The whining refrain of “But I’m not sleepy! I’m not! I’m not sleeeeeeeepy!” had faded from behind the closed bedroom door, and I held my breath, hoping that the 3-year-old behind it was finally unconscious. First she had refused to wear clothes to bed, so I said, fine, sleep in your underwear, no problem. Then five minutes later she had refused to sleep in her bed, opting for the floor instead. I said fine, sleep on the floor. The she’d eschewed all blankets and pillows, stubbornly insisting that she wanted to sleep on the carpet with nothing else. FINE, I said through clenched teeth. Go to sleep already.
And now five minutes after all of this hullabaloo, silence. Perhaps I could finally relax. Just to be sure, I opted to check on her. Since she is the lightest sleeper imaginable, and the noisy flap of a butterfly’s wing a mile away can rouse her from her slumber, I decided not to open the door, but to peek under it. She was on the floor, after all. Glad we sprung for that beautiful cherry-wood toddler bed with the adorable forest animal bedding. She’d rather sleep on the bare carpet, thank you very much.
So, slowly, very slowly, I lowered myself onto the floor outside her room, moving inch by inch so as not creak the hardwood floor. It was dim inside her room and the crack under the door only half an inch high, so it took my eyes a few minutes to adjust. Where was she? I saw no movement. I heard only my own shallow breath and… a giggle.
A loud giggle from the other side of the door. And then my eyes snapped into focus, as I realised I was face to face on the floor with my daughter, with a door in between us. I was less than amused. She thought it was hilarious.
Belle has never been the best sleeper. The only way to get her to sleep as an infant was to lie on my back in bed, with her on my chest, and then I would bounce up and down, clenching and unclenching my muscles until the motion soothed her to sleep. Looking back, perhaps it’s no mystery how I dropped that post-baby weight so quickly. She would also wake up often during the night, just to make sure I was still there, or maybe as experimental torture. In any event, the past three years have turned me into a sleep deprived hag, able to fall asleep instantly, anywhere, if given half a chance. My bedtime has been shoved up to about 8:30 or 9pm, since the minute she turned 3, Belle began arising at 5am every morning without fail. Sometimes I can get her back to sleep, but since I have to leave for work at 6:45, going back to sleep myself is pointless. I don’t know if I can fully explain the cosmic unfairness of being awoken 30 minutes before my alarm goes off every morning. There’s just enough time to pacify her into going back to sleep, inevitably in MY warm and comfy bed, but not enough time for me to go back to sleep before the alarm goes off.
Her “big-girl bed,” rather ineptly named, as it is the proper size for a garden gnome, was a present for her third birthday. The reason she didn’t get a proper bed until she turned three was for the simple reason that she never tried to climb out of her crib. I declared that it would serve until she either grew out of it or climbed out of it, and voila, she climbed out of it two days before she turned three. So my parents asked if they could give her a big-girl bed as her 3rd birthday present, and the very next day brought home a lovely little bed. I bought precious bedding for it, and we made up the bed, tied a balloon to it, and ushered her into her bedroom where it was waiting for her. Her eyes as big as saucers, she immediately climbed into it and pulled up the covers, experimentally turning onto one side, and then another. She declared that she loved it, and proceeded to love it until five hours later when bedtime struck.
She beamed up at me as I tucked her in, gave her a kiss, and stole out of the room. For twenty whole minutes, I sat in smug pride, marveling at what an easy transition it had been. Then two hours, TWO HOURS later, she was finally sleeping, after getting out of bed and being tucked back in fifteen times. Since then, she had developed a strange love/hate relationship with the bed, sometimes happily climbing into it, other nights refusing to touch it. There is a pillow and blanket on the floor next to her bed for those nights when her bed is her enemy, and even on regular nights she’ll still creep out of it anywhere from three to ten times. Some nights she’ll sleep with the door closed, other nights she insists on having it open.
And once she is finally asleep, there is no guarantee that she will remain so. On the contrary, she’ll usually wake up once or twice during the night, anywhere between 1 and 3am. Sometimes I can just tuck her back in and she drifts right off. Other nights, however, she is convinced it is “wake-up time” and is furious with me for trying to put her back to sleep. It is often through gritted teeth that I remind her that if she didn’t insist on waking up at 5am every morning, before the SUN comes up, then she would be able to tell the difference between full dark and true “wake-up time.”
I’ve tried everything to get her to sleep in. Later bedtime, earlier bedtime, soothing pre-bedtime baths… nothing seems to work. She used to sleep in until at least 7:30am, and poor deluded me thought that was early! Hah! Fool that I am. Now I’d go down on my knees and beg for her to wake up at 7:30 instead of 5… and I may have tried that already. Nothing works. Like a reliable little alarm clock, every morning at 5am, a tiny body hauls itself over mine into my bed.
“Open your eyes Mommy.”
I attempt to pry them open, but since it’s still pitch black out, being as how the roosters aren’t even up yet, I can’t see much.
“Mommy, you’re awake!” Said with so much evident joy that it’s hard for me to want to strangle someone so delighted by my presence.
“Ung..” (cough, cough, throat clearing) “Yuh. I ‘wake.”
“Mommy is it wake-up time yet?”
“Nuh. Gotuh sleep.”
“Ok.” Sweetly, she pats my face and snuggles down next to me. My body relaxes back into sleep like a rock thrown into a deep pond. Just as I feel sleep closing its blissful arms around me…
“Wake-up time Mommy! I want pancakes!”
I wonder if they make Toddler Ambien? If they don’t… I’m inventing it.