Every other night I read to my daughter Annabelle for a minimum of 30 minutes: Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse; Goodnight, Gorilla; Corduroy; Snuggle Puppy; Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion; etc. On those nights when my daughter refuses to go to sleep, what I typically do is hand her one of her books (Goodnight, Moon for example) and read the additional copy I have while she follows along in her crib.
If you’re not a parent already, one thing you’ll learn when you are expecting for the first time is that at least three people will buy you a copy of Goodnight, Moon as well as four copies of Mother Goose.
Typically this strategy works. Sleepy eyes overtake my daughter and she dozes off, clutching her night-night – or nigh nigh as she likes to call it – between her tiny smooth hands, as she draws in one last exhausted sigh. Curled up at my feet and snoring loudly, I whisper “treatie treat” to our dog Mozzarella Cheese (or Motzie for short), who also happens to enjoy a nighttime story, and the two of us exit, flicking the light behind me as I close the door to Annabelle’s bedroom.
The night does not always go this smoothly, which is the reason there is a New York Times bestselling children’s—ahem, parents of children(‘s)—book appropriately titled Go The Fuck To Sleep by Adam Mansbach. One of my wife’s co-workers bought a copy and gave to us; well, more so: me, after our daughter’s birth. Follow along below as Samuel L. Jackson reads:
Take last night, for example.
It was my wife’s turn to put Annabelle down. (We alternate)
Forty-five minutes later, our daughter was still wide eyed as Lenny Dykstra on a cocaine high. No grand theft auto charges were filed in a federal court thankfully. I could hear her bouncing up and down in her crib, her bedroom floor our living room ceiling; as well as my wife’s ever growing sighs of frustration. Being Fatherman and all, I decided I would swoop in to save the day—or, more accurately, night. Rescuing my wife, pregnant with our second child and battling a brutal head cold, would not only win me brownie points but also, possibly, brownies.
Sick myself, chest cold instead of head, I roused my narrow behind off the couch and up the steps to Annabelle’s bedroom. It was time for me to work my charm and magically zap my daughter off to sleep. I tend to have that effect on my daughter.
Perhaps she finds me really boring… I am beginning to wonder.
Annabelle wasn’t crying or fussy, but she was visibly tired. That doesn’t always translate to being ready for bed unfortunately.
“Bless you,” my grateful wife said to me, though I had not sneezed as I entered to relieve her of her duties.
“You are the greatest, most loving, sexiest, sweetest husband in the world,” I’m pretty sure I heard her say. “I cherish you.”
I cracked my knuckles, sat down, took up a book, Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton, and began reading.
Snuggle puppy of mine
Everything about you is especially fine
I love what you are, I love what you do
Ewwwwww, I love you!
And so on.
One hour and thirty minutes later…
I threw my hands in the air, giving up trying to get my daughter to sleep, and giving in to letting her play dress up instead. A little excess energy expelled may do the trick, I reasoned.
For Christmas, my sister had bought her a cardboard chest with a princess gown, crown, and slippers, a wand, some angel wings, et al. Annabelle loves it. Exclamation point. Any chance she has to run to her chest and start putting on three different costumes, mismatched with one another, she’ll take you up on.
She put on her pink tutu, handed me a sequenced mini-skirt and I obliged her wearing it as if a hat, which she thought was all get out hilarious.
Cherish every minute
For reasons I will explain in more detail in a future post (chronic ear infections and night terrors), my daughter has never won the gold star for “Greatest Sleeper Ever,” which in turn means that neither my wife nor I will ever be crowned “Parents Who Get the Most Sleep.” Obviously, we aren’t alone in the parenting sphere. It’s taken some getting used to, to say the least. I’m one of those people — and always have been — that needs/thrives on a minimum of eight hours of rest per night. It’s just the chronobiology I was born to have. I wish, trust me: wish(ed) often, I could be a six-hours-per-night and be fresh as a daisy and ready to go the next morning type of person. I’m just not.
I drag ass when I don’t get eight hours.
Or, at least I used to. True, I still need eight hours most nights but I can now function the next day if it doesn’t come — so long as it’s not three nights in a row.
With that said, the lack of sleep and the desire to go to sleep, used to make me grumpy. However, having a baby, then an infant, and now a toddler, I have, for the most part, taught myself to think more positively when my daughter refuses to go to bed or to sleep through the night. Glass half full, I say. Glass half full.
So I take these moments of restlessness and youthful energy my daughter experiences from time to time and put them in context: sure, it’s 12 midnight and I’m dog tired. I’d rather be in bed. It’s 4 AM and I’m dog tired. I’d rather be in bed. But, and that’s it, BUT, I’m not. I am awake and my daughter is awake, and that means time I can spend with her either reading or playing or laying in the floor with a pillow under my head and one of her blankets covering me as she lays in the floor beside me with her nigh-nigh, saying, “Nigh nigh. Nigh nigh,” staring at me, her blue eyes wide and twinkling and loving and beautiful.
When I’m old and gray and wake up at 4 AM because I’ve already taken two naps during the day because I’m old and gray, I’ll think about these moments of past and I’ll cherish them much more than the fifteen minutes or three hours of sleep I didn’t get when I was 30 years old — and I’ll smile. The days are long and the years are short.
So jump, jump, jump away little monkey.