Children are never more beautiful than when they’re asleep. So peaceful. So quiet. So not beating on me like the stubborn mule I am. Behold the beauty of tranquility:
I can honestly say that the time they are asleep is the only time I feel like I am even remotely in charge of the going-ons of my own household. Their sleeping hours are the only time where I can put toys away in the toy chest without them immediately being pulled back out, eat a sandwich without having to share it, or watch any program that is not rated “G” or filled with anthropomorphic animals/trains/household items that we would certainly condemn as the works of Lucifer if we were to actually encounter them in real life. Oh, and it’s also the only time I might have a glimmer of a chance of catching up on the sleep I missed last night when they decided to have their sundown to sunrise rave party. So you see, sleep time isn’t just important for them. It’s important for Daddy, too.
They know this. Which is why they refuse to ever go gently into that good night.
You would think that after four years, I would have a routine figured out that guaranteed their descent into slumber. Not so. What works for Footloose won’t work for Roundbottom. What worked not even two weeks ago for either of them has absolutely no effect now. My children are the perfect examples of evolution, continually developing and refining new ways to elude their most feared and hated predator, Mr. Sandman.
As Roundbottom puts it, “No! No bed!” (Translation: “you won’t be bringing us a dream or anything else tonight, you bastard”).
Their tactics differ significantly. Footloose likes to start off with the tried and true “there’s no way in hell I’m going to sleep unless I get a drink” routine (an oldie but a goodie). Any attempt to put him down without some form of beverage in his hand will result in an endless barrage of “mo’ peez!” (Translation: “I thirst. I care nothing for your concerns over my bladder size or the absorption threshold of my undergarment. Bring me drink, or face my wrath”). Of course, providing said beverage in no way guarantees that sleep will commence once he’s finished. No amount of lullabies, good night hugs, kisses, or begging on bended knee will do, either. That’s just his signal that it’s time to move on to step two. He will look up at me, smile, and reach for me to lay down with him.
This is a trap, and I have fallen for it way, WAY too many times. Once the spider has caught the fly in its web, there is no escape. It’s tactically brilliant. You see, even if he does manage to get lulled into sleep, the second I try to extricate myself from the bed he will be alerted by the tiny motion sensors covering his entire person. This will result in the horrific cycle beginning anew. Footloose CAN NOT be put to sleep by any known natural means. The only hope is that he will eventually become bored enough with the torture-inflicting to rock himself to sleep.
Then there’s Roundbottom. As always, he prefers the subtle approach, delighting in defeating his opponent through guile. His latest stratagem? Using my own ego against me.
I cannot carry a tune to save my life. Noone has ever come up to me and asked me to share a song, unless it’s when I’ve become so inebriated that I slip into a rendition of “Come Sail Away” as performed by Eric Cartman from the cartoon series “South Park”. Still, as the father of small children I feel a certain responsibility to give lullaby time the old college try. The only problem is, I don’t know any lullabies.
I do, however, know the lyrics to the Eagles classic, “Desperado”.
What? It’s soothing.
So, I sang it to him one night, and it seemed to work. I was so flushed with the feeling of victory, that I forgot that winning a single battle does not a war end. So last night, Roundbottom put his strategy into play. I laid him down on his pillow, and before I could even say another word, he looked up at me with half-open eyes and murmured in the sweetest, gentlest voice, “pretty song?”
You’d have to have a damn heart of stone not to respond to that. Seriously.
So, I sang the song, gently stroking his little face, overcome with love for this beautiful little person that I helped bring into the world and who appreciated me for something that others would typically ridicule. As my song ended, he looked up to me and in that same sweet, sleepy voice again requested, “pretty song?”
He did it to me five more times before I finally figured out what was going on.
And that’s been the nighttime ritual for the little Lords of Disorder for the past week. Seeing as how I’ve started to adapt to their tricks, they will no doubt soon resort to new ones.
That’s how they maintain their power, you see. Small children are acutely aware that they have no chance of usurping any type of control so long as they are still physically outmatched by their parents. That’s why they resort to the only option they really have: outlasting us. Let’s face it, they get as much sleep as they want. We are more than happy to let them pass out whenever they so choose. It’s the only real peace we ever get. They know this. They also know that the old advice of “sleep when they sleep” doesn’t really work because that’s also the only time we have to actually see to our own needs or the 405 other demands that have been placed on us as the adults. They keep us going, wearing us down until we have nothing left to give, depriving us of sleep to the point where we either begin questioning our own sanity or entertaining the notion of inflicting some type of non-fatal harm upon ourselves just so we can escape into the sweet release of a coma. What hope do we possibly have when we’re so obviously being out-classed and out-smarted?
Benadryl. Good luck fighting that chemically induced coma, boys. Daddy can play dirty, too.
Game, set, and match. At least for now.
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