TCNJ Magazine Fall 2020

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12 The College of New Jersey Magazine P R A I R I E E S S A Y COURTESY OF ANDREW ERKKILA THE PLUM TREE in our backyard stabbed the sky with white blossoms. New life greenly sprouted over the earth, and coincidentally, the corona- virus outbreak arrived just in time for spring break, the week my wife, Catherine, and I designated to sleep- train our daughter, Helen. For two- and-a-half bleak years, Helen tangoed cheek-to-cheek with Catherine nightly and I'd awake to the occasional kick in the face. Catherine, newly pregnant, needed space. We decided it was time to set up "the big girl bed." Little did we know that the whole universe was about to lose sleep. Day one of sleep-training and the stay-at-home order, I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to my daughter while the neighborhood busybody blasted her new megaphone, avidly reprimanding pedestrians to social distance, from her sixth-story window. A peregrine falcon dive-bombed majestically, like the stock market a few days later, while Catherine researched sleep-training articles. Catherine, as usual, was the brains. I'd execute the plan. As an adjunct writing professor, I believed I was well suited to the task. My job largely entails repeating the same soporific instructions to freshmen to the point that most days I'm no longer sure I actually exist. Because it was my job to actively put students to sleep, I figured sleep- training my daughter would be easy. After the initial awe of her big girl So tired There's no turning in for dad as he grapples with sleep-training a toddler and a new world under lockdown. Helen Erkkila, 3, finally falls asleep.

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