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The Never-Ending Night-Night

When Maddie was first born, Brian and I
did all the new parent research on How To Make An Infant Sleep. We
read up on the whole “routine” thing and dutifully came
up with what we considered a sure-fire hit for inducing slumber: a
soothing massage with “night-night” lotion, a home-made
lullaby mix, rocking, nursing, prayers, and then to bed. It’s
a routine we’ve never varied, and has served us well as we
traveled; we got Maddie so used to the smell of the lotion and the
sound of the music that as long as we had those two things we could
put her to sleep in any room, anywhere.

Of course, her nighttime routine evolved, most noticeably when she
stopped nursing. We’d begun reading books while nursing, and
I was able to (somewhat) easily drop that last nursing without her
noticing. And then just before Cora came we began expanding
Maddie’s world, having Gamma or Daddy put Maddie down without
Mommy there to do the rocking, which went well. I tell you, we were
a night-night machine.

Our routine is still pretty solid –
Maddie gets to pick Gamma or Daddy for the book reading, then has
Daddy say prayers and snuggle before saying night-night. There are
new additions – brushing teeth, for example, and hugging Cora
goodnight, which Cora will insist on as well. But once teeth and
hugs are out of the way, it’s the Daddy and Gamma Show; Mommy
hasn’t been involved in Maddie’s routine since, oh, the
night before Cora was born.

Or I should say, I hadn’t been until recently.

As Maddie starts to outgrow her afternoon nap, it becomes harder
and harder for her to go to sleep at night. She’s awake and
ready to chat with any captive audience she can find, and for a
while she was calling Daddy back into the room several times in the
first hour, just to have little chats.

Then one evening Brian and I happened to be exiting our respective
night-night rooms at the exact same moment, and Maddie saw me walk
past her partially open door. “Daddy, what was that moving
across my door?” she called from her darkened room.
“That was just Mommy leaving Cora’s room, hon,”
he said without forethought. “Can Mommy come in and snuggle
with me?” The next night, before Brian even left the room
Maddie made sure to ask for me to come in when I was finished with

And thus began the longest night-night in the history of
night-nights. Now it’s a necessary part of Maddie’s
routine, and even if Cora takes half an hour Maddie will wait
patiently in the dark for me. One night I forgot, until about an
hour later I heard whimpering from Maddie’s monitor, which I
eventually made out into, “Mommy, aren’t you coming? I
need Mommy!”

And the snuggling has a strict order to it, too: lie on the bed and
snuggle. Then scratch Maddie’s back. Then snuggle again. Then
give Maddie a sip of water from her straw cup by the bed. Then give
Maddie her “last snuggle”. Then give Maddie her
“last sip of water”. And for the grand finale –
the Night-Night speech, by Madeleine Milner (required parental
responses in parentheses):

“Night night! (Night night.) Sleep well! (sleep well.)
I’ll see you in the morning! (See you in the morning) Love
you! (Love you) Sweet dreams, princess! (sweet dreams, princess)
G’night! (g’night) Remember, call out for me if you
need me in the middle of the night and I’ll come running down
the hall – like if you fall out of bed, or have a bad dream.
And you do the same for me – if I have a bad dream or fall
out of bed, you come running if I call. But I’ll only come if
it’s an emergency – otherwise I won’t come. And
you only come to my room if it’s an emergency, too, ok? And
tell Daddy the same goes for him. Ok. Good night (good night) I
love you (I love you).”

Yep, that’s word for word the requisite script, and woe be
unto him who tries to interrupt or speed it along – for then
it’s starting all over at the very beginning. Which means
that we’re now at a night-night routine that lasts –
teeth to speech, soup to nuts – around forty-five minutes.

I usually cherish those quiet moments of snuggling and
back-scratching; after all, I know they won’t last much
longer. And as Maddie burrows puppy-like into my chest for a warm
snuggle, I feel such unbridled love and tenderness that I’m
sometimes moved to tears. I created this being, who loves me so
unconditionally, and I bring her happiness simply by cuddling with

Other nights, though, when she’s Chatty Cathy and desperate
to prolong the inevitable bedtime, I lie there bone-tired and
impatient, willing myself to simply be present and not jump
mentally ahead to the bills still to pay and the laundry waiting to
be folded. She’s drawing out night-night because she’s
lonely and wants my company. Is that so bad?

At the same time, I’m trying to work out a way to get the
Cliff’s Notes version of The Speech into her brain. I figure
an abbreviated speech shaves two minutes off the thing, and two
minutes to a sleep-deprived woman ain’t nuthin’ to
sneeze at.


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