Monday, January 04, 2010

Losing Sleep over Losing Sleep -- by Jamie

I hate bedtime. Not my bedtime—I actually long for the moment I’m able to crawl under the covers and go to sleep. But Jayda’s bedtime is a completely different story.

From the moment she was born, Jayda was a horrible sleeper. Even when she was just a tiny infant, everyone joked that this kid simply didn’t want to miss anything. She was alert and happy most of the time—and turned into a screaming lunatic when anyone tried to put her down for a nap. It’s a lucky thing she was so cute and good-natured, or I don’t know how her daycare teacher would have tolerated her, because getting Jayda to nap was probably the toughest part of her teacher’s job. Other moms I knew could count on 2-3 hour breaks throughout the day during which they could get chores done—or even take a nap, themselves—while their babies were sleeping; I never had that luxury. I was lucky if Jayda napped for an hour twice a day. And nights were even worse: Jayda was up every few hours, and thus, so was I. It took until Jayda was 18 months old before she finally started sleeping through the night (“the night” being from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m., which to me, at that point, was utter bliss). Even now, she rarely sleeps past 5:30 a.m., and is my daily alarm clock. But at least she doesn’t disturb me in the middle of the night anymore.

However, just as when she was a baby, Jayda still won’t go to sleep on her own. From the start, my child needed to be held, rocked, carried around the room, and coaxed to sleep. She never fell asleep in her car seat, nor in her swing, and certainly not just by laying down in her crib. My father was the master of getting baby Jayda to konk out—he’d hold her close to his chest and sing to her and walk around the house until she succumbed to his “charms.” Then he’d let her take her entire nap on his chest, because he wouldn’t dare risk putting her down—and having her wake up. We used to call him “Mr. Mattress.” As Jayda got older, carrying and rocking her to sleep was replaced by rubbing her back while she laid in her crib…but even that required tons of time and patience, as Jayda would fight sleep for as long as possible.

As it’s always been, Jayda’s bedtime is full of rituals. Every night, Jayda changes into her pajamas, uses the potty, and crawls into bed with me with a pile of books. After our book-reading, we turn out the lights and cuddle and, as Jayda requests, “talk days.” I tell her about my day and she tells me about hers, and then I tell her what we have planned for the next day. After that, I rub her back until she goes to sleep. However, lately, that can take forever because my child has become a master procrastinator.

First, she’ll ask for a drink of water (which I keep next to the bed), then she’ll toss and turn and start to ask questions that she already knows the answers to, like “Where’s Grandma?” or ridiculous ones like “What’s Rocco (her friend at school) doing?” If I ignore her, she’ll keep repeating her questions until I answer. And when I tell her to stop talking, she turns all mushy on me and asks for a “big hug,” which, of course I can’t ignore, and sometimes showers me with kisses. Then comes the “Mommy—I have to use the potty!” request. As a very recently potty-trained child, she has me wrapped around her finger because she knows I won’t refuse her a trip to the bathroom. This request only comes once though, since, after I take her to the bathroom, I warn her that we’re not coming back, so she “better make use of her time there!”

Some nights, Jayda adds new surprises to her repertoire. The other evening, she tossed and turned in bed insisting that her back hurt and she needed an ice pack—clearly imitating her grandmother. Once, she insisted she needed dental floss because her “teeth hurt.” She’s also been known to change her mind about what doll she wants to sleep with (wanting the one that is downstairs, of course), claim that her feet are cold and she needs special socks, or suddenly decide that she urgently needs an application of “tushie medicine” (ie: Desitin).

Of course I don’t give in to every demand Jayda makes, and I don’t calmly lie next to her for hours. But leaving her to fall asleep alone isn’t a solution either. Because if I do, Jayda screams and cries for awhile, and then she just calmly sits in bed and waits for me to come back. She’ll wait for hours, too. There have been nights when I’ve gone out for drinks with friends, and have come home to find that Jayda has waited up for me. My mom will put her to bed, and Jayda will lie there calmly…but she won’t go to sleep until she knows I’m home with her. If I’m out very late, eventually exhaustion takes her out…but it could take hours…and I don’t want my kid staying up and losing her much-needed sleep simply because I don’t have the patience to sit with her for a bit longer. So, each night, I return to cajole her to sleep.

As an overtired mommy who LOVES her bed, I’ll never understand why Jayda doesn’t welcome sleep as I do. Even when she’s totally exhausted and rubbing her eyes, and it’s clear to both of us that she needs to pass out, she won’t. She’ll fight me with her very last bit of energy—and she’ll fight hard. My willful child has conquered her naps, of course, and no longer takes them. Oh, the irony: Jayda’s needing (or at least succumbing to) less sleep than ever…and I need more. People tell me this will change…but I fear it won’t until she’s a teenager. I hope I’m proven wrong.

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