I've never been good at falling asleep. My brain doesn't seem to have an off switch. This has been a problem for my whole life. As a baby, my parents certainly sang to me, and dealt with a restless kid. One of my father's favorite tales is of when I was three, I was swatted on the butt and returned to bed 11 times. Or maybe it was 17 times. Or 27 times. Depends on how he tells the story.
Regardless, clearly I didn't want to sleep. My brain didn't shut off. My 2 year-old is having the same issue. We read, we sing, we wind-down. Then she lays on her bed dutifully, and she said "Mama, pat me." She twirls her hair so hard that it makes massive knots, trying to mellow herself out. I pat, and wait. I leave, she gets out of bed. I stay, she shares what is on her mind. I sing, she joins in. I tell a story, there is never one long-enough. There are usually not too many tears, just no sleep.
As I struggle with my frustration of my daughter's battle with sleep, I see myself in her. Her mind is going at a crazy speed and she cannot turn it off.
As far as I can reminder, I had some distraction to help me sleep. The very cool purple boombox when I was just a little kid. The Walkman for the in-between years. The sophisticated stereo system as a teenager (it was the only off-white one I've ever seen). Journals were filled with my thoughts starting in my middle-schools years, I would write for hours on end, until my brain had nothing more to say. At least for a few hours.
If I was too tired to write physically, I would write in my head. I scripted stories of romantic love, friendships, heroic feats. Sometimes the stories had strong-willed princesses who ruled their world with confidence and put the boys in their places. Sometimes the stories had detectives that found out the most complicated mystery, always a female heroine. Sometimes the stories had complicated love triangles (with gasp, sex), broken hearts, and tears.
The stories took me hours to invent. I would attempt to fall asleep at a reasonable time, and watch as the minutes clicked away and it was 1:00 or 2:00am, when the heroine in my head finally succumbed to her own exhaustion. If it was a particularly good story, it was continued the next night. Some of them lasted weeks.
Ah, the wasted creativity! I was young, and I didn't need that much sleep.
Then one day in my mid-20's something awful happened to that creative mind. A television was placed in my bedroom... and then it became my necessary crutch to sleep. "Law and Order" has been my show of choice to crash out to. And I don't watch it - I just listen and let my brain settle. I usually fall asleep quickly, pure exhaustion.
It is when I re-wake about 4:00am (either with help from my own body or my little one) that I cannot fall asleep again...
I suffer through all that happened in the day, making lists and lists of what needs to be done in the next day, replaying conversations and prepping future. Loving people, trying to make their lives better, dreaming of simpler moments. Writing lyrics, wishing for silence in my head.
I'm trying to write those stories in my head again, struggling to put my current sleeplessness to use. And hoping that my daughter will be better at it than I am.