STOP PRESS: Child bewilders mother

by CJ

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a child must be in want of some sleep. Fortunately, since my daughter is no longer a baby, slow blinking doesn’t count as sleep. Yet despite this, there are still times when an undisturbed night is beyond my reach.

For the last few nights, for example, Poppy has cried out every two hours as if she’s being devoured by coyotes. Anxiously, I stagger into the nursery, only to find her fast asleep in her crib.

Fast asleep in a particularly boastful way, with hands under head and feet casually flexed like a 1 percent-er floating in her Malibu pool.

Confused, I stumble back to the hinterlands of sleep.

Last night, the sleep-crying started at 8 pm and Walter and I knew we were in for another bad night. We asked each other that universally futile question: “Why is our child crying?”

Just as one strives for meaning in a random universe, so us parents seek patterns from what is opaque. Thus, in riffling through my memories of Poppy’s previous sleep-crying jags, I confidently declared: there’s a disruption in her life!

Except that there isn’t. Walter’s not traveling. We don’t have house-guests. Since our home was sprayed in coyote urine, those pesky mice never came back. So what can it be?

Scanning Poppy’s life again, I landed on a potential clue. We’re approaching the end of the school year so Poppy’s peers are transitioning to new classes. It’s called “moving up” and it happens by order of age. Poppy is sweetly attached to the older kids, and I now wondered whether anyone had told her that her friends weren’t vanishing, just moving up?

Probably not. She’s only two. People don’t tell you stuff when you’re two.

Or five.

Or seven.

With a rush of clarity, I suddenly recalled how it felt to be seven and confused.

Scene: I’m in my classroom when a twitchy teacher herds us kids to a hall, makes us learn the words to a silly song, puts us into a forced march that snakes about in a circle, and commands us to clap and sing as we go. Time concertinas. I’m wearing crisp whites and my tennis shoes are stiff with starch. We’re marching in a circle on the school stage and we’re singing that silly song. A roomful of proud parents applaud. Someone takes a photo. No-one had told us that we’d been practicing for a concert. I wouldn’t have been so bewildered if I’d known.

Bingo! Poppy was similarly bewildered by this moving up business. Diagnosis complete, I resolved to clarify things in the morning.

So today, drooping tiredly into my coffee, I asked Poppy about her friends who were moving up. Her eyes caught mine, hinting at understanding.

“It doesn’t mean they’re going away, just moving to another classroom.” I explained that she’ll move up too when she’s bigger.

Poppy stared, seeming to digest this new, crucial, clarifying information. After a long pause, she replied: “You’re not wearing a hat.”


Children don’t have the monopoly on being confused it seems. Stop the presses. I need to tell someone.