Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Mr. Sandman, Bring Me a Dream

I know what’s on everyone’s mind: what did Quinn do on Sunday?

Well, my children, gather ‘round and I’ll tell you. I had my daughter take a one-hour nap. Yes, I see you in the back, the man without children, raising your hand and waving it furiously. You want to know what else I did on Sunday, since that nap took about…an hour. And that hour should have been fairly peaceful, what with her sleeping and all.

You foolish, deluded man: getting Daughter to take a one-hour nap will eat up most of a day. The hour she spent sleeping I spent trying to get the twitch under my eye to stop vibrating. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have bothered trying for extra sleep, as Daughter has always functioned quite nicely on the low side of whatever the average is for her age. But the last week has been lively.

First, we had relatives in town, which was exciting, but led to several evenings in a row of “Wow, it’s 9:30pm, and my daughter is leading a sing-along”. This was followed, unsurprisingly, by her getting a head cold, which meant a stuffed-up nose, which meant nights filled with whistling, honking, snorting, but precious little sleeping. By Saturday she had rings under her eyes which would have humbled a Sicilian widow and she was so cranky she was picking fights with inanimate objects. Clearly, she needed a little extra sleep.

Sunday morning, I put her through her paces; enough for sleep, not enough for Over-tired. I then solemnly announced that little girls who were sick, and who wanted to go to Gymnastics on Monday, needed to take a nap. Daughter frowned as if this was some particularly tasteless joke.

“I’m not tired”

“But you will be,” I rejoined “once you lie down for a while. You’ve had a really busy week”

For those taking notes, this was a huge mistake. As fatigued as she actually was, she was not going to admit to it. If I had presented lying down in the context of, say, being read to, she might have agreed. But now she was as leery of being horizontal as a Baptist co-ed in a New Orleans fraternity. I had to spend a half-hour negotiating the lying-down part: she would lie there and listen to a book on tape, in the dark. And if sleep were to overcome her? Well, she allowed, these things happen. Everyone got their needs met: she wasn’t actually agreeing to sleep but I did manage to put on the most soporific book-on-tape in the world. This tape requires the special three-sheet prescription pad. This tape cannot be listened to while operating heavy machinery. So, a few minutes later, I was surprised to hear:


I walked back into her room, and braced myself against the door as the words lulled me into a REM cycle.

“I’ve napped”

“No, sweetheart: you’ve briefly lain in a dark room. Keep listening to…the…wonderful-”

I yanked myself from the room before I pitched forward into sleep. Surely, I reasoned, her stubbornness would be outweighed by her genuine need for sleep, the darkness, and “The Sleepy Bunny”. Just thinking about it made me need go back out to the couch and…

I woke with a start. Daughter was poking me in the nose.

“Please go rent me ‘Mary Poppins’”

I checked my watch. Fifteen minutes had passed since she was first put to bed.

“No. Go to bed”

She spun on her heel, stormed back to her room, and slammed the door. The tape was at the part where Sleepy Bunny finds the world’s softest pillow. I could hear her throwing something solid at the wall. We were at an impasse. I walked in, and switched off the tape so that I could stay awake for the conversation. Daughter was tearfully throwing her shoes. Any other time I would have trotted out Scary Mother Look for that, but she was too tired and irrational to be glared into sanity. I offered her a Plan B: she could listen to “Mary Poppins” - the book-on-tape version. She would stay in bed, but only on top of the covers. I would leave on one light and we would call it a rest instead of a nap. The light was negotiated and agreed upon, and I left the room, still hopeful that Sleep would overcome Will.

Fifteen minutes later:

“MOMMY! Please turn the tape over!”

Fifteen minutes after that:

“MOMMY! There’s a spider on my wall!”

Ten minutes after that:

“MOMMY! My throat hurts!”

Well, dear, that might have something to do with shouting for me every few minutes. I bring her some water. She is lying on her side, looking drowsy. I have every reason to hope, and dim the light down a touch.

Ten minutes pass.

“MOMMY! Come see!”

Please let her be talking in her sleep. I walk slowly to her room. She is sitting up in bed, all the lights blazing away. She is gazing delightedly at the cat, who is batting one of Daughter’s toys around.

“She loves my felt dollies!”

Note for Monday: Flay cat.

I go to remove cat, which triggers wailing. Daughter wants cat to nap with her. Obviously, Daughter has now learned that using the word “Nap” with me virtually assures my compliance. I put the cat on the bed, and warn Daughter not to try to put the cat under the covers.

Ten minutes pass. A scream erupts from Daughter’s room. As I open the door a crack, the cat flashes past me and disappears into the far corners of the house. Daughter is sitting up in bed, tearful; her arms are covered in new scratches. Apparently, the cat didn’t want to sleep under the covers. This is shocking, because the cat never wants to sleep under the covers. I take Daughter into bathroom, wash off her arms and apply ointment. I take her back to bed, get her calmed down, read her a chapter or two of something very dull (The Hunt for Red October is always nice) and sneak out to my couch and crossword.

Fifteen minutes pass. I am so acutely aware that she’s not asleep I’ve looked at the clue “70’s show ‘______ Company’” for several minutes, stumped. I sink into the couch quietly, and await my orders. They come.


I walk in.

“Sweetheart, why aren’t you sleeping?”

“I’m hungry”

“Of course you are. Fighting off sleep works up an appetite”

We take a break in non-sleeping for meal. Daughter prolongs meal by picking at applesauce, insisting she is full, and then, when told it’s time to go back to bed, remembering an auxiliary stomach. Contents of refrigerator slowly consumed.

I finally wrangle her back to bed. I read her the instructions for the new Zip drive, and turn off the light.

Twenty minutes pass. There is no sound. It’s almost too much to hope, but I sneak in to take a look. All of her lights are on. She is standing on her bed wearing a sundress of mine with Consort’s dress shoes. Her two Barbies are standing behind her, in not-dissimilar outfits, and Daughter is singing. How is it possible she knows about the Supremes? Daughter sees me, bursts into tears, and lunges under the covers, still wearing Consort’s shoes.

I change tack.

“I have an idea”


“It’s not a sleeping idea. It’s a fun game”

The wailing lump pauses, quivering.

“It’s called ‘Moving Man’. I’ll let you move boxes wherever you want in the house”

A lawyer’s pause. The lump corrects me.

“No, it’s called ‘Moving Lady’”

At that point, she dried her tears and emerged from under her covers. For the next hour, I would pretend to be the homeowner, and she would move legal-sized file boxes filled with the flotsam of tax-time from room to room. She found it entertaining, and she never even noticed that I was wearing her out. When she took her last move (From Los Angeles to the Plaza in Manhattan, I’ll have you know) she ended up in her bedroom and didn’t come back out. Fifteen minutes passed. I looked in. There she was in bed, her Moving Lady sweatband snug around her forehead, sound asleep. I stared at her in utter peace. She is the loveliest person, inside and out, I have ever had the privilege to know. I want her perfectly healthy. Hell, I want her immortal.

By now it was four o’clock in the afternoon, which meant this nap would completely ruin getting her to sleep tonight. But that was Consort’s concern. I was going to bed.


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