Bedtime at the Zoo: How I Got Both Kids to Sleep without a Third Arm
Posted on April 26, 2012
Here’s the thing. I totally appreciated Grampie when he was here helping; I even remarked one night that the single-parenthood thing might be doable if it weren’t for the whole simultaneous-bedtimes thing (not that I’m planning to be a single parent, but it was a role I tried out while The Husband was 2,500 miles away at a conference and then camping).
Well, I really appreciated Grampie tonight, when things unfolded the way only my sitcom life really can unfold.
It started when Cherub Charlie refused to nap for our amazing child care provider (she hates the word nanny, “babysitter” is just not enough and I’m guessing she won’t be keen on “My Own Mary Poppins Minus the Flying Umbrella). Anyway, if Charlie won’t nap for MP (this will be our secret code for Mary Poppins), then it’s unlikely he’ll nap for anyone… except Grampie.
Grampie had it down to a science. First he’d head upstairs and “set the mood.” Blinds closed, lullabies playing in the background – it was a total Nap Seduction Scene (if you have kids you will understand this – because if ONE thing goes wrong, well, call the whole thing off!).
Charlie would nestle against Grampie’s chest, slurping on his bottle and then matter-of-factly handing the empty up to the Grampie gods. At that point during Operation Naptime, each person has his or her own ritual. Mine is to count to 100, but only after his eyes have stayed shut for a count of 30 (if I’m really tired, omitting the “Mississippi”).
Grampie being Grampie, he cherished those cozy moments with his middle grandchild, a patience that typically gave way to Charlie’s heavy breaths of deep sleep.
Then 6’2″ Grampie would carefully ease Charlie down, down, down into the crib, which by now has been lowered as far as it will go to reduce the risk of inmate escape.
Well, things were a little different tonight.
Grampie’s gone, that rat bastard. Something about “getting back to retirement,” his wife of 41 years (“Grammie”) and his eldest grandchild (sorry, Little Sister, we all know Mom and Dad don’t visit for us anymore).
So, here I was, while The Husband rocked out at a concert (tickets for which he procured as our anniversary present; why he is there with another man is a story for another time).
Charlie hadn’t napped, Emma hadn’t eaten, and the clock was ticking. I knew I was screwed. It was all just a matter of time.
But as parents often do, I thought perhaps I could pull this off.
Now, before you get all judge-y because we have succumbed to the bad habit of rocking Charlie to sleep each night, understand this: when your firstborn comes into this world seven weeks early, had a chest tube, Down syndrome and a monthlong NICU stay, then comes home attached to a heart monitor, well, all those things you said you’d never do become all those things you do unconsciously, without care for the future. Get over it. What are the chances he’ll want to be rocked to sleep when he’s 12, after all? (Oh dear God what have we done.)
Cut to this scene:
Charlie is standing up in the crib SCREAMING bloody murder because I have unceremoniously dumped him mid-snore after Emma began to screech downstairs and I lost my grip.
Now I’m flying down the stairs to get screeching Mary Emma while trying to remain unaffected by the gutteral cries of my neglected and tossed-aside son.
I know only Mommy and food will quiet these savages, so I grab a bottle from the fridge and get it into the bottle warmer, then scoop up Emma and head back upstairs.
This next part makes no sense whatsoever. Holding Emma in one arm, I gather Charlie up with my left arm and pull him free from the crib cage. I am holding each child, no bottle and no hope at this point.
Miraculously, Charlie quiets immediately and nestles into my shoulder.
What’s this? I think to myself.
Could he ACTUALLY be about to fall asleep in my arms?
Well, brilliant, because I am now clutching them both with absolutely no chance of putting down either without a squawk fest.
I ease into the rocking chair. Emma immediately pops her head off my shoulder like a gopher and looks around the darkened room. For a moment, my heart stops as she draws in a breath and… relaxes.
Charlie is still burrowed in my shoulder, and my left elbow is just barely able to rest on the arm rest of the rocker. My right arm is beginning to tremble. Not from the fright of a scream, but because my cherub five-month-old weighs about the same as her brother, and I haven’t lifted weights beyond these two in possibly decades.
The sweat begins to roll down the middle of my back (because being an expert moron, I left my sweatshirt on, the ceiling fan is still off and I haven’t flipped the switch from heat to A/C the way our weather has required a daily routine lately).
I glance from sleeping child to wide-eyed child, wondering how I can make this work.
First step, stop rocking. Get the sleeping one used to non-motion.
Keep kissing the wide-awake one’s forehead with little promises of gold and diamonds if she will just not scream until I can detangle us both from this situation.
The cats saunter in the room. Both of them.
Damn! I think. I’m better than this! I know to secure all entrances!
By some miracle (perhaps for the first time in their five years of life, they have gotten my “if you make a sound I will eliminate you” vibe), both curl up at my feet.
Great. They don’t want to miss this either.
I wait. And I try to monitor my breathing and keep it as steeeeaaaaaady as I posssssssssibly can. The sliiiiiiiightest wrong breath – God forbid a SNEEZE! – and it’s over. I’m dead in the water.
There’s nothing to do but try to shift one of the cherubs to the floor. I can’t roll Mary Emma onto the changing table because I won’t be able to secure her, and I remember some good advice I got once: “babies can’t fall off the floor.” (Jenny, I think that was your gem. Thank you!)
As I engage EVERY SINGLE MUSCLE IN MY LOWER BODY so as to smoothly kneel to the ground while clutching my future caretakers whom I hope will be as gentle when I am old, Mary Emma slides to the carpet and looks up at me, wide-eyed and with a glint of amusement in her eyes.
Laugh it up, kid. Someday you’ll be referencing my blog to find out how I pulled this off so you can maneuver your own cherubs!
No, I didn’t really think that. I was too busy wondering how my crunched body was going to unlock so I could go from the floor to the crib with my sleeping cutie.
I will tell you, it wasn’t pretty.
I will tell you, it won’t happen again.
I will tell you that The Husband is putting that boy to bed for the REST OF OUR LIVES.
Charlie curled up in his crib and went right to sleep. Emma followed shortly thereafter, on the heels of a once-warm, now room temperature bottle she inhaled anyway.
I have awesome kids. I really do.
And I really, really miss Grampie.