Finding the Center

“Mommy,” LittleMan said as we walked hand-in-hand from his school building the other day, rush hour traffic swirling all around, “I am just letting you know that I am going to be quiet for a few minutes now, because I’m feeling sort of tired.  Quiet means you don’t talk.  Then when we get where we’re going, I’ll feel refreshed.”

“That sounds nice,” I agreed.  “I’ll be quiet for a few minutes too.”

So we walked, and quietly watched the world trying to get home, by foot or bus or train or car, while the Bay Bridge traffic mounted and the Giants fans plowed towards the ballpark and the 5 o’clock news helicopters assumed their spots over the highway.  And LittleMan was quiet, very briefly, until he launched into a long musing about where all these people are trying to go, and maybe they’re going home, but maybe they’re actually trying to get to the movies or a friend’s house or something.  Yeah.

We are working on finding our inner peace these days.

LittleMan has never been still a day in his life, a fact which stymies me to no end.  His body is like a live wire, his brain like a computer on overload, with a spinning rainbow wheel but no “force close” button.  This intensity drives his little personality in so many fascinating and thrilling ways, but it has also driven me, crying, to no fewer than two pediatricians and a behavioral specialist.  This kid needs to slow down.  Mommy needs a frickin’ rest.

You may recall that a couple of years ago we had to make the difficult decision to install a toddler lock on LittleMan’s door, effectively trapping him in his room every night.  The barbarism of this act has haunted me off and on ever since — even though I absolutely know it was the right thing to do, for his personal safety if nothing else.  But as LittleMan’s fourth birthday approached my husband and I acknowledged that the time had come to take off the lock and (finally) force him to cope with the freedom and learn how to quiet his body down.

Timing is everything, however.  The first several weeks of Pre-K, where they encourage the children to sleep through the midday (no! no!) established a vicious cycle where LittleMan would power nap at school, stay up until the horrifying hour of 11pm at night, wake at 5:30am with Babygirl, and then do it all again.  Every night devolved into frenetic game of chase from the livingroom to the bedroom and back.  The trusty lock was gone.  Weekends were hellish with exhaustion.  Our marriage stumbled, suddenly void of any downtime or rest.  We were, in a word, consumed.

I wandered weepily into the school one Thursday afternoon, emotionally drained and already tensed for the bedtime battle to come, and tentatively asked if there was some way — any way, or I literally might not survive the week — for LittleMan to Skip. The. Nap.  It was, I insisted, the only way to save bedtime.

Surprisingly, the teachers said yes.  More than that: the teachers have a system.  They’ve seen kids like LittleMan before — kids who are not, as I have quietly feared from time to time, sociopaths or schizophrenics.  We are not the first.

And so, in keeping with the naptime protocol, the wise teacher now sits with LittleMan while the other children rest.  He does not have to sleep, and she won’t soothe him — this is their deal, about which my little insomniac is most enthusiastic — but in return he has to hold his body still for 10 minutes at a time, after which he is rewarded with a book, or a whispered tete-a-tete with his favorite teacher.

10 minutes of shavasana.

10 minutes, out of a whole day.

It’s working.

LittleMan climbs into bed now at 7:45 and holds his body still.  If he is so inclined, he closes his eyes.  One of us sits on the floor next to him, a gentle hand on his back, and within minutes, he sleeps.

We are not yet ready to leave him alone — that is the next phase of the training, I suspect — but the Night Watchman is gone.  Wax on, wax off.

I thought that peace was not something you could teach.  I thought that LittleMan was sort of doomed to live out his fidgety, overexcited existence, forever a little blue under the eyes from fatigue.  I thought that we were doomed to live it with him.  But I was wrong.  Hallelujah.  I was wrong.

Leave a Comment