March 29, 2014 by kristin
I rest my hand on my almost-4-year-old daughter’s chest and feel her heart thumping fast even as she drifts toward sleep. I sing her “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins, slowly and quietly, hoping to encourage her to breathe slowly and quietly, to sleep.
I remember, as I often do, a night three years before. We two were spending the night in a strange room, and she woke in the dark and would not go back to sleep, even by my side, in the strange bed.
I crept out of bed, out of the room, and down the hall, carrying my infant daughter with me into the kitchen so we wouldn’t wake the others. I held her in my arms, coaxing her head down onto my chest, under my chin, and did my bounce-sway back and forth from foot to foot. I sang her “Feed the Birds,” over and over, until my voice cracked on the high notes. Silently, I begged her to sleep so I could sleep. And eventually she did.
My bond with her was forged on nights like that, through days and nights and weeks and months and, yes, now years of the pursuit of sleep. Elusive, fleeting, precious sleep. The question, always, will she ever sleep? The answer, always, yes, if I am here, if I keep singing, if I keep swaying, if I keep staying.
And lying here with her now, I know that bond will hold. She will keep growing faster than should be possible. The ways she asserts herself now as a toddler – mismatched clothes, inconsistent food preferences – will seem small next to the choices she will make as a teen and an adult. Choices that may make me angry, choices that may make me doubt. Choices that may take her far away from me.
But I know the bond forged in the pursuit of sleep will hold. This one, always, will come back to me.
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