Archives for posts with tag: sleep

His hair shone like sunlit wheat in the light of the lamp. Flecks of dirt dotted his scalp, remnants from a dirt-tossing frenzy before his bath, small points to ponder, periods to bring your complete thoughts to a close. Across his nose and cheeks, more flecks danced, freckles not to be washed away, not even with a better scrubbing than he got at bath time. His mouth was shut, and his breathing was so quiet as to seem silent. Partially open, his eyes registered nothing. Heavy and still he lay cradled against my chest, so different from the dirt tossing, somersaulting, climbing-wall climbing, swinging, book studying, block building, sister taunting, sister loving, pea throwing, noodle eating boy of his waking hours.

This peaceful boy, who both is and isn’t all those things, sleeps.

Tonight, her hands cradled my jaw, wrapping around the curve of face to chin, of above to below, as we lay facing each other on the bed. The darkness was winding around us, but she was still wound up. “What do you need to do to go to sleep?” I asked, as she continued chanting songs and nursery rhymes, eyes wide open.

“Close eyes,” she said. And she did. I wrapped an arm around her. Her hands remained on my face. Her breathing slowed and her eyelids stopped fluttering.

My arm cradled her, warm and solid and gentle, but she’s the one who completed a circuit as she fell asleep, with innocence and trust sparking through her fingers like a downed power line and jolting through me, a conductor of love, a conductor of dreams.

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.

Sweet sleep of a six week old

A sleeping baby is the closest thing in the world to perfection, Bob Dole’s comment notwithstanding*. A sleeping adult doesn’t have the same openness; emotions flicker across the sleeper’s face, an outward reflection of inner mysteries. With a sleeping baby, though, the eyelids close, the facial muscles relax, and the small, round face, the moon dictating your personal tides, radiates peace.

A week ago, the tide was gentle and low, and naptime was easy. We lay on the bed together. Cradled in my arm, she sleepily nursed as her arm draped across my chest and her legs rested on mine. Her gesture wasn’t proprietary or possessive, and it wasn’t demanding. It was more like I was an extension of her own arm and her own legs. Her head rested near my shoulder, and her warm head grew damp with her near-sleep sweat. Would she really nap? What could I get done once she was asleep? As her breathing slowed, mine did, too, and united and intertwined as we were, it’s difficult to say who slept first. Sleep has never been sweeter, and the laundry has never been less important.

Tonight I sang to her and held her, head cradled in the crook of my right arm, with my left arm wrapped over the top of her legs and my hand tucked underneath them,  hugging her to me. She blinked the long, slow leisurely blinks that are precursors to sleep, the slow strobe light offering both a world of light and a world of dark. Her left arm hung down. Her right arm touched my face. Then she reached her left hand to my left hand, which rotated to meet hers. She bent her right arm so our right hands could nest together. And so she drifted off to sleep, nestled in my arms and holding my hands with hers. The blinking stopped, and my small moon shone, radiant, refulgent.

* “Former senator Bob Dole once remarked after losing a campaign, ‘I slept like a baby. I woke up every 2 hours crying'” (qtd. in Burnham and Lawler 115). Infants do – but my baby, my dear toddler, does not.

Sweet sleep of a nearly one-and-a-half year old


Burnham, Melissa M., Ph.D., and Jennifer Lawler, Ph.D. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sleep Training for Your Child. New York: Alpha Books, 2006. Print.