Claire does this thing where she genuflects kisses on my face. Minus the religion. It's a ritual for her most days when I drop her off at school. She kisses my forehead, cheek, cheek, chin. (Though I know that if this were truly genuflection, it would be forehead, chin, cheek, cheek. Whatever.)
I've realized something about her. She's just like me. Not in every way. But in her need to stay occupied until the moment she falls asleep, lest disturbing thoughts swirl around her brain in an endless helix.
I finally caught on last night, our first bedtime in San Diego, where we're spending the kids' winter break. She muttered from her sleeping bag that she needed something to do. That a dark room next to a slumbering brother would not stand. She whimpered for a while, then started to cry in earnest. At first I was annoyed. After a day of traveling, I just wanted to lie there in a stupor. But it soon become clear she was seriously distressed. I brought her into bed with me and tucked her under my arm. We slept that way for a few hours, until she inevitably turned into the thrashing octopus that emerges around 1 or 2 a.m.
I woke J. to move her to her sleeping bag.
At home, Claire is always up late, rearranging her bedroom, tucking dolls under blankets, playing until she's so exhausted she conks out. I didn't understand until last night, though, that she needs to. That her rearranging and playing is tantamount to my reading before sleep. It's a defense mechanism to ward off the figurative monsters. Or, as she puts it, the "bad thinkings".
She's so open and lively and imaginative during the day that I sometimes forget what those same qualities can do to a person alone with their thoughts in the dark. A small, unmedicated person to whom everything seems wondrous, but also big and scary.