Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bedtime Story. I wrote this two years ago and a few things have changed since then, but I don't think this ever saw the light of day after I wrote it

I am a dad. That’s how I think of myself. I know I am a husband first, and a child of God foremost – not to mention a member of the Common Family of Man, but none of these aspects has quite the same impact as being a dad. Daddiness (n: The condition of being surrounded by a large flock of children) drives my days and permeates my dreams. Every morning I try to wake them. Every night I try to get them to go to sleep. Most nights my twelve-year old son Chad is trying to talk to me half an hour after I went to sleep, or Lillian – currently age four and President of the local Boyack Children’s Association – crawls in bed with me sometime during the night, to snuggle me with her bony elbows and knees, moved betimes with sharpness.

I talk to them on the phone as I commute home. When I’m traveling I write to them via email and stay in touch with them via chat in the evening. They prescribe all my social outings – which is OK considering otherwise I wouldn’t go anywhere there are people – and they monopolize the time of my sweetheart, with whom I last had a date in 1997, when we were the parents of three. We have since added two to the collection, and all five are screwed up in their own little ways. Juuuussst kidding . . . (mostly). What are the chances they’ll read this, anyway?

I worry and fret and think and plan . . . because I have no other skills. But, also, because I love them. Want proof? I get out of bed and leave them for twelve hours a day! You men are connecting with this, right? Children are great because they bring out all the good qualities that were latent inside us until we became daddies. Hmm – actually, the wife brings those good qualities out of us by explaining the needs of the children using a vocal pitch that causes the bones of our skull to vibrate and threatening us with the Icy Stare. Children need things like beds: “No, she can’t just sleep doubled up on the baby bed. She’s twelve, dear.” Or clothes: “well, I don’t know, are you still wearing the clothes your mother received at your baby shower?”

Anyway, as you know, if it weren’t for all these other people, Wendy and I would be living comfortably in a small apartment with a big-screen TV and a grill on the balcony. And I could work part time! Well, Wendy would have to work too, but I assure you, she’d be doing about one tenth the work she does now as the Mom and Queen of the home.

So when I say that I think of myself as a dad, it is because it’s my occupation. It’s not how I earn my living, but it definitely occupies my life. For an example, let’s examine the process of “tucking in” President Lillian. This is how I handled it last night:

Wendy, Kimber (16), & McKay (13) were already in bed. Chad(12), Hannah (9) & Lilly form the “Bedtime Resistance Force”. Last night, per usual as of late, Hannah & Chad flanked me while Lillian took the offensive.

She wandered in and tried to get in bed by Wendy. I told her to go to her bed. She left the room briefly and returned with my digital camera, and pointed it at me. “Can I use your camera Daddy?” I gave her the one-two punch: “No! Put the camera on Mom’s desk, and go get in your bed!” to which she responded by turning her back on me and leaving with the camera and a smile on her face. One Hundred Percent Pure Insolence, from Concentrate. This cannot be tolerated, right? If she proves at age four that I have no authority here, we’re all doomed. So I chased her down, took the camera, and tossed her into bed. (I think that was pretty reasonable and restrained, but she saw it differently). She cried and kicked until I got her giggling – by tucking her in with her feet on her pillow and her head buried in the blankets. Then I helped her with her prayer, including the request “Help me to have happy dreams. And if I have a bad dream I can come to mommy’s bed.” I threw this in for two reasons: A) if she’s thinking of coming to Mommy’s bed, as opposed to Daddy’s, then she’ll squirm in by Wendy and not by me, saving me many aches and pains in the morning. B) Because if she actually sleeps long enough to have any sort of dream before getting into our bed . . . well, then that’s progress.

She calmed down, but she wouldn’t let me turn off the light until I found her several stuffed animals, which I obediently procured. But oh, what fickle promises! She still wouldn’t let me turn off the light without her screaming. I would have left the room with the light on, except big sister Hannah won’t stand for that. I can fix this! I gave Hannah a blindfold. Cool idea, right? I thought the bed-time gods had accepted my sacrifice and I could go to my bed, but just then Hannah made a wonderful sisterly suggestion. She told Lillian to find the Big Tigger with the candle in his hand, which, of course, could be absolutely anywhere in the house. Lilly and I searched the primary toy boxes for five minutes until I said “Enough. I’m done. You’re history, sister. Get in your bed!”

So then Lilly’s mad because she’s got to have just that toy, and then I’m yelling and telling her she has to go to sleep without it, and in the nick of time I see it – on her bed. Hannah tells us how to turn on Tigger’s light: push his tummy. I tuck her in for the second time, this time with a book to read. Now she’s mad because the Tigger Light turns off after ten seconds. I tell her he turns it off because he likes his tummy scratched and eventually she is OK with that.

(I have to interrupt for an editorial note. Please remember that while I apparently command no respect, I am motivated by a survival force not to allow her into my bed.)

Success! I turn off the light and return toward my room. En route, Chad – he’s twelve, remember – heads me off at my door. He has decided he wants to be tucked in – just for old time’s sake. I unclench my jaw and hands, and take a deep breath . . . I can do this. He climbs in the top bunk and I throw his blankets on. I can’t reach him to kiss him, so I kiss my hand and slap his forehead. And turn out the light. Free at last! In my room I don my pajamas and brush my teeth. My blankets are calling me, and I gratefully answer by tucking myself in next to my sleeping wife.

A moment later the light came on. . . . “Guess Who” was at my elbow with a bright smile on her face whispering to me (She doesn’t want to wake up Mom). She gave me two critical pieces of information: First, she accidentally tore a page out of her book. Second, her pajamas are too small because she keeps growing. Then just to make sure I was listening, she then demanded that I tuck her in again.

I am Daddy! Hear me roar!


John Boyack said...

This is one of your better ones... but you better hope the kids don't read these musing until after they have kids of their own.

much love, W

shar said...

this sounds familiar...very very familiar.