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Significant slumber

January 19, 2007

About a week and a half ago, late one night, I became a dad. Myowndaughter’s dad, more than two years after she was born.
That night, I felt like the last barrier between myself and my child crumbled. It was the first night, really, I was able to put her to sleep.
When she was 5 and 6 months old, and her Sexymom went back to work on weekends, Mod and I were on our own, from waking to sleeping. Mod didn’t have a choice. But since then, her only choice was Sexymom. She wants the Maternal One beside her when she closes her eyes.
Mod’s sleep habits are a topic for its own blog. In brief, this kid does NOT like to go to sleep, period. She doesn’t like to take naps, and at night she’ll find every excuse to stall — water, pee, poop, brush teeth, Kleenex, books, monkey, bear, whatever — even with Sexymom.
We’ve read all the books and tried all the methods, from Ferberizing to cuddling. Nothing works. Still, nothing works.
Recently, Maternal One decided she wasn’t going to stick around 20, 30, 40 minutes while Mod slowly surrenders to slumber.
If you’ve ever spent time with a 2-year-old, or a wild screeching Macaque monkey, or a wet cat that “accidentally” bumps into an electric fence (another blog), then you can imagine Myowndaughter’s reaction to this plot twist. Combine said monkey and cat with, oh, a tiger with a toothache. She wasn’t happy.
So, I stepped in.
Now, until this point, Myowndaughter wanted me around as much as that tiger wants a permanent hairdo. Aforementioned reaction was just a small taste of her objection to my pinch-hitting.
But this time was different. Sexymom left Mod’s room. I entered and there was the anticipated wailing: “Maaaaama! Mama, Daddy. Maaaaaama! Ella Maaama, Daddy.”
So, after a few minutes of this, I got up to leave … although I didn’t really know where I was going.
I got to the door, and the wailing changes pitch, and timbre, and lyrics.
“Daddy?” What’s this? You’re leaving too? “Daddy?” I guess he is. Hey!
“Daaaaaaaddy! Daaaaaaaaaddy!”
It was music to my ears. I admit, I hate to hear Mod cry more than anything in the world. And I can generally tell what’s behind the cries — exhaustion, hurt, actue fear. But with the nighttime crying, sometimes the reasons, I rationalize, are deeper. They’re about some unknown fear. I fully understand boundaries, and I’m the first to encourage and even force Mod to accomplish things on her own. But I don’t understand why we would let our daughter cry herself to sleep. Sleeping is a skill she’ll have to master, I understand that. I wasn’t good at it, and I’m still not. But Mod’s not awake out of spite; she doesn’t know what that is yet, she hasn’t entered junior high. I don’t think she stays awake because she wants to misbehave.
So, when Mod cried for me, I quickly shook off the surprise, turned around and sat on her bed, quietly. I didn’t talk to her, didn’t respond. Just sat there. After a few minutes Mod crawled under the covers and put her head on her pillow. I got up and sat on the floor — Sexymom had started gradually increasing her distance from Mod months ago, ultimately sitting outside Mod’s room. Within 10 minutes, Mod was sound asleep. I got up, winced when my ankles and knees and vertebrae crackled, and left the room.
Mod has had a very close relationship with her Sexymom. We’ve struggled with seperation anxiety. Within the past few months we’ve worked beyond that, and now Sexymom can leave the house, with Mod in my care, without so much as a whimper from the kiddo. I’ve had the feeding thing down for a while; being able to realize when Mod’s hungry and being able to find what foods will maker he happy. Getting dressed; check. Bathtime; check. Story time; check.
Tonight made the fourth time, in the past two weeks, I stayed with Mod until she went to sleep.
Check.

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