Bedtime Tactics

It’s time for sleep; my son, though, is resisting the natural urge, as always. The lights in his room are off, but the hallway lamp is on to give some comfort lighting, and to keep the monsters away.

” A-b-c-d-e-f-g.” His voice is clear, but small. “Now I know my a-b-c’s, ne-time wo you sing wi meeeeeeee.” He finishes the song, holding the last note. Already he’s learning how to perform finales.

The bedtime lullaby CD is playing softly, and the air purifier hums happily above it, washing the room in white noise. The white noise helps drown out the static from outside: cars’ engines revving, teenagers yelling and laughing, cats meowing, dogs barking.

“I lub you, mommy.” His body twists and the shuffle of the sheets blends with his voice.

“I love you, too, baby,” I tell him. I know he smiles.

“I’m hungry.” His feet smack against the wooden beams of his “big boy bed” – the crib-converted-to-toddler-bed. A wooden, hollow echo accentuates his words.

“You just ate a snack, baby. You’ll eat in the morning.”

“Yes?”

“Yes.”

He’s silent again, but I hear his feet tapping against the beams again, TAP, TAP, TAP.

“Mommy, I lub you with aaaalllll my heart.”

I smile. His tactics are good. And sweet.

“Me, too, baby.”

He shuffles again, twisting into a new position, trying to get comfortable, and begins the TAP, TAP, TAP again. It almost goes in rhythm to the lullaby: “Sleep, oh sleep, my little baby. Don’t cry yet.” The lullaby is hypnotizing, a slow melody, a high feminine voice. I can make out a piano, and perhaps bells.

He stops tapping.

If that looking glass gets broke, papa’s going to buy you a billy goat.” One of my favorite lullabies, and one of the few that I can sing without my voice cracking.

The music has stopped. Fifty songs have played; I’ve been sitting with him for forty-five minutes. The air purifier hums louder now.

My son sighs and turns, his sheets dancing with his little body. The shuffling of every movement is a song, but the song is no longer constant, smooth. There’s no pattern, no method. It’s jerky as he finally begins surrendering to sleep.

“Mommy, yogurt…” his voice trails off. I don’t answer him this time. I wait. With the humming, a small cough, and the shuffle of sheets. Soon, he’ll be asleep. Soon.

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