I am flattered when people who know me say that I must be an incredible father. From my wife's perspective, little do they know how true that is, in a way…
Our clan of four came to a critical juncture recently when my wife, Susan, and I, acknowledged that the time had come for the sweet era of the family bed to end. Actually, it was the family bed room. Jillian, at five years old, had her own bed, which she slept in (most of the time) between our double bed and the wall. She is a night thrasher, and the rest of us sleep a lot better if she's not kicking and pummeling us all night long. Being wedged between the wall and another bed is also a safe place for her to be, so as not to continually end up on the floor. She likely inherited this nocturnal predisposition from her father, who regularly fell out of bed when he was a tyke, or so I've been told. The most dramatic time was when I was sleeping at my grandparents' on one of those unusually high, old-fashioned beds. Everyone in the house was jarred awake when I crashed to the floor. Everyone but me of course.
Avery, at two, is a more sedate sleeper, but he's still nursing most nights. Susan is very ready for a secession, and for us to have a bedroom back to ourselves. I am all for this and assure her that I'll do anything I can to assist in this welcome transition.
We pow-wow and strategize an elaborate game plan. Jillian has had a bedroom waiting for her, but she doesn't like to sleep alone. So what we come up with is to have the two kids sleep in her room, right next door to ours. The crib that was virtually never used is brought out of storage and put in Jillian's room for Avery. We put that between Jillian's bed and the wall, with the rail down so he can easily get over it onto her bed. Jillian, however, is likely to fall out of bed herself, so until we get a bed rail for her bed, I will serve as a safety net and sleep on a cot alongside her bed. Let's see now, between the four of us, we've gone from two beds to four, but three are in the same room. Are we making progress yet? Yes, it's all part of a process to accomplish some crucial goals.
These goals include having Jillian sleep in her own room. Also, to get Avery to fall asleep on his own and eventually to allow Susan an uninterrupted night’s sleep. We're taking things one step at a time, so we're not going to cut off Avery cold turkey just yet from his mid-night nursing. If he is not in the same bed for his instant gratification, I will have to be on high alert to bring Avery to Susan if/when he starts fussing. Susan is skeptical that I'll wake up, since I regularly sleep through the night. I try to convince her that if I just tell myself, before I go to bed, to be daddy-on-the-spot, I will wake up and deliver him to the bedroom next door.
Handicapped though I might be without the best sleeping elixir known to babies, I manage to get Avery asleep without his "nightcap.” Jillian is much easier. She takes after me when it comes to falling asleep. When the light goes out after story time and her head hits the pillow, she's out like the light. Okay, the kids are asleep in their respective beds. I settle in on the cot and fall asleep, but subconsciously I know that I am "on watch" to bring Avery to Susan as soon as he stirs. So far so good.
A couple of hours later, I hear the fussing begin. True to my word, I rouse myself and soothingly say, "It's okay buddy, daddy's going to bring you in to mom." In the dark, I am about to feel my way to the end of the crib to lift him out, but he has apparently already made it onto Jillian's bed and is waiting for me there. I feel little arms wrap around my neck, and we have a graceful liftoff. That was easy.
I start shuffling down the hall to Susan, feeling my way with my feet. Hearing the soft steps near her bed, she thinks that it is one of the kids coming to her on their own, until she hears me continue my soothing assurances. “It's okay little buddy, mom's right here." I gently lay my child on the bed next to Susan who is much more awake than I at this point. In utter disbelief, she informs me that I have brought her my 5 year-old daughter, and not my two-year old son. Oops. Come to think of it, he did seem kind of heavy. In my stupor, I apologize and say, "Sorry, I'll bring her back."
"No, don't bother, just leave her here." I guess that was just a practice run. So, I humbly shuffle back to Jillian's room to catch some more zzzs and be on hand for the real deal.
Avery does indeed wake up some time later and audibly wonders where mom is. Not that I'm aware of it, however. I stay sound asleep this time. My subconscious probably feels as if it has already made good, and is off-call. So, Susan comes in to nurse Avery, and jostles me awake with some new instructions. I undoubtedly feel bad that I didn't deliver on my end of the deal, so I'm eager to make amends, and shuffle back to where Jillian is asleep. Sound asleep I might add, until I try scooping her up. She starts thrashing in protest. As gently as I can, I muscle her up and start the trek back to Susan with a very cranky daughter. Upon delivery, Susan asks me WHAT I'm doing with this flailing child. "I'm bringing her back in like you told me to."
"Are you crazy? I told you to go and sleep with her in the other room."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'll bring her back."
"No, just leave her here now and let her get back to sleep."
Baffled, I sink onto the cot. Susan recounts exactly what has transpired, and I am given a stunningly stupefying performance review. Lying in our respective beds, neither of us can stop convulsively laughing at this bedroom farce. Once again, our kids must be lying there wondering why their parents sometimes get into these laughing jags. It is the saving grace to our marriage that we can both laugh at my foibles.
Nonetheless, do you think she has the right to call me a space cadet? Doesn't she realize that as a creative artist, I at least have half an eye open around-the-clock for new material? When she regales others with this tale, they can't believe that this story is all true.
…See, literally, I am an incredible father.
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