There are things I did as the mother of a toddler, that would totally have embarrassed me to admit, back when my now-all-grown-up little girl was still a toddler. It’s a little embarrassing to admit to those things even now, although she did survive. It’s more surprising that *I* survived, to tell the truth.
Ky was one of those kids that refused to sleep at night. I joke around with new mothers all the time, about how my kid is 20-years-old and hasn’t slept through the night yet. She wanted to sleep during the day, but that was mainly because she didn’t sleep at night. Ever.
We learned very quickly that if we let her have an afternoon nap, we’d be in for it come bed-time, so we put up with all the tongue-clucking and disapproving looks from other people when out in public and the kid was nodding off… and we’d poke her to wake her up. Or shake her. Or sing loudly in her face. Cruel, I know, but it kept us from killing her later when she slept for an hour or two longer.
It got to where Kyla would sneak off and hide when she wanted a nap during the day, because she knew I would wake her up if I found her sleeping. At least three times a week, for several years, this kid would up and disappear on me. In my head, I knew she was just asleep in an odd spot. In my heart, I knew she had managed to get out of the house (or someone got in) and was right this minute bound and gagged in the trunk of some nefarious monster’s car, half-way to Mexico.
I stopped using laundry baskets after it took 45 minutes to find her asleep under the dirty clothes.
I started pulling the couch out from against the wall, because it was easier to find her behind it that way. Sometimes she would crawl under the couch to sleep, but the wayward foot sticking out generally gave her away before I became hysterical.
I stopped using a stroller, because the minute we started rolling, she would be out like a light. Same thing in any car, or on the city bus. Zonked her right out.
It was worse in public, though – and she came everywhere with me – partly because I didn’t have anybody to leave her with when I ran errands, and partly because my mother always told me that the only way to teach a child how to behave in public was to take that child out in public on a regular basis. I think she was right about that – I never had to worry that Ky would “act up” in a store – just that she would fall asleep.
I remember the day I gave up trying to keep her awake during the day. It was winter, and Ky was around the age of that photo up there, so – 3 1/2? Maybe..?
I had to do a grocery run – which meant taking the bus. I generally took a cab back home, poking Kyla awake steadily all the way. Times have changed since 1998 – I could strap her in a cab at that age without a car-seat – not sure I could get away with that now.
Anyhow, I managed to keep her awake on the bus to the grocery store. I’m not sure how I did it, but I did. Things were going well. Inside the store, my child was Momma’s Little Helper – good as gold – which is how we ended up in a sticky situation later; this is all my kid’s fault for being good.
She asked for a treat or something special that we don’t usually buy. Since she was being so good, I bought it for her: shorting myself cab-fare, which I didn’t realize until Ky and I and our shopping cart full of 13 bags of groceries were outside the store.
Damn. We had to manage on the bus, which stopped about two blocks from our door. Normally, this would not be a difficult thing, but I had a 3-year-old bundled up in a snowsuit who could barely waddle in a straight line with me. And 13 bags of groceries. And the 3-year-old wanted to sleep, as soon as we got on that bus. Her head started to droop almost immediately.
I poked her. She came to, but scowled at me.
Half-way home, I had poked her several times, and shaken her once or twice for good measure, to no avail. All I managed to do was piss her off – which caused a loud yell of , “Sto-o-op!” out of her every time I tried to make her wake up. A quick and nervous glance at the other passengers’ expressions while trying to wake her made me give up altogether.
By the time the bus turned onto our street, Kyla was a limp puddle of sleeping, snoring child, slowly sliding off the seat and into the groceries.
When we came to our stop, I think all the other passengers had bets on whether or not I would manage to get all my bags along with my kid off the bus, or if I would just leave her asleep on the seat.
I hefted all 13 bags of groceries onto a bench seat and hefted Ky up into the crook of my arm. She draped herself over my shoulder and slept on.
I smooshed my left arm through the handles of half the bags, switched the kid over to that side, and caught all the handles of the rest of the bags into my right hand… I had to crab-walk my way off the bus, which I’m sure only took a couple of minutes, but it felt like hours. I was a little disappointed that the crowd didn’t break into applause when I successfully navigated us out the door without incident. I was more disappointed that not one person offered to give me a hand…
When my feet hit the sidewalk, I realized there was no way in hell I could carry both my sleeping child and 13 bags of groceries the two blocks to the house. As everybody who ever had a child knows, a sleeping toddler gains 30 pounds of weight.
Things got worse when I bent my knees to set the groceries down: Kyla fluidly slid down my body and lay like Sleeping Beauty in her snowsuit, flat on her back in the middle of the sidewalk, surrounded by 13 bags of food.
No amount of poking, shaking, singing, yelling, crying or threatening would wake her.
I’d like to say I was suddenly hit with a Eureka! idea, but I think it was probably more of the stupid idea variety. I’m also lucky that nobody saw me – or if they did, they didn’t call the authorities.
Then again, maybe I was seen, but whoever it was who saw me remembered what it was like to have a kid this age…
Anyway, this was my bright idea: I looped as many bags as I could manage along my left arm and hand – 9. I piled the 4 lightest bags onto the chest and legs of my sleeping 3-year-old, took hold of the hood of her snowsuit, and dragged her through the snow for two blocks, to our doorstep.
I loaded all 13 grocery bags onto the front porch, then dragged Kyla by the hood up the steps, through the door, down the hall and into the living room, where I left her, still asleep in her snowsuit, while I got the groceries in and put away.
When her dad got home from work that night at around 10:30, Kyla was, of course, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, two hours past her bed-time, ready to play with him.
“Did she sleep today?” he asked me, and I burst into tears.
I told him the story, and the further I got, the harder I cried, and the harder he laughed. I told him that from now on, there would be no more poking her awake; I was done with that.
From now on, there would be an “Emergency Cab Fare” envelope in the grocery money fund.
From now on, he could put the kid to bed when he got home – I was done.
He agreed to all of it.
It was about two weeks before we regretted letting that kid sleep in the afternoons… we woke up around 3 am one night, to the sound of the “Hellraiser” movie on the vcr. Turns out, my 3-year-old had been sneaking past our door after we went to sleep, and entertaining herself with all the off-limits horror movies through the long night… every night.
Hellraiser messed with her, too. It was after that night that we began the 18-month “Three in a Bed” cycle.
Yup. I was a bad mother. Poor kid. She’s lucky she survived.
I’m lucky I’m not in jail.
Random Song-for-the-Day: “Come With Me Now” – Kongos