If you left a toddler for a weekend, would he ever fall asleep?

A few years ago, around when Jay started to walk, I wondered: If we left him alone in our apartment, would he ever fall asleep? His manic attentiveness made it seem unlikely, and I pictured him like a rat in one of those cruel experiments, which stimulates itself until it simply just drops from exhaustion.

We never ran that experiment with Jay but Wally has been participating in a modified form of it for the last week. I mentioned in their birthday post that Wally started climbing out of his crib and has since been moved to a bed. But he’s not actually ready to handle the responsibility that comes with sleeping outside of a cage. So, we’ve taken the sharp objects out of his room in Maine (my childhood bedroom), put blankets and pillows around his bed, and after his last lullaby, we close the door. It’s not actually that simple (there’s some crying, and multiple trips in and out of the room) but the point is, eventually he bows to his confinement and starts playing or rolling around or doing whatever it is he does when left alone in a room. And eventually, sometimes hours later, he falls asleep. Like he did tonight. And it wasn’t in the bed.

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Dressing Jay, asleep

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Jay went to bed last night with no pants and just before Caroline and I turned out the lights, I went into his room to put them on. This type of thing always makes me nervous. It seems impossible to dress a person without waking him up, even though I know from experience that nothing short of a bulldozer on his bed will rouse Jay once he goes down.

He was lying on his side so I had to turn him to his back. I put my hands on his shoulders and his eyes flicked open. He looked at me and I froze for a moment. Then his eyes closed again and I went on. I shimmied his pants up one leg, then the other, and as I worked I couldn’t tell if he was awake or not. The way he straightened his feet made me think that Jay was trying to help me get him dressed, but it was a subtle move so I couldn’t say for sure (and plus, helping me get him dressed isn’t Jay’s thing). But then I moved to pull the waist of his pants up and over the bulk of his nighttime diaper, and Jay made it clear he was complying. He arched his back, lifted his bum off the mattress. Once the pants were on I kissed him on the forehead. He rolled back onto his side, and was still.

The way kids sleep is maybe the best indication that they’re different from us. I wake up when a truck rumbles by while Jay sleeps at depth (though Wally, less so). Usually I attribute this to biology, that there’s just something different about adult brains and bodies which doesn’t let us sleep as well. And I’m sure that’s a large part of it.

But dressing Jay last night made me think that there’s something else at work, too. It was how he looked at me when his eyes flicked open, and the unquestioning way he moved his body to help me get his pajama pants on. If someone were to come to you in the middle of the night- even the person you trust most in the world- you’d enliven a little to wonder why they were there. With Jay, though, I want to think that there was not even a murmur of a thought to question my presence when I appeared to him between his dreams.

And also, birthdays!

The other big events of the last month were birthdays. Jay turned four and got a balance bike. Wally turned two, started climbing out of his crib, and graduated to a big bed.

And speaking of the two of them, for the first time they go to daycare together. Jay has cried hard most mornings we’ve dropped him off, while Wally has gone more easily. As a result, Wally has become something of a security blanket for Jay. He keeps close to his little brother when we leave in the morning and, we’re told, stops by his classroom for a visit after lunch most days. The fact that it’s the little one comforting the big one instead of the other way around accentuates their blood ties in a satisfying way.

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