Monday, January 03, 2011

Sweet spot

When Fred was a baby a friend told us of a magic trick. She said apparently if you stroke a gentle fingertip down from between their eyebrows to their tip of their nose it induces sleep as their eyes drift closed. It didn't work for her newborn but lo and behold, it worked for Fred. It wasn't foolproof, and as she got older and resisted sleep with every fibre of her being, it fell into disuse. Instead we would lie with her and recite the times table, often getting up to twelve before she would finally submit. It seems bizarre now, the lengths we went to, when at seven she is entirely sleep independent.

With Una, we were dismayed to find the old trick was ineffective: her eyes would spring open, wider and wider with every stroke (and if anything she was better left to her own devices). But on those rare restless days, we somehow discovered for her it was a matter of starting from her temple and tracing down her cheekbone.

'Show me,' she demands now, as we tell her this in yet another session of family mythmaking, which is daily since Avery arrived. Martin shows her and though she is wide awake, her eyelids flutter, her eyes inadvertantly roll back and for a moment we see those sleepy whites, some residual body memory has kicked in, more primal and more powerful than her cognisant one.

For Avery, who sleeps well but cries more than the others, it is a flat firm stroke of the forehead, my hand almost covering his downy head. In the time it takes the string of his musical elephant to retract, he will fall into sleep. He might wake and fuss, but a few steady applications of this ritual and he will eventually fall deep into a proper, lasting sleep.


  1. oh, i could have used that today!!! babysat a pre-adoption 11 week old... pardon me while i go and scream!!!

  2. The down the nose one still makes my 12 year old drowsy :-)

  3. I used to do that with Joseph, chanting "go to sleep wombat".

    I saw a woman on a cooking programme hypnotising lobster the same way, then once they're doped out, throwing them into a pot.

    Not sure that's a good anaology!