Here's how I handle my babies when they're no longer babies, but I still want them to be babies:
It's naptime. No -- actually it's far past naptime. Lauren has been in her bed for over an hour, squealing and giggling about God knows what. Then, alternatively, wailing and whining about God knows what. I'm frazzled by her lack of silence. I need the silence in the middle of the day to counterbalance the constant noises of morning and afternoon.
I've given her strict upbraidings: Lauren! Be Quiet! It's sleep-time! I've given her calm instruction: Lauren, it's time to sleep, close your eyes and shhhhh.... I've torn at my hair as the minutes passed, not happy about the nightmare of an afternoon we'd be having if she didn't give in and go to sleep. I've refused to pick up the pillow and blankies and blanket and lambie she's tossed across the room. And I'm lost.
What can I do? If she won't calm down and sleep, I can't do anything about it. She's not a baby anymore, I can't just hold her and rock her until she drifts away, lips parted, eyes twitching, hands clutching at my shirt.
Can I? Listening to her full-out cry at the injustice of being trapped in her bed, I make a decision.
Quietly, I enter her room, closing the door behind me. She stops her rant, and looks at me in confusion: is it time to get up? Will she get her pillow back? But instead, I reach into her crib,where she's sprawled cross-wise, feet up on the railings (the better to kick her anger away). I draw her up in my arms, and carry her to the pile of bedding. I pick out a blankie and lambie and step over to the rocking chair, lowering us down into its pink cushions. I lay Lauren's tear-streaked face on my shoulder, tuck her arms around my abdomen, fold her legs across my lap, and hold her.
She lifts her eyes up to see what this means -- this holding during the middle of naptime? -- and I kiss her nose before drawing her head back down. She adjusts her arms: both in front -- one on either side -- both in front again. She taps her toes against my calf, pushing and shifting. I fear she won't settle down, but she's quiet, so I keep still. She picks up her lambie, kisses it on the nose, and brings it to my face. I pretend to be sleeping -- like she'll see my closed eyes and say 'Oh! That's how you do it.' before immediately closing her own -- while she makes her lambie kiss my eyes. She makes her kiss noises just like my Grandpa used to: with a little pop-cluck of the tongue at the end. Each of my eyes are kiss-pop-clucked, and then she snuggles lambie back into the crook of her elbow.
One minute later, she's very still.
Two minutes later, she's very quiet.
Three minutes later, she twitches involuntarily.
Four minutes later, her breathing is smooth and steady.
Five minutes later, she gives a quiet snore.
I tilt her back into my arms and s l o w l y lift us up from the chair. She mumbles a startled syllable before curling into a more comfortable position, and I lay her in her pillowless bed. I cover her with a corner of her blankie, and back away from my sleeping daughter.
Just like when she was a baby.
I swear, for just a minute there (around the heavy, steady breathing, I think), instead of a talkative, leggy toddler, she was a baby again.
But just for a minute.