Night before last my son, 19 months old, wakes up and starts crying shortly after midnight. Most nights my wife is the sacrificial lamb who comforts him until he goes back to sleep but she had been ill the night before so she wasn’t up to it this night.
He sleeps in a crib, which I mention only because it will be important to remember as the story goes on, so I got him out of his crib, changed his diaper, got him some milk and headed to the living room to rock him back to sleep. He had a runny nose and a cough but both can be attributed to teething so no big deal. We sat in the dark room and I rocked him for about an hour and he snuggled into my chest the way kids do when they are ready to fall asleep but each time I tried to put him to bed he woke up.
It’s now almost 1:30 so I decided to put him in bed with me. As I said earlier, my wife had been ill the day before so she was sleeping in the guest bedroom so there was plenty of room in my bed for me and a 19 month – or so I thought. We laid in the bed and his breathing slowed down and I was sure he was asleep when all of a sudden I hear “Hi Dadda”. I pry open one eye in disbelief to see him sitting next to me smiling. I smile back and say “Night Night”, he laid down and I was sure he would go to sleep and everything would be good. Not quite.
At this point the rolling begins. First to his back, then to his stomach, then to his side, then on top of me, then the cycle starts over…back, stomach, side, me, back, stomach, side, me. At one point he had actually burrowed his way under the covers and his head was on my feet. If you’ve never had a toddler wipe his runny nose on your big toe at 2:30 in the morning, consider yourself lucky!
I pulled him out from under the covers, laid him down next to me and said “OK buddy it’s time to go to sleep” to which he replied “Night Night”. And for about 30 minutes, I actually thought he meant it.
At 3:00 a.m. I hear him say in an excited voice “Brush!”. I look around and realize that he’s gotten out of bed, walked into the bathroom and found his tooth-brush. I’m all for good oral hygiene but three in the morning is not the time to brush your teeth. I took the tooth-brush and put him back in bed with me and for the next 3o minutes he makes it very clear that he’s had all the sleep he needs for the night and it’s time to get up and play. He rubs my head, he pats my chest, he sings to himself, he giggles, at one point he even asked to take a bath.
It’s now 3:30 a.m. and I decided the best thing to do at this point is to be stern, I’m the Dad and I make the rules (or so I thought), so I put him in his crib and resigned myself to the fact that he just needed to cry himself to sleep. His diaper was clean, he had ibuprofen and drank a cup of milk so it was time for both of us to man up. My thought was; put him in his crib, he’ll cry for 30 minutes or so then fall asleep and in the end it’s what’s best for both of us. After all, I was scheduled to do a presentation for the home health staff first thing in the morning so I needed some sleep.
For the next 3o minutes he let loose some of the most blood curdling screams you’ve ever heard but it was the next noise he made that got my attention. As I lay there listening to him cry, sure he would shatter every mirror in the house, you can imagine the sense of relief I felt when he stopped crying. I was overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment and I knew that I had done the right thing and passed my most recent test of fatherhood. I rolled over, pulled the covers up and prepared to fall asleep with a smile on my face and a sense of accomplishment that was overwhelming.
Then I heard it – Thump! I jumped from my bed and ran to his room but Alexa was already there. She opened the door to his room only to find our son standing on the other side of the door.
At 4:00 a.m. August 19 my son acquired the skills to exit his crib. At 4:00 a.m. August 19 my son formed an allegiance with his mother that only occurs when Dad’s the bad guy. At 5:30 a.m. August 19 my alarm went off and the only person sleeping in the house was my son.
If anyone knows of a good place to buy a toddler bed it appears I’m in the market!