By: Barbara Matousek
I am standing over Eva’s crib, and between the glow from her nightlight and the crack of light spilling out of the laundry room, I can see her angry face. She is kicking her legs and screaming at me because I have laid her back down on her side and told her it’s bedtime. A few minutes ago I let her cry for a while before crawling out of bed and walking across the hall in the dark for the 4th time tonight. This is her 5th time waking us all up. My mother who is visiting for the holiday weekend took a turn twenty minutes ago. Each time my 18-month-old daughter settles and quickly falls asleep as I rock her, and she seems content as I lay her back down in the crib half-awake. But it’s usually about twenty minutes before she starts screaming again.
I am tired and watching the clock and realizing it’s only a few hours until we all have to get up and go out in to the world. Throughout the last few hours I have changed her diaper and put her in lighter pajamas and turned down the air conditioning and given her ibuprofen and milk and blankets and another baby doll and a third book. When Mom and I met in the hallway the last time she told me she thought Eva was anxious. “Poor thing,” she said. I said I thought she had a tummy ache. She seemed to be uncomfortable, kicking her legs and bending them and usually rolling over on to her tummy when I laid her back in her crib. I know it’s not her ears, and the cough that drove us to the pediatrician last week is actually almost gone.
“Eva,” I said a few minutes ago. “It’s bedtime. What do you need? Use your words.” She was sitting up, her feet facing the opposite direction from where I last left her.
“I want drink,” she said.
“You have a drink.” I picked up her sippy cup full of water that we’d gotten during one of the earlier visits and handed it to her. “Now it’s bedtime.”
Now as she kicks and screams, the next bedroom door squeaks open and I wait for Mom to volunteer yet again to rock Eva back to sleep. Before she can even get the words out I say, “She is fine and she needs to just go back to sleep. She needs to realize we’re not going to pick her up every time she whimpers, and this is getting ridiculous. It is bedtime and we’re all going to go to sleep. She can cry for a while.”
My mother tells me good idea and moves on to the bathroom, and Eva is quiet. She has turned on to her side and pulled her blankie and her sippy cup up to her chest and closed her eyes.
“I love you,” I say as I creep out and pull the door closed.
And that seems to be the end of it. Miraculously.