The Wet Nap

Nothing is as pacifying and promising to me as holding a baby. The world spins wildly around us both, yet as I cup my hand behind her head and draw her body in as close to mine as I can, the earth and time stop. Everything gets so quiet, except out heartbeats. The only importance is simply holding that baby. You've got the whole world in your hands. To raise them past this one minute, or forever, is incomprehensible. Just this privileged moment is all that matters.


I have twin nieces, now aged eighteen. Watching them grow has been a pleasure -- I get to see their parts turn into sums. We've all seen a baby take it's first steps or form their first opinion; but it's so rich to feel them do it, in your heart. They don't even know, or need to, that seeing them make a face when eating a sour apple thrills you, or that you tiptoe into their room late at night, holding your face close to theirs, just to make sure that they're still breathing.

When you put a child down for a nap and they're quiet, your hope is that they asleep quickly. Twins are built-in company for each other, making the theoretically solitary nap harder to accomplish. When my nieces shared a room as babies, their cribs were placed far apart. Put down to sleep for the night, or their nap, it often took awhile for them to quiet down.

I feel a crib offers some physical nap security. I could place them inside this barred cocoon, way down deep, as if I were hiding a treasure and it was safe from danger. Darkening the room assures further camouflage and I placed light blankets over their precious bodies like a layer of leaves over a stash of gold coins.

Ever wonder how parents know when a child is ready to transition from their crib to a bed? 

1. Put them down for a nap.
2. Leave room.
3. Hear no noise and at first, sigh confidently that they are napping.
4. Remember that there are two of them, panic, and open door to check.
5. Laugh when you see that they are now in the same crib.
6. Wipe the smile off your face -- how did one climb down and get in the others crib?
7. Put back in their respective cribs with a stern, Stay put. Emphasize with a finger point at each.
8. Go read a book. Put your book down after ten minutes of maddening silence. Open bedroom door, discover one twin out of her crib, wearing five pairs of pants and three hats. Notice lamp overturned, curtains pulled down from rod, clothes out of dressers and now on floor.  See twins smiling proudly.
9. Close the door, leave them alone, and go take a nap.
10. Wake up refreshed and buy big girl beds.

Taking care of them one afternoon, as I put them down in these new beds for a cage-free nap, I felt uneasy. These beds had no rails. They were just open to the world. The twins were independent and my mind easily raced to a vision of  them sitting up in bed, suddenly teenagers, reaching out, not to me, but to an imaginary steering wheel, and them driving to meet me for lunch. They grow up so fast.

I closed their door, extra quietly and kept tiptoeing away, far too far for them to hear my soft footsteps. I lasted about fifteen minutes, a new record. To congratulate myself on my checking-in-on-them restraint, I checked in on them. I was shocked to see that the door to their bathroom was open. I heard water. I checked to see that the twins were alright. Thankfully asleep. I rushed past them, and into their bathroom to discover water rushing out of the tub faucet, up and over the tub, and out onto the floor. Rolls of spare toilet paper were bobbing about in the overflowing tub's water like huge marshmallows in hot chocolate.

I turned the (thankfully) cold water off and raced out to the twins beds. The first was asleep, safe and dry. The other was dripping wet and not asleep -- but under the covers. I pulled her covers back. Her clothed body was soaking wet. Holding her away from my body like a husband holding his wife's purse, I quickly took her out of the room before her sister woke up. I needed to change her and begin what was to be an hour of strong lectures about water safety, danger and being responsible.

Wet clothes are hard to get off. They stick to your skin, like truth. I gently pulled each drenched layer off and uttered a frustrated accusation to her about getting out of bed and turning on the water. This was dangerous and who knows what might have happened if they fell in. Her shirt cleared her head, and revealed her smiling face, one of an innocent, delighted child. She pointed in the direction of her bedroom, and her sister "She did it," she said.

She couldn't talk much but she knew her sister's name as well as how to ask me to spin her around one more time. She'd hold one tiny finger up near her mouth and say time. I'd melt, and spin her one more, two more, seventeen more times. But not today. This was serious and she needed to learn the danger of water, the power of truth and the important life lesson of accepting responsibility for her actions.

I had a frank, man-to-tot discussion with her as I rubbed a dry towel on her wet blond hair. She has always been very smart and I knew she understood me as she sat on my lap, staring up at me with her impossibly blue, round Cindy Loo Hoo eyes, listening to every word, surely grateful not to be napping. Every time I paused, she'd repeat, "My sister did it."

"Listen," I countered, "it doesn't look good for you. You're sitting here, soaking wet. And your sister is fast asleep in her bed. Which is where you should be."

When I felt she understood, I carried her back to her bed, placed her in, and gave her my best-ever finger pointing stay put, emphasized with an I mean it young lady and threw in the classic, or no dessert. I passed by her saintly sister, sweetly sleeping with her head to one side. Even napping, she was wearing a restrained version of her famous smile. I reached down to push her curls away from her face, purely for my benefit. Her pillow was wet. I reached under her covers and felt her Gap onesie. Sopping wet. Her eyes popped open like an uprighted doll.

"Did you turn on the water? I asked.

Her grin betrayed her before she spoke her confession. "I did it," she said.

She was delighted and proud, maybe from her tiny-handed faucet-handling dexterity, maybe from her ability to pull a fast one. Both were extraordinary and the latter a strong foreshadow to her later interest in acting.

All I could think about as I dried her off, was her sister, now dry and peacefully sleeping, probably exhausted from pleading her innocence against my insistent and wrongful accusations of her role in the tub crime.

I only had them for the afternoon and later debriefed their mother of the caper. She is a woman of thought, wisdom and patience, obviously great and important components of parenthood. She also possesses one of the most endearing and unique qualities of anyone I've ever known. Whenever I see her -- no matter what she might have been thinking about or occupied with before -- when I walk in the room and our eyes meet, she smiles. Before anything else. That tiny automatic second, that little curve of her mouth, is more than calming. Everyone should download that reflex.

I voiced my concern about water safety and how one blamed her sister and how I thought it a defensive deception. It wasn't possible for one to blame the other, she explained, teaching me a valuable truth which came naturally to their mother. "Children don't know how to lie, they have to learn that," she told me. 

They grew from toddlers to teens in a beautifully orchestrated flash. When they were about seven or eight, as I rocked them to sleep, I paused and asked them to never get too big to hold. They promised they wouldn't.

Thankfully, they never learned to lie.

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