Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Secret Sleep Word

What they say about kids’ resilience and ability to adapt to change is all true. By my count, Sam, Peter, and Clementine have slept in eight different beds (not counting the times one of them has ended up in our bed) since we left India in November. Now that we have moved into our house in Falls Church, we expect a measure of stability. (At least for the next year and a half…a lifetime for these kids!)

Over the weekend, I was given a rare glimpse into Clementine’s perspective of our lifestyle that caught me a little bit off guard. For the most part—for Elise and I certainly, and I believe in large measure for the boys, too—coming back to the United States equates with coming ‘home’, back to our home country, but also back to things familiar (if also, unique and strange at the same time), BBQ ribs, Starbucks, snow, among a few. But for Clementine, this is just another country. She asked me at the dining room table, “How long we be in this country?” Not the U.S., USA, or ‘Merica. “This country.” The country after India and before the next country.

Elise and I bought bunk beds for the boys, and all three of them are sharing a room adjacent to ours. Frequent are the requests from one of them for Elise and I to lay with them. These requests mostly come at bedtime. Every once in a while, they come in the middle of the night.

Clementine, particularly, has the habit of getting out of her bed at two or three in the morning and complain that, “I can’t sleeeeeeeeeeep.” I can hear her coming before the door to our room swings open. Two tiny footfalls thud on the creaky wood floors. I get up and guide her gently back to her bed. I tuck her in. She asks me to lay with her. I did…for a few nights. But I’m feeling especially decrepit these days as I nurse a neck injury sustained from shoveling snow. I just can’t fold my aging body in half and wedge myself in next to her in order to fit into her miniaturized toddler bed.

Elise reminded me the request to lay with them wasn’t about anything else but wanting some one-on-one time. I was the one making it harder on myself by falling asleep in Clementine’s bed. I’m wondering if maybe that’s how I hurt my neck in the first place after all. And now back to my original point, if after eight new beds, all they want is for me to lay with them for a few minutes—as opposed to having major behavioral issues or having been scarred for life—that seems reasonable.

All that being said, I’m trying to get break the habit of lying with Clem in the middle of the night. Three nights ago, at two in the morning, Clementine came into our room. I got up, put a palm in between her shoulder blades and gave her gentle encouragement to go back to her bed. I followed her and tucked her in, then kneeled by her side. I placed my check close to hers and whispered in her ear. I don’t know where the words came from. Call it sudden, middle-of-the-night inspiration, but I asked her, “Do you know that the secret sleep word is?”


“The Secret Sleep Word is ‘nod’.”




“What the Secret Sleep Word is?”


“The Secret Sleep Word is ‘nod’,” I whispered again. I kissed her on the cheek and slowly got up. 

She rolled over and went back to sleep.

Two nights ago, the Secret Sleep Word was ‘dusk’.

Last night, she didn’t get up. Thank goodness, because I’m pretty sure I fell asleep before 8:00. 

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