In the nine months leading up to the birth of your first child, you undoubtedly heard a friend, family member, or coworker say something to the effect of, “say goodbye to sleep” or “better catch up on z’s now” or some other inane joke of the sort. I’ll admit, I’ve made these comments to friends as well. But I’m allowed too. I’ve been through, and currently reside in, the inferno of early child rearing. The bags under my eyes are proof of my qualification to regurgitate mindless idioms like a broken parrot because my brain is too exhausted to come up with anything even remotely original. What no one ever tells you in those pre-parent months, is “why” you’ll lose so much sleep. I mean, we all understand the first stretch. The infant phase. The nighttime feedings, the 2am diaper explosion extravaganza, the 3am for-no-reason nuclear meltdown, etc. But what about after that? You know, once you’ve bragged, “my kid is already sleeping through the night” and your already-parent-friends have a nice chuckle. Its because they know. They know that it never ends and you’re a fool. Here is a list of reasons that have dragged me from the depths of slumber at some ungodly hour in the past few months:
- The Bathroom Announcement: This move is the most common, but is typically only used once the child has mastered the door knob and can freely come and go from their room. This self-sufficiency should allow the child to take nighttime restroom trips with little disturbance. It does not. A child must always announce his/her activity, no matter how small. Or, as in recent cases, the child will inform you of “mission completion” before returning to bed. (Some children will pretend to be lost and unable to find their rooms. This is a stalling technique. They are NOT actually lost.)
- The Light Moved: Tricks of light can often cause worrisome thoughts in children, which will lead to crying, which will lead to you being awake. To be clear, the lighting does not actually change or move inside the room. It’s all a matter of imagination. An easy solution is to rid the room of any pixies, sprites, glow-trolls, and fire demons prior to saying goodnight. This should put your child’s mind at ease and buy you an extra half hour.
- Spider On The Other Side Of The Room: Another tactic a child might use, is claiming to have seen something impossible. A few weeks ago our daughter woke us with that pretend sobbing that kids do when they know they have a bullsh*t reason for being up. She claimed she saw a spider. I escorted her back to her room and asked her were she saw it. She pointed behind a chair on the other side of her room. For clarification, I asked if she saw the spider, in the dark, behind a solid object, from her bed on the other side of the room. She said “yes”. She’s a liar.
- General Inquiries: Sometimes children will wake you up when their weird little brains conjure up impossible scenarios or other tricky topics that demand immediate attention. “What would happen if the ocean were full of cheese balls?” “What should I do if the floor actually DOES turn to lava?” “Where do rainbows go when the sun comes out?” “What are fire demons?” Do not answer. Questions lead to questions lead to question. A midnight pandora’s box.
- Foot Aches: I say “foot aches” because this is the specific example I’m dealing with currently. This tactic could manifest in any recurring phantom body ache. A few weeks back, my son woke us up complaining that his feet hurt. When I asked him where, he pointed between his toes. Turning the light on, I examined his feet and found no evidence of any exterior issues to validate his claim. I told him to put on some socks and go back to bed. This was 12:15am. At 1:30am, he again entered our room. This time armed with that fake sobbing cry. Again, I escorted him to his room and tried to calm him down. He finally got back into bed and I told him to be brave and close his eyes. At 2:45am he entered our room again. This time we were both sobbing. Again he claimed his feet hurt. Desperate, I pulled some random, generic, nothing-special lotion from our hall closet. I slathered it all over his feet, put his socks back on, and sent him back to bed. Never heard another peep. It’s happened on two other nights since then, but both times I’ve gone immediately to the placebo lotion and nipped the problem in the bud. I don’t want to count my chickens, but this may be my first real victory as a father.
This is only the small sample of examples I could dredge from my tired mind, but I know there are more. I’m sure as the years pass, these will transform into things like loud slumber parties and curfew breaking. If you have more examples you’d like to lend to the list, please follow the site on the right side of the screen and then leave your comments below.