “The princess music’s over, Mommy. Can I hear more?”

Doh! I forgot to put the CD on repeat. And clearly there had been no sleeping.

Instead, S had spent the time creating an elaborate tent city of towels and blankets in her room. She seemed happy enough, but I was still hoping for a nap. She agreed to lie down with me and try to sleep, but only if we could make a “nest” on the floor. This required asking each of her animals permission to use their blankets one by one. Not a quick process.

When we finally got comfy, S popped up. Before I realized what was happening, she’d tucked me in on the floor, climbed into the rocking chair and was reading to me. I’d been bamboozled! But she was so sweet, and hey, I needed a nap, too.

After a while, I left S with her animals, facing the sad realization that the days of the nap might be behind us. In fact, she didn’t get any sleep that day. But she did play in her room, quietly, happily, for three whole hours. And I’m going ride that train as long as I can, even if I have to share it with princesses. Just call me the Queen.

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