Jun 14 2009

Barking Dad Lets Sleeping Kids Lie

Destructo, my 5-year old son, has been behaving just like a little 5-year old boy ever since he turned five at the end of March. I’ve been too busy behaving just like a grown-up, stressing about things like not having enough money, enough time, or getting enough sleep and exercise to notice that my kids behave like kids and that I’ve been behaving badly ever since I was told as a kid to start behaving like a “big boy”.

Destructo is very happy being just a little 5-year old boy. He tells my wife and I this every time he feels we’re expecting him to behave like a “big boy”. Then, just as we start fussing over him for being our wonderful and lovable “little boy”, he starts acting just like a “big boy”.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and find he’s already made and eaten his own breakfast, and gotten himself all dressed up and ready for school. This is more like something that Exacto, our middle son, would do.

We’ve already accepted the fact that Exacto is more like my wife’s father – an early riser with a healthy routine, and a strong, independent personality, so I’m never surprised to wake up and find him already fed, dressed and ready to go.

Filosofo, my eldest son, can and usually does look after his own needs in the morning … if he can just get his head out of whatever book he’s reading.

My interactions with him in the morning usually go something like this:

7:48 am – “Please put the book down and go get your toast out of the toaster.”
7:52 am – “Please put the book down and look at where you’re spreading that peanut butter on!”
7:55 am – “Please put the bloody book down and eat your breakfast!”

(He’ll put the book down on the table, but I can see he’s still trying to read it, so I’ll go over to the table, pick the book up and put it on the kitchen counter somewhere where he can’t read it. With only 10 minutes or less to get the kids to finish their breakfast, finish packing their lunch, get them to wash their faces, brush their teeth, get dressed, get all their stuff for school ready and get in the car, he’ll then start asking me questions like “Exactly how do you multiply numbers with an abacus, Dad?” and “Was Einstein really only famous because he said that if you go into space for twenty years then come back, you’ll only have aged 20 years but the planet will be 700 years than when you left?” And I wish I let him keep reading this book!)

8:12 am – “Where are you? Are you still in your bloody room reading your bloody book? Put the freaking book down and go wash your face and brush your teeth!”
8:36 am – Everyone is now in the car, except for Filosofo who knows he has to wait outside the garage until I reverse out so he can close the garage door. He is reading a book while he waits. I look in the rear vision mirror to make sure he is not standing behind the car, then reverse out. He closes the garage door without even lifting his head out of the book, then feels his way to the passenger door, discovers that Exacto is already sitting in the passenger seat when he tries to sit down on him, gets out of the car, feels his way to the rear door, gets in and then continues reading his book all the way to school.

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For the past couple of weeks, Destructo has been coming into bed with my wife and I in the very early hours of the morning. He always gets into my wife’s side of the bed, so the only time I notice that it’s not just my wife and I who are sleeping in our bed, is when Exacto, who shares a bunk bed with his younger brother, wakes up in the middle of the night, realizes he is all alone in the room, and comes into our bed. Because my 7-year old also gets in from my wife’s side of the bed, she’ll usually scoot the little one over to make room for the middle one. This means that my little one is now sleeping between my wife and I. This would be okay, if it wasn’t for the fact that as soon as this happens, he gets really hot and kicks the covers off.

I always sleep naked, even in winter. To be suddenly without any covers at 3:30 am in the middle of a freezing cold night is enough to make me start growling. This usually gets everyone jumping out of my bed and scurrying off to the other room (even my wife – who has to go and lie down with the kids in their room to console them!).

Just the other night, I kept feeling that something was not quite right. I patted around the bed, but only felt my wife lying there sleeping with no kids attached. A few minutes later, I felt a disturbance again. I opened my eyes and looked at the door. Usually, we keep the door to our room closed at night. The door was not quite shut. I thought this was what was causing the problem – small noises from the door having been left ajar, so I closed my eyes and tried going back to sleep again.

No, something was not right. I opened my eyes again and propped myself up a little against the bed, then just sat there for several seconds observing the door. Was one of the kids trying to come into the room?

Suddenly, in the darkness of our room, I saw a little head pop up at the foot of my bed for just an instant before the little head disappeared again. Destructo had been very slowly trying to make his way over to my wife’s side of the bed and was just checking to see if the coast was clear before proceeding.

I told him in a voice as gentle as I could muster at half past three in the morning to go back to his bed. Sensing my wife stirring in bed, Destructo made one last desperate plea to his mom to be allowed to get into bed with us (“I can’t go back to bed and sleep because Daddy scared me when he told me to go back to bed and sleep!”)

Both he and my wife could sense that it was “no go” with me. She talked to him for a few minutes in soft, comforting tones and encouraged him to go back to his own bed. Finally, my wife and son struck a deal. If he went back to bed, she would leave the door of our room open so he wouldn’t feel scared. He walked quietly back to his room and got into his own bed. We both closed our eyes and my wife went back to sleep.

About 5 minutes later, just as I was beginning to finally drift off into sleep as well, I heard him calling out for my wife from his bed. after a few calls, I nudged my wife awake. Groggily, she called out to him in a sleepy voice “what is it honey?”

“I just wanted to know if you’re awake or not!”

Should a sleep-deprived househusband let his kids sleep in his bed and crowd him out at night, or try and get a good night sleep so he can be less grumpy with his kids in the morning and behave like a better dad?

I don’t really know, but I have become intensely aware of the need to just enjoy every moment I can with my kids while they are still little kids. After all, my kids are the experts when it comes to being kids, and I still have a lot to learn about growing up.

So, if whoever said “if you snooze you lose” was correct, then I’m just going to be like the title of a Dr Seuss book and let my kids come into bed with my wife and I at night and  … hop on pop!

The Lazy Househusband

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