Pop pop, noodle noodle, close your eyes,
Close your eyes right now, I say.

Pop pop, noodle noodle, close your eyes,
It’s time to sleep at end of day.

A new song was born at bedtime on Sunday night, sending her off into sleep on the first night of the new year. More minor than major, the tune got caught on some peg at the entrance to my brain, and it’s still hanging at the entryway. Whether I’m humming it audibly or it’s just swaying on its hook in my head, it’s stuck. (And how does it happen that a song can play in your head when there is no sound?)

She, too, at 20+ months, is finding that she is stuck. New Year’s Eve, she was up for at least an hour in the middle of the night, going through her lists, largely family names and body parts. New Year’s Day, as she was falling asleep, she added new items: we talked about rhyming recently, and I guess she’s processing the new information. Elbow, which she now says as “el-bow” and not just “bow” (just as armpit used to be “pit” and on New Year’s Day became “arm-pit”),  and Elmo, a character she knows from a plastic sippy cup at her grandmother Zee-Zee’s house, were her first rhyme. She said them herself. “Elmo,” we pointed out. “Elmo,” she repeated, then added, “Elbow.” Cue parental jubilation. Never has a Sesame Street character sounded so good to my ears. Then we added “cat” and “pat,” “pat” being one of her favorite words these days. On her instructions, we have to pat her, the cat, friends’ and families’ dogs, and sometimes each other. “Patty her,” she urges, regardless of gender.

When it’s time to sleep, her brain needs time to wind down (even I find her lists and repetition tiring; how must it feel to be her!). “Potty it,” she pleads. “Potty,” sounding like something between “pat,” “potty,” and “pout,” is her way of saying to pat her. As she lies in her crib,  I pat her and sing. She talks herself down. “Pit pot cat,” she chanted Sunday; “pit pot cat.” Maybe they aren’t quite rhymes for her yet, but they will be. Eventually, she sleeps.

I’m going the opposite way, from rhyming to not quite rhyming. Tonight, after following her instructions to cover her with her “bate” (blanket) and to “potty it,” she said, “pah noodle.” It might be her first song request. In the new singing of it, the last line has become, “It’s time to sleep my baby.” “Say” and “baby” may not exactly rhyme, but I like the song better now. There were no complaints from the crib, either; she’s learning early on that that language is a bit like a toy: something you can play with but must set aside if you ever want to sleep.

Her lists are quieted, and for now, she is, too.

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