Trying to get a toddler to sleep
Essays & Shorts

Sleep, oh, sleep! Why won’t you fall asleep?

As the mother of a toddler, a significant portion of my day is spent rocking, swaying, bouncing, patting, swinging, shushing, calming, singing, and just plain waiting for my daughter to fall asleep. At times, it’s like battling a melting glacier when she sits in my arms, staring out into emptiness, resisting sleep.

The world is so full of things to do that sleep is the very last one on her list. Her gaze grows increasingly distant as she sits and stubbornly resists the eyelids that are weighing down heavier and heavier.

Her little head begins to slowly tilt to one side as, it too, is overcome by the weight of drowsiness. Yet she will not give up; will never surrender. Instead, she musters her strength once more to blink open leaden eyelids, only to have them sink back down halfway across her eyes. Her stare is fixed on nothing in particular, and with an iron-like will, she resists the slumber that so clearly wants to overcome her.

I adjust my hold on her, desperately trying to shift her sleep-heavy weight in my numbing arms so that I can continue to sway her. If I stop the motion now, only God can help me; her nap is already an hour late.

After what seems an eternity, she exhales a small sigh and, at last, rests her cheek against my chest. Finally, she succumbs to her heavy eyelids, and there is the slightest shift in her breathing. An almost imperceptible increase in her weight.

Her little fist loosens its grip on her BimBim, the blanky that goes everywhere she does. I roll my eyes to the ceiling in silent victory. As I lay her down and tuck her in she unseeingly throws her eyes open as if in a last-ditch effort to protest the nap I’m imposing upon her, or simply to have me freeze in terror, heart in my throat at the thought of having to start all over again, I will never know. Cautious relief floods my veins as she closes her eyes again and settles into sleep.

I watch her beautiful little face, so relaxed and peaceful in sleep, and feel my love for her wash over me. I marvel at how she can fill an entire room with only her energy and curiosity when she’s awake. And yet, in sleep, she shrinks into a tiny little thing that fits in the crook of my arm. In those moments she feels so frail. And I curl around her tightly, protectively.

When her breathing deepens, a final sigh of relief escapes me, and I settle in to enjoy the peace and quiet that won’t last long. She has been waking up an hour early from her naps lately, and with her, the hustle and bustle that is a one-year-old will return in full force.

She’ll wake me up with a silly face and make me laugh. I’ll shed my exhaustion from days of mothering and late nights of working, and carry her to the kitchen, where she’ll watch me make her a snack, telling me if I missed something by pointing and saying “Haa!”

We’ll sit down in front of the TV, and I’ll catch a cat nap while she drinks her milk. When she’s done, she’ll order me to put the milk away with a tiny but very bossy frown and take my hand. Time to be off on another adventure.

You may also like...