When we moved to Madrid Street, Dylan had a tough time sleeping alone. While we stayed together at her parents' place, Becky and I read to him, then we'd turn the lights out and settle in to his bed. When Dylan fell asleep, Becky and I would leave. He had curled up with Becky and I a few times in the middle of the night, but I didn't know it was a "thing."
In Dylan's mind, the three of us slept together the whole night. Waking up alone was disorienting and frightening, so he'd come down the hall and cuddle with us. Until we shared our own roof, I didn't realize those nights Becky and I spent alone were nights Dylan slept straight through. Getting used to the new place must have been difficult for Dylan; he joined us every night.
I couldn't sleep.
He's squirmy and kicky , but that's only part of it. I'm used to the feel, sounds, and smells of a woman in my bed, but a six-year-old was a different kettle of fish. His presence felt strange. Time would change that, but I also had silly concerns which I didn't know were silly, like. . . what if I rolled over and crushed him? What if I popped a woody and he noticed? Was seeing his petite little mom sleeping with this two-hundred pound lummox scarring his psyche? Laying awake and worrying sucked most of the night away. I'd be forced to my old day bed to catch a few quick hours before it was time to get up and write.
I decided Dylan was old enough to sleep alone, and Becky agreed.
Rather than ask my own parents, or my siblings with grown children of their own, for advice, I Googled to see what had worked for a bunch of strangers. Maybe that's just a symptom of modern living. Maybe I'm embarrassed over my lack of knowledge, or for getting such a late start relative to my relatives (even though I'm sure my family would be thrilled to help). Anyway, I emailed a list of techniques and suggestions to Becky.
That night at dinner (one of Becky's strengths is that she doesn't talk or plan something to death; once she decides, she acts) Becky told Dylan he'd better spend the whole night in his own bed, otherwise the Sleep Fairy wouldn't visit him.
The Sleep Fairy barely merited mention in the stuff I sent to Becky. Truthfully, I thought the idea was lame, but I wanted to be thorough. Becky, however, knows what works.
Dylan's eyes grew wide.
"What's the Sleep Fairy?"
Becky explained that the Sleep Fairy visits houses and leaves little gifts for children who spend the whole night in their own bed. That night, after being tucked in, Dylan suddenly sat upright.
"I love you, Sleep Fairy!" he called. "I believe in you!"
He's slept on his own ever since, and all it costs me is some Star Wars miniatures I had when I was a kid. As Becky says, parenting is bribery and broken promises.
Google promised the Sleep Fairy would gradually fade from our lives as Dylan no longer needs her, which is true. Google didn't mention that she was married to Santa Claus ("What about Mrs. Claus, Dylan?" "Mrs. Claus is the Sleep Fairy." Duh.), or that she would morph into the Finish Your Dinner Fairy, or the Don't Have an Accident in Your Pants Fairy. When Dylan refused to eat, or "forgot" to use the toilet, the Sleep Fairy got a note and Dylan got nothing.
But lately Dylan seems to have forgotten the Sleep Fairy. He's finished his dinners, kept his underwear clean, and managed to listen just enough to keep Becky and I from blowing up. I've left a one-inch die-cast metal Han Solo and a Luke Skywalker in the usual place, and they've gone untouched.
Thursday night, looking at broiled chicken with a side of corn risotto, Dylan wanted to know what he would "get" if he finished his dinner. How about good nutrition? How about you don't get sent to bed? How about Becky and I don't get upset with you, and we enjoy a nice evening together? That meant nothing to him.
I suppose we could blame ourselves, but I'd rather blame that stupid Sleep Fairy.