Somehow it was easier with a baby.
Sure, we were guaranteed multiple trips into his bedroom every night, but when a baby wakes up crying you can cuddle it, feed it, rock it and lay with it until it falls back asleep. Of course that’s not exactly easy, a lot depends on the crankiness of the baby and/or any more serious issues (we escaped the dreaded colic, thank the gods), but it doesn’t require a ton of thought or effort. It’s instinct versus inconvenience.
Toddlers wake up less often but when they do, they’re able to start a conversation. Or worse: make demands.
Ever since we moved, our son’s sleeping habits have been erratic. At first it was the change of scenery, and then it was because sound carries in our new place. Things settled down for a while until the Weatherman reared his head. It seems every few weeks there’s a new reason my previously expert sleeper (Crying it out, FTW!) wakes up at least once or twice in the middle of the night.
Which is fine. Popping into your kid’s room to soothe him back to sleep is part of being a parent. Besides, like I said above, it used to be easier. But now that he can speak and think and, frankly, order me around, those night time visits are rife with pressure. Especially now that he expects a story.
Last night he woke up and starting making a bit of a ruckus, so I went in to see what was the matter. He silently pointed to the futon that’s in his room, to let me know he needed to lay there with me. Once ensconced, he turned his little face to me and said, “I need story, Daddy.”
It was super cute. And I was suddenly tongue-tied.
I don’t mind telling him stories; it’s actually a lot of fun. But this is the middle of the night, I had just stumbled into his bedroom from my own slumber, and this wasn’t a “pick a book from the shelf” kind of situation. It was total improv hour, like being Robin Williams just a lot less hairy and without any cocaine. Inconceivable, right?
Coming up with something under those circumstances is not the easiest thing in the world. I had to pull a story out of my
ass head with which to entertain and, hopefully, knock my kid back to his dreamland so I could get back to mine. And if I fail, I’m stuck with a screaming kid who won’t fall asleep. Like I said: PRESSURE.
Luckily, my son has only just started requesting these middle-of-the-night story sessions, so I am still free to pull from the ones I know by heart and tweak them for toddler consumption, both without repeating myself or him realizing how badly I’m plagiarizing. Last night I told him heavily-abridged versions of the Superman, Spider-man and Batman origin stories. Leaving out all the death, of course, but leaving in all the “do the right thing” stuff. Except Radio Raheem.
It’s working, so far. But soon it’s going to take more than three-sentence re-tellings of my favorite movies. I may actually have to start using my imagination, which could get tricky. Because at those times when I’m pulled out of sleep and into his room, some of the stuff kicking around in my REM dreamscape might not be all that suitable for a toddler.
Sometimes all I dream about is dismembering the cast of Yo Gabba Gabba.