Dedicated to my lovely wife, Karla, the love of my life who has made the subjects of this post possible.
Oh my children… What have you done to Mommy and Daddy. You’ve got me seeing things that aren’t there. In the past I could almost always attribute this to being drunk; but for the past several years your antics have also made me question my sanity.
About two weeks ago while I was in New Jersey and missing my beautiful babies, my wife texted me a video. It was our soon-to-be three year-old daughter. She was proudly exclaiming to me (my daughter, not my wife) that she was a big girl now and had thrown away her pacifier. Truthfully, she hadn’t been “hooked” on it in a while. Sure, she used it throughout the day and it was more or less of a device she used when she was sad, angry, happy, pensive, or about to enter into dialogue with people of a different faith, which she occasionally did as an emissary of the Holy See. I told you they’ve made me crazy. My goodness, I thought, I’ve been away for a whole day and she’s decided to become a big girl. A part of me cried a little; but this was good, I thought. She came to this conclusion on her own.
When I returned home a few days later everything seemed fairly normal. Except that now, my baby as a big girl. She even told me so. “Daddy! My a big girl nooooowww…” I don’t know exactly what the hell this was supposed to mean but I was quite proud of my ba, uh, big girl. “Can you tie your shoes?” I asked her. She paused and stared at me, looking first at my own shoes (loafers with no laces), then slowly up at my face. She then motioned for me to come down to her level. Then she slapped me, laughed, and did some ballet move while chanting “My a big girl! My a big girl! My a big girl!” How cute.
But all was not quite well with the world. Over the next two weeks my wife and I noticed a few cracks in the brave armored facade that was my big girl’s, um, facade? It started with the incessant whining. I’ve tried to quit smoking a few times and each time I’ve had the luxury of simply saying “To hell with this” and picking up a new pack. I kind of got where she was coming from only I knew that she had thrown her pacifiers away and lacked the wherewithal to replace them. Big girl? Huh. Let’s see how big you are now! You fraud! And the whining wasn’t just your run of the mill whimpering. It was a matter of every time things didn’t go her way, she’d start speaking like a baby just learning to talk. “Sweetheart, you’re better than that,” I’d remind her. Then she’d come over to me, motion for me to come down to her level, and slap me before skipping away and chanting something about 70’s pop singer Carole King and her Tapestry album. Good Lord… Where am I going?! And after the whining she’d start aggravating her big brother. He’d be watching a show on TV, very peacefully, and she would walk up and jump on top of him. He really isn’t one to retaliate but it took a lot of effort to deal with those bruised feelings and two year-old palm prints across his face. “Again with the slapping?!”
And the absolute worst was bedtime. She went from being the sweetest little girl in the world who would gently walk down the hall with her Daddy, leading me by the hand. She would climb up into bed and listen intently at my stories of Princess Margherita and her daddy, the handsome and manly King. Then we would say our prayers and she would quickly drift off to sleep. All that was gone as she would now yell at us and tell us, kicking and screaming, that she did not want to go to bed. The final straw came on Saturday night when she told me that she did not like me because I was trying to put her to bed. This cut me very deeply; but I reminded myself that she was two and didn’t know what she was saying.
So my wife came up with a brilliant idea. She always does. She decided that we might try to have our son and daughter sleep in the same bed. You see, Benny has been sleeping by himself in a full sized bed since he was old enough to come out of the crib. He’s managed just fine except that he frequently wakes up in the middle of the night and comes into our bed. She can sleep all night long most nights but had these obvious “paci-problems” of her own. Putting them together, it stood to reason, might help the both of them get some rest (and us too). The only problem was that the likelihood of my baby girl rolling out of this bed went up so I took out the old bed rail and put it back up. The kids took one look at this and laughed at how it now looked like they’d be sleeping in an oversized crib. But it would be fun. And there was just one final piece of this crazy scheme. I took my wife aside. “Do you think it would be total regression if we gave her back the paci JUST for bedtime and then hid it first thing in the morning?” I had to ask because our daughter had found one lying around earlier in the day and tried to pass it off like she was holding it “for the new baby” (said to us with a straight face). We questioned her which baby she meant. “Um… The one in mommy’s tummy.” For the record, though we would joyously accept any more children God would send us, we are not currently expecting. Nice try, little lady. But she knew the paci existed now and was anxious all day. My wife and I agreed that it would be worth a shot to get back our sweet baby’s sweet disposition. Let her have one until she’s 30! I just want my baby back.
She was taking a bath when I broke the news. “Rita? Daddy has a big surprise for you at bedtime…” I told her the whole plan. She chewed it over for about five seconds. I could see the wheels turning in her head. Then, the idea having completely clicked, she splashed the water around like you wouldn’t believe. It was a fun time. Also, I got soaked. And so I dried her off, got her pj’s on, and laid down with the two of them for bed. Yep, my daughter, me, and my son in a full sized bed with a rail on the side. There was tossing (on my son’s part, couldn’t get comfortable with a 200 lb. oaf crammed next to him). They asked to say our prayers. “What do you want to pray for tonight, kids?” I asked. They both said they would pray for the new baby. Again I asked what they were talking about because we are NOT expecting. In their young minds we are and we’ll be having an army of children apparently. Cool. I can do that. And then my sweet angels both put an arm around me, snuggled in close, gave me kisses, and said “I love you, Daddy…” I love you too, my big kids.
Then I looked across the dark room at the dresser and noticed the most horrifying thing (after clowns). My wife had bought for my son a Spiderman nightlight recently. It was a bust of Spidey and it glowed an evil red. Without my glasses and in the dark… Scary. I began to imagine how a little child might react waking up and seeing only this seeming to float in the distance. I jumped up and ran out of the room. I think I liked it better when I saw things that really weren’t there!
PS: We also promised them a bunk bed for Christmas if they could sleep the night in their bed without coming into our room for seven straight nights. Just wait for that blog post…