The other night, as I was headed to bed, I heard a loud thump in my daughter’s room. The noise was too loud to be made by a sleeping child, so I went in to investigate. What I found, at midnight, was my 4-year-old, with all of the lights on in her room, lying in the middle of her bedroom floor flipping through a book.
“What are you doing?” I asked?
“Reading,” she answered, as if that were the most natural thing to be doing at midnight, with school the next day.
“Why aren’t you sleeping?”
She looked around her room, as if realizing for the first time that there was a bed in there, then down at her strawberry pajamas, and shook her head. “I don’t want to sleep.”
We negotiated for a few minutes on that one, but she just kept insisting that she didn’t need to sleep, so I had to get stern and order her back to bed. I lingered near the monitor until I heard the tell-tale deep breathing of a sleeping child, then went to bed myself. The next morning, predictably, she was sound asleep when it was time to get up for school. I hate rousing a sleeping child, especially one as cranky as mine is in the morning. But I got her up, convinced her to drink some milk, managed to get her dressed and out the door only a few minutes late for school. When I picked her up a few hours later, she was so tired that she insisted we head straight home, rather than spending her usual twenty minutes playing on the school front lawn with the other preschoolers.
She lounged on the couch, eyes at half-mast, while I got a few bites of lunch into her. I put her down for a nap, hoping for a cheerful evening with a well-rested child, only to hear her climb out of bed a few minutes later. I went back in, put her back to bed, amazed that a child with such dark circles under her eyes, who could barely keep her eyes open, was refusing to sleep. A few minutes later I heard her get up again. We went several rounds of this, with me putting her clearly exhausted body back into bed, and her hauling it back out again.
Now, I know (and am reminded daily) that 4-year-olds are all about exerting their ever-growing will on the world around them. But isn’t this a little ridiculous? Shouldn’t she be getting that out of her system with bossing her sister around, and be willing to sleep?