Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sleepless in Hub City

I hate bedtime.

As a kid, I hated going to bed. It was unfair, going to bed when all sorts of interesting stuff was still going on. As a teenager, I couldn't wait to stay up all night. When I was single, living alone, I hated falling asleep. My bed would be covered with all manners of things:books, tea cups, drawing pad and pencils and I'd fall asleep to the TV. Now I can't wait to sleep. Even a nap would be nice, but to actually put on some jammies and hit the sheets would be heaven. Clean sheets, even more so.

But now I've been blessed with a little one who, guess what? Hates to go to bed.

I think I probably spend 10-14 hours a week putting her to bed. At this point in a conversation I usually get a multitude of advice:get a bedtime routine(got it), have her take a nap, not take a nap, have quiet time before bed, punishments, rewards, etc. But the fact remains, it takes her a long time to fall asleep and she needs help with the process. And you know what? It's ok.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that not every problem needs fixing. And bedtime appears to be a big problem for parents. How do I know? Besides all the books, magazine articles and t.v. shows about the issue, it almost always works its way into conversations with other parents. "So, what time does Sally go to bed?" they ask innocently. Then they start telling me about their own trials getting little Timmy to sleep, or what their routine is. And you know what I notice? Whether there's tears and yelling, or threats, or bribes, or routines or just laying in bed and telling stories, everybody seems to tell me the same thing-it takes an hour or two. Granted, some nights she's asleep in 10 minutes and some nights I'm thinking we might as well order a pizza and watch the Late Show. But mostly it's an hour or two.

Sometimes, we need Dada's help. But mostly when it comes to bedtime, she wants Mama.

Some nights, I will confess, I think dark thoughts about keeping her in her room, locking the door and letting her scream herself to sleep. We are not "Cry It Out" people. Or I start to get angry, thinking of all the other things I could be doing, say laundry or writing an article for the co0p newsletter. Or, gasp, having some time to myself. None of that is conducive to helping my high-energy kid relax and fall asleep. Though I am a slow learner, I have come to realize that the best thing for her and I is to accept that this is going to take a while and appreciate what I have-some "girls only" time with my youngest daughter. Parenting takes time. So we brush our teeth, get into bed, get out of bed, have a snack, a drink of "icy cold water with ice cubes", back into bed and have a "real story" (printed) or a "pretend story"(made up out of my head). Sometimes both. Sometimes a song. Much as I pine for the day she puts herself to bed, I also want to delay the inevitable, to stretch out this time, when she stills needs me so much that it takes my slow breathing to slow down her own and she drapes her legs over mine and finally relaxes into sleep.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

And so, we labored a bit...

Labor Day is here, officially Summer's End (I've been reading Louisa May Alcott's "Little Men" and find that my English is that much more proper afterward).

Sally and I went hiking through the Rutgers Gardens with friends and saw many fine specimens, including the woods, the vegetable gardens and a new water garden that's in the works. Also, but not least of all, several brides and their entourages, one of whom Sally stalked and continued to peep at from behind branches and garden sheds to get a good look at. She really did look like a princess, and when she kissed her prince, Sally cheered.

We went back to their house, the friends. They provided pizza, we brought wine and cupcakes. Actually, that'd make a fine blog name, Wine and Cupcakes, wouldn't it? Kids played, adults talked like adults, with only minor incursions from the children. It was a damn near perfect end to Summer. And we still have Sunday and Monday.

Friday, September 3, 2010

These Halcyon Days

Summer is coming to an end. School is starting soon, the weather will cool, we'll have football and leaves turning colors. But for now we're in the lazy days of summer, trying to wring out every last drop.

Sally has been playing 'most every day with the little girl next door. At 3 and 3/4's, she a wisp of a thing, a little sprite with flashing brown eyes and a mischievous grin, who likes to egg Sally on and then play innocent, little one who's been assailed by older, bigger Sal. Hubster is not fooled. Of course, our girl has been known to push or kick back when she's feeling put upon, even though she (should) know better. "I try to be good, mama," she says, with pleading eyes, "please don't punish me. I promise I won't do it again." Hmm.

She is now big enough to walk from our front door to the little-girl-next-door's door by herself, with me watching from the porch. It tears my heart a little to see her first efforts of independence. Maybe Hub is used to it, being home with her all day, but I'm still coming to terms with her going to the bathroom by herself, shouting "Privacy!" or pouring her own glass of milk.

This play has led to us being on more familiar terms with said neighbor. I don't think she's ever known what to make of us. I say "her", although actually they're a "they". It's just that her husband is ever at work and is almost a mystery to us, although he seems rather ok. In any event, she runs the roost. And run it she does. She always seems to be busy doing something-cleaning, planning the addition to their house, running her sideline business. I'm lucky if I can work my 8 hours and then not pass out before dinner. H spends a lot of time doing stuff with Sally and managing our lives, but he is minor league compared to what this chick does in a day. "Does she ever just play with her kids?" I ask one night. "Sure," he replies, but not convincingly, "but not often." And so Sprite has spent an awful lot of time our domicile and loves it. Especially because we a. don't freak out too much about messes and b. are just as happy to dole out goodies as actual, "healthy" food. Nothing too terrible, it's just that in our universe, really good, homemade cake is considered a health food. Now cake mix-that's a sin.

Today both imps came with me to the market via little red wagon. First we hit the thrift store, although by Saturday it's been pretty picked over. Each girl found a small "My Pretty Pony" and I found 2 lavender shirts to add to Sally's quilt material. I'm making her a "T-shirt" quilt out of squares of pink, fuchsia, purple and lavender for the winter. Hopefully, we'll have her radiator fixed by November, but still it'll come in handy. Then we stopped at the farmer's market for 2 tomatoes and a watermelon. I made Hubs' amazing vegetal soup with the golden broth for dinner. Yum. When we got home, girls put on their swim suits and we busted out the slip-n-slide. You can't get much more down home summery without moving to Iowa and making a Jello salad for the church social. With pineapple in it.

I feel like this August is going on forever even though it's officially September and school is just around the corner. But tonight it's 75 degrees at 11:30 pm and humidity that can only be described as "wringing wet." Somewhere out over the ocean is Hurricane Earl and I wish he'd bring a little rain this way and dispel some of the mugginess. Sally went to sleep after 2 cartoons, several handfuls of cheese crackers, 2 drinks of water, 1 trip to the bathroom and a small fight. She's a fierce little thing. When everyone had calmed down a little, she sidled up to me and said, 'Lets just talk a little 'bout our day first." So I asked her what her favorite part of today was and she said, "Spending time with you." And my heart melted a little bit more. At this rate, I won't have much left. And she asked me what my favorite part was and I said, "spending time with you." And she squealed and hugged me and we smooched and all was forgiven, even the kicking when I turned off Troll Girlz. Eventually her breathing evened out and she stopped squirming and slipped over into sleep. I love her to pieces.

Summer is almost over. We've had trips to ice cream store in the wagon full of girls, hikes in the woods, swimming in the pool and lots of playing with friends. Kindergarten starts in 10 days, whether I'm ready or not.

Hubs is playing poker, I'm alone with the cat and the computer. Somewhere, elder daughter is out there living her life. She may come over on Sunday, always a happy time. Life is enough at this moment, just enough.