Part of my daily routine is now to briefly lull a small human being to sleep in my arms before deftly placing her down in her crib to rest.
This wasn’t always the case. E used to handle bedtime, but it felt weird that EV only knew how to get to the sleep in the arms of one particular human being. We began to split the task, and it turned out I had an unexpected knack for it. Sure, I have my difficult nights and the odd sleep regression where all that baby wants to do is stand up in the crib, but on a typical night I get her down in record time without a peep.
Bedtime became mine in short order – I conduct the proceedings six days a week, leaving one night for E to dabble in sleep-making.
As it happens, I haven’t been on bedtime duty for the past two nights. On Tuesday E’s brother was on duty while we were out. It did not go well. There was much thrashing, gnashing of tiny teeth, and ASL signals to return to the potty. Last night E took her once-weekly turn. It did not go well, though it usually does. The problem? I stopped by the room to give EV a hug goodnight and then left. Instant and irrecoverable baby meltdown followed. I stayed tucked away in the attic while E dealt with the aftermath.
Tonight? Back to father, back to easy-as-pie sleep without a peep. She practically threw her head at my shoulder as I read her our nightly pair of pages of Neverwhere. “Two paragraphs are fine tonight,” she shouted with her body language, “let’s just get to the sleepy part.”
I knew that I was going to be responsible for taking care of this small human. I acknowledged that she would have some preferences only I knew or understood. However, this might be the first time where I’ve become essential to her biology – she simply doesn’t like going to sleep without me.
It’s at once delightful and ludicrous. I don’t know if I’ve ever been required by another person in such a central fashion, and there is something immensely pleasing about it. I like being the irreplaceable assistant for someone – to a point that I considered working as an Executive Assistant earlier in my career before a more defined path opened up for me. Yet, it’s also insane! I can train anyone to say the things I say and do them in the order I do them. Why wouldn’t she go to sleep for them? Why does it matter so much if I hug and run rather than conduct the entire procedure?
I know the why. Because those other people don’t have my voice, my movements, my scent. They don’t hug the same, play her belly like a drum while they dress her, or sing her name to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” while they brush her teeth.
Nor would I want them to. That baby needs me to go to sleep, and I need that baby to fall asleep in my arms. I could have a dozen nights left or a hundred, but when it’s over it’s never coming back again. We’ll be on to the next routine.
For now, we belong to each other, six nights a week.