When the kids wake up at night, I find that if I can attend to them quickly they will sometimes go right back to sleep.
With my daughter, it’s just a glass of water and sitting with her for a few minutes while she drops off back to sleep. She’s older and responds to my voice, so I have usually a little more time - maybe two minutes - to fill a glass and stop in.
With my son, I have about a quarter of the time.
“Eh ... eh ... eh,” his little sputtering sounds of discomfort are like a stubborn engine that won’t turn over in the cold. When I hear these sounds - I can usually come out of a deep rem sleep for these - I know I’ve got to move fast. Any delay and I’ll have lost my opportunity.
I’ve got to get downstairs, find a clean bottle or sippy cup, fill it with milk (sorry Dr. Stern - our dentist) and get back up two flights of stairs. In this exercise the design of the house is against me. The stairs are narrow and steep and my feet are large and not too nimble. I’m like a Grizzly trying to scale a tree.
I expect I sound a lot like a big bear when I shamble up and down the stairs like this; something big and clumsy and prone to fits of growls. The neighbors must think I’m a little crazed.
But the cost of delay can be so high. If I linger in bed - hoping uselessly that the boy will just go back to sleep - I’m lost. If he’s upset, it could be an hour before the boy will sleep again. One night he got himself so thoroughly roused, he refused to do anything but play with his toys for nearly four hours. I was nodding and my chin was slipping off my hand by the time he began to yawn and rub his eyes that night.
“Whaaaaaa!” is the sound that, when heard, is like the stock market falling below a round number - I can feel the floor just slipping away and full panic setting in. If he’s reached this stage, there’s no knowing when he’ll calm down. It won’t just be a long stretch of midnight play; it will be a trip back down newborn lane - a walk that Lou Reed would sing about.
There are fewer of these nights these days, gladly. I think the work that his physical therapists have done with him have helped him to adjust his little body while he sleeps enough that he can make himself comfortable most of the time. But i still suspect that there are moments when the little guy’s weak left side is bothering him in some way - I can only guess.
I was lucky tonight. I was still awake when it happened. Though sleepy, i was able to hit the stairs with most of my wits present. One of these nights, I know, I’m just going to sail down those stairs like the 41 year old Peter the middle aged Pan Man I am and land on my rump - oh boy. I’ll wake up in a fog and lose my feet or miss the handrail or get tripped up by the cat. It will be picturesque I’m sure.
But tonight the little guy got his bottle in record time and went right back down. I feel a little like the famous Dutch boy at the dike - the whole house sleeps because of my quick thinking. I’m getting a little loopy I guess.
I wonder sometimes if speed will always play a role in handling my kids. I wonder what it will be like when I slow down a bit more, and lose what remaining balance and poise I possess; I’ll be on the ropes.
“Kids keep you young,” my Dad would often say when I was growing up.
“They do,” I think sometimes when I hustle like that, “They keep me quick.”
Hope I can keep my feet for the next twenty years.