They promise it’ll work itself out.
They swear it’s nothing to worry about, that all kids go through it and, most importantly, that all parents survive it with their marriage and sanity intact.
“They,” of course, are the doctors, family members, friends with kids, friends without kids, strangers in line at the Mexican restaurant, the check-out girl at Old Navy, and the roughly 8 million hits I got from Googling such phrases as “clingy baby,” “needy toddler,” “restless child” and “please for the love of all that’s sweet and holy, what can I do to make this kid sleep in her own bed and stay the heck out of mine?”
None of which offered much in the way of actual advice.
In terms of parenting, My Lovely Wife and I have reached DEFCON 1. Save for setting up one of those invisible fences around her room and fitting Jellybean with a shock collar, we’re all out of ideas.
I hate to beat the proverbial dead horse (not to mention going to the comedic well once too often) but Jellybean simply won’t stay in her bed at night. And somewhere The Nanny is wagging her finger at me.
We are partially to blame for bragging on her for so long. I don’t know what changed, why she seems terrified to stay in her room. (I told her weeks ago I was kidding about the Closet Monster and the Boogey Man under her bed.) As soon as we sneak out, she pops up like a Weeble and sprints toward the lights of the den.
Every night, the same routine begins with the same sense of eminent failure and the promise of a restless night.
We start with the rocking chair in the den while watching something on TV. Soon as Jellybean stops squirming, it’s safe to move into her darkened bedroom, where Tom Waits is already playing gently in the background. Then we rock in her room for at least two songs.
Once she’s breathing heavy and yawning it’s time to read — generally something from the Sweet Pickles canon — two books, no more, no less. If that is met with little resistance I’ll sing her a lullaby (see Jan. 9 column, “Worst Lullaby Ever”) until her eyes shut.
Finally comes the waiting, or maybe that should be “weighting.” It’s not enough we’re squatted down right beside her, Jellybean insists we actually lie on top of her as if we were snuggling. In five minutes, she’s out like a light.
Then comes the hard part: sneaking away. Cunning as a puma, she’s alerted to the slightest shift in pressure. Escaping is like that scene in “Indiana Jones” when he slips the golden idol off its perch, replacing its weight with a bag of sand.
Soon as you think you’re in the clear, out come the poison darts in the form of staring Jellybean. And lord help you if she grabs a thumb before drifting off. The kid’s got hands like G.I. Joe with Kung-fu grip. If that happens, might as well grab a pillow and say “good night.”
But I’m a nighty-night ninja. I might not be able to slip into a pair of skinny jeans, but I can slide through the slightest crack in a bedroom door and scurry into the hall without Jellybean making a peep.
Amid the silent celebration, I see a tiny blonde child shuffle down the hall, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and looking lost.
“Can I lay in your bed for just a few minutes?”
Wonder how Indiana Jones would get out of this one.
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.