Sometimes, in the middle of the night, my youngest daughter tugs me by the arm and begs me to take her back to bed. All she wants is for me to sit on her floor while she falls back asleep...
I know I shouldn’t do it. All the books would tell me that while it may help in the short-term, it’s definitely not a long-term solution. But the truth is, at 4am I couldn’t give two hoots about long-term plans. My heart thumps to the beat of one word, and one word only: sleep. (Or, to be more accurate, ‘Sleep-sleep, sleep-sleep, sleep-sleep’). So I sit on her floor. Within minutes my little one’s cheeks are flushed with sleep and I’m able to drag my weary self back to my room. Except, it’s not that easy. While she may look asleep, all it takes is one wrong movement and boom – the kid’s up like a Jack in the box. I know I could wait the ten or so minutes until she’s so deep asleep she wouldn’t hear anything. But there’s my heart, beating away (sleep-sleep, sleep-sleep, sleep-sleep). So I’ve developed an easy five-step method to help me sneak out of her room.
Words: Evelyn Lewin
Step One: The Stand and Pause
For this step you need to channel your inner meerkat. In one swift movement you need to go from sitting on the floor to standing position, silently. Once standing, pause. Don’t even think about breathing. One false move and you’re back to square one. Sneak a quick peek at your little one. If she appears undisturbed, continue on to Step Two.
Step Two: Silent Feet
Those darn clompers on the bottom of our legs can be mightily clumsy. That’s where ‘Silent Feet’ comes in. Silent Feet is performed by lightly (and I mean lightly) placing the ball of one’s foot gently on the floor. You then roll your foot slightly forward till the whole foot is now flat on the floor. The movement needs to be fluid, so as not to cause any bony creakage. Silent Feet should be used in combination with Step Three: Breath Timing.
Step Three: Breath Timing
As its name implies, this technique is all about breathing. Not your own, you duffa, but rather that of your sleeping child. When your little one takes a breath in, get ready. As soon as she exhales, make your move.
Here’s an example:
Child breathes in: Foot goes up.
Child breathes out: Silent Feet are employed, foot touching the ground with the lightness of a fairy’s wing.
Repeat until out the door.
Step Four: Eyes Forward
You know how you should never look at a magpie directly because then they might attack your eyes? Same goes for sleeping children. While they might not attack your eyes for being shiny and bright, they have some kind of radar that goes off every time they sense eyes on them coming from a vertical position. So when leaving your child’s room, whatever you do, don’t look back.
Step Five: Walk Like You’re On The Moon
You know the footage of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon? Those spaghetti arms as he lurches forward, slow motion. Those buoyant legs, as he takes those giant leaps for mankind?
That footage is actually of me, in real time, leaving my daughter’s room.
Yes, I know astronauts only walk that way because there’s no gravity in space.
But walking like you’re on the moon (not to be confused with moon-walking; I’m no Michael Jackson, after all), is a surprisingly effective way to keep your body supple and therefore squeak-free.
Okay, fine. All these manoeuvres are completely unnecessary. You could just be a real adult, lead your child back to bed, turn around in one swift movement and head back to your own haven of sleep.
But when I’m exhausted beyond all exhaustion, I’ll take the option that gets me back to bed the fastest.
What can I say? I believe in following your heart. And, at 4am, mine beats fast as a steam train to one thought, and one thought alone: sleep-sleep, sleep-sleep, sleep-sleep.
Image: Julie Adams