We have a little girl, C, staying with us overnight tonight; she's a friend of N's from religious school whose mom's been quite ill and just got out of the hospital today. Things have been pretty chaotic for this kid, who is not yet 8 years old. They've been pretty chaotic for her family, too. So I offered to have her over, make it a sleepover, and take her to religious school in the morning, in the hopes that it would make things easier for her parents, who I like a whole lot. They were thrilled with the idea.
Em and her friend J wanted to have a sleepover, too, and I asked them to do it here, in order to help me out with C. (J, it should be noted, is one of Em's best friends, lives down the block, and has slept here--and Em there--approximately 60 million times. It's relevant. Hang on.) And thank god they said yes, because C really needed that Big Girl attention tonight. With all the shuttling around and running to and from hospitals and fears about her mom...well, you can imagine.
Everything went incredibly smoothly until bedtime. (Everything almost always goes incredibly smoothly until bedtime. Bedtime always screws things up.) Although C normally goes to bed at 8, my kids stay up later; N's normal bedtime is 9:30, and tonight they didn't get all settled down in Em's room (N on Em's bed; Em, J, and C on the floor) until 10. N fell asleep immediately, but C just couldn't get comfortable. She needed water; she needed a different blanket. She needed to sleep on the bed with N; she needed to sleep at the other end of the bed; she needed to sleep in N's bed in the other room by herself; she needed Em to come sleep with her in there. It went on and on.
Finally, I found an arrangement that I thought would work (though it involved waking N and having him sleep alone in his room, which provoked torrents of tears from him and not a whole lot of sympathy from me in the moment, though in retrospect I feel badly for him, cast out of the Room o' Girls and Fun). But C, who now had Em's bed to herself, with Em and J on the floor to keep her company, was still restless and jabbering and asking for things. I was in N's room trying to calm him down, so I couldn't come to their rescue right away.
Suddenly, from my spot laying down with N on his bed, I hear J say, "You know, C, one of the first times I slept over here, I couldn't fall asleep either. I was really scared or sad about something, and I wanted to go home. But it was really late, like it is now, and TC didn't want to wake up my parents..."
I remember that night. It was at least five years ago, but I remember it. I listen as she goes on.
"Em was asleep, so TC sat next to me and whispered to me. She said that whenever Em was having a hard time falling asleep, she would give her a sort of 'task' to do, like making a list of her favorite colors, or deciding who she would invite to her birthday party if it was next week. And it would take her mind off of not being able to sleep, and the next thing Em knew, she'd be asleep."
I remember that, too. N is one of the World's Greatest Sleepers, so it's not something I've had to do in years and years, but I remember doing it with Em, and yes, once or twice with J. Apparently, so does J.
"So she gave me a task that night. She told me to make up the best ice-cream sundae in the world--decide what flavors of ice-cream it would have, what toppings, that kind of thing. And it totally worked."
I was grinning now. I definitely don't remember the specifics; J might be making that up, for all I know. But I like it; it's a good task.
"So now I'm going to give you a task," J continued. "I want you to decide, if you owned a carnival, what kinds of rides would it have, and what would they look like?"
C was quiet for less than a minute. "Can I do the ice-cream?" she asked finally. "I like ice-cream a lot."
"Sure," said J. I could pretty much hear her smiling.
I wish I could tell you that it worked, and that C was asleep within minutes. Not so much. But when I went into the room to try one last tactic (turned out, "I think I'll just call your dad and tell him I'm going to bring you home since you can't sleep," said in a very kind, very sympathetic voice was what did the trick; she didn't really want to go home...she just wanted to stay up and have people fuss over her...and once the jig was up, she was out like a light within five minutes) I stopped and gave J a hug. "I heard you talking to C. I can't believe you remember that," I said.
"Oh, sure," she replied. "I've used it on myself lots of times since that night."
I've had lots of cruddy parenting moments in my life, and I'll have lots more, I'm sure. But to have had even that little creative impact on a kid not my own...and to see her already passing it on to the not-quite-next generation?
I love it. I totally love it.