For the last three nights in a row, Nine has had night terrors. She's always been a sleepwalker and a sleeptalker and a sleepcryer, and rumor has it, she gets it from me. And for the last three nights, it's been all angst and tears, panic and worry. She sits up, eyes wide open, red and teary...fast asleep. And she cries out about her sister, or about "There's no more A's at swim team" or "Will you go first, Mommy?" or "I just can't fall asleep" and she's very upset about it all.
Usually it's her body telling her it's time to get up and have a quick pee, but she's so exhausted from school and swimming and ballet and whatever else she's had up her sleeve that day, that while her body wakes, her mind can't actually come around with it. So she ends up in this weird halfway place of body in/mind out. She's walking and talking, but making no sense because she's speaking her dream, which is goofy and Nine-ish.
The interesting thing about the last couple of nights is that our usual tactics haven't soothed her. The traveling husband likes to try to wake her up, because seeing his beautiful girl in a freaky state is all too much for him, so he talks to her like she's awake, in a loud voice to startle her and bring her around, and sometimes she talks back to him. Sometimes she talks about the chicken and points to the wall, but he keeps trying. I usually just carefully guide her back to bed, rub her back and tell her she's safe and sound. Look Nine, there's the puppy, see? Look, there's Seven, sleeping in the bed right next to you. Here, baby, here's your lovey, lie down and go back to sleep.
But over the past couple of nights, those things didn't work, and I ended up in her room a handful of times, trying to get her to just lay back down and get some much needed rest.
You know what did do the trick, instantly? I laid down next to her. And that darling, sleepy girl, with her eyelashes to the moon and heartstrings to my soul, laid her soft cheek against my shoulder, and fell fast asleep, deep and peaceful, resting and quiet again.
As I laid there with her I realized something. Something other than the fact that a doggie pillow pet is nowhere near big enough for two people to share.
I realized that Nine spends much of her waking hours trying to convince me and herself and anyone else that will listen that she doesn't need me, and that she's independent and responsible and ready to get her ears pierced and go to sleep away camp, MOM. She gives me her cheek so I can kiss Her Highness there, rather than on the lips which is so EMBARRASSING before she scampers off to third grade. She rolls her eyes when I call her for the fourth time for dinner and she presses me to waiiiiiiiiiit, when by God I've already waited 15 minutes for her to stop loving up the dog and get her shoes on so we can hurry to school or hurry to ballet or hurry to her play date or hurry hurry hurry rush rush rush until bedtime.
And then, it turns out, she spends some quality subconscious hours literally crying out for the time she missed being wrapped up in my arms, breathing with me, and melting back into my body as best as she can, what with her being Nine and independent and responsible and all.
I will take it. All of it. I will take the pushing away in the waking hours because it shows me she's trying to build herself up brick by brick and I am amazed by the process. And I will take those quiet moments with her in my arms, because I know this time will pass. And one day I'll ache to hold her while she sleeps but she'll be away at college or married or trying to get her own baby to fall asleep.
I spend a lot of my time feeling like I don't have the right answers or the right tools or enough time or enough energy, but you know what I felt these past couple nights? Magic. Maternal magic, I like to call it. She needed peaceful sleep and I gave it to her. Me. I did it.
She has no idea, but by folding her into my body as she slept, I made her whole.
And she has no idea, but she does the same thing for me, every time I look at her.