Last night Cameron and I journeyed back to his river when he had troubles sleeping. I’d avoided it for a while, as I wanted this thought exercise to be a going-to-sleep thing, to teach him how to calm himself down, but he wanted to hear about his river all day, all the time. He’d get excited and start jumping up and down. Totally opposite effect than what I was aiming for. But last night after tossing and turning in his crib, he asked me in a very small and sad voice to tell him about the river. This, the time when sleep is elusive but he’s tired and needs it, is when I’d love for him to be able to ‘find’ his river, or whatever calming scenario helps him.
As an aside, I do want him to revel in his imagination, to be able to conjure up whatever fanciful land he wishes just simply by thinking about it, and to be excited about it. And I encourage it. But the river is special.
As soon as I said, “Okay,” he snuggled down into his pillows, and nestled his face against Bunny. “You’re sitting by a river, Cameron,” I started with, arranging his puff over him, gently letting my hand rest on his back for a bit. I asked a few quiet questions – is it windy (yeah), is the sun warm (yeah), is the water in the river going by quickly or slowly (fast, mommy!) and then began to tell a ‘story’. Just describing an imaginary river, and what it would be like to be sitting next to it, focusing on not just what he could see but also hear and feel. I talked in a whisper, about the birds in the bushes with the wind rustling the leaves softly all around them. I talked about the rushing sound of the water as it sparkled in the sunshine, flowing over rocks. I talked about the warmth of the setting sun on his face. I named some animals he could see and hear, playing nearby.
Then I asked him to look at the sky – see how it’s getting pink and red around where the sun is setting? See how the stars are coming out? I described the animals around him as they settled down to sleep for the night, the chirping of crickets, the wind in his hair. How still it became, when all the animals were asleep and the wind became just a breeze …
… but he could still hear the river rushing past.
He was asleep. In all, it was maybe five minutes of quiet talking, slowly, matching the rhythm of his breath, with a few soft shhhhhhs added in if I saw his eyes starting to open.
As I’ve been writing tonight, Cameron’s been settling himself down to sleep. I’ve heard him say night night to birds and a zebra, say that the sun is going down … and the last bit was a clear but sleepy, “I hear river Mommy. Shhhhhh.”
Now it’s time for me to head to bed. It was one of those days where I felt like I was having troubles waking up … all day long. So I need an early night. I don’t think I’ll need my own river trip tonight!