Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mother’s little helper

Ever since B began fifth grade, his bedtime has crept later and later.
I’d want him in bed by 9 p.m., but he’d not fall asleep until 10:30 p.m. on a school night.
Short of taping his eyelids down, this isn’t much a parent can do, when it comes down to it, to physically demand a child fall asleep — “NOW!”
So I asked my son’s friend’s mother for advice.
To my surprise, she had been going through the same rigamarole — the yelling, stomping of the feet, ect.
Her friend had recommended melatonin for her son.
He would take a 1 milligram pill at 8 p.m. and be in bed by 9 p.m., where previously he’d stay up until 11 p.m., midnight or later. Then, like my son, be unable to wake up in the morning despite repeated urging by his mother. He’d be late for school, she’d be late for work, and they both were screamed out and exhausted.
A mirror image of my life.
I checked on the Web, surfing for information on Google, “melatonin and children.”
What I found didn’t make me feel confident enough to self-prescribe it for B.
So I bought a homeopathic sleep aid — Hyland’s Insomnia, which says the child dose is half that for an adult.
I gave B a pill that night at 8 p.m. “Blech!” he screamed. “This is disgusting!” And promptly spit it out.
So much for “stimulating your body’s natural healing response to relieve symptoms without sedative hangover.”
B fell asleep at 10:30 p.m. that night. Was late to school for the 23rd time that next morning.
It was time to bring in the big guns.
I called the pediatrician, who recommended the same 1 mg dose for B.
This won’t work, I thought. It will taste gross, or B won’t be able to swallow it (visions of clamping dogs’ jaws shut to facilitate canine vitamin swallowing of the past danced in my head, followed by said child throwing up miracle melatonin), or some other unforseen act is sure to result.
I gave B half a 3 mg pill. “It’s too big!” he said about the pill the size of half a pencil eraser.
I cut it in half again. “Now you have two to swallow.”
Hoping it would work, I said, “Drink a little water, make sure your mouth is wet. Put the pill on your tongue and take a small gulp of water, then put your head back and swallow the whole thing like it’s a piece of pizza.”
It worked.
“Now do it for the second one.”
Again, success.
Now the waiting. I set a bedtime that wouldn’t be too protested. “9:30 p.m., B., I want you under the covers asleep at 9:30.”
No protest. I went into the other room to watch TV.
9:25 p.m. I hear the TV shut off in the other room and B begin to shuffle toward his bed, blanket around his shoulders.
“Good night,” I said, waiting for yelps of refusal.
“’Nite, Mom,” B said, and fell immediately asleep.
The next morning, he woke up at 7 a.m.
That was three nights ago, and every evening has progressed the exact same. B is fast asleep by 9:30 p.m.
Dare I say it? I kid hurtle crossed, 999,999 to go.

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