My son is quite a conversationalist. Unfortunately, this has a tendency to manifest itself at night. He does his best work between the hours of 2-4 a.m.
Take for instance, last night. I sensed a presence and opened one eye enough to see a small figure standing by the bed. It opened its mouth and spoke.
“Mommy, would you like to know what I find disappointing?”
I could think of many answers to the question. Few of them would likely be featured in a parenting manual. (Then again, what kind of parenting manual warns you that you might be awakened at night by a small child suffering from…disappointments?)
Another night it was “Mommy, I am concerned about the state of the modern world.” And then there was the night I’d taken some Nyquil to help with a cold. I was awakened by a small voice whispering, “Mommy, are you dead?”
Some nights he just brings us the bulletin: “I can’t sleep!” Sometimes he dispenses with chitchat altogether. On those nights, he performs a full Tsukahara vault with a half twist into the middle of the bed, causing my husband and I to levitate briefly, and then slam back down onto the mattress. My husband, needless to say, sleeps through the whole thing. I spend the rest of the night pulling up the blankets that my extra bedmate keeps kicking off.
The conversational gambits are generally directed at me, because my husband is one of THOSE people who can sleep through anything. Or at least he’s perfected the art of appearing as if he can.
Clearly, my son is going through a phase. I would like it to end. Unfortunately, on the nights my budding Dick Cavett doesn’t appear, his twin sister will often pick up the slack. She doesn’t usually talk at all, which is, in some ways, worse. She is partial to long nightgowns, and as she sweeps into the room, I become dimly aware of a distinctly Victorian figure wafting nearby. She stands next to the bed and stares at me. To be honest, it’s a little creepy.
I’m quite aware that the spectral vision and the talk show host are far too old for this. (I would like to point out that my oldest child has not bothered me at night since the age of four. So there. It’s not ME!!!).
I’ve tried to be stern. I’ve tried to be cold. I’ve marched the twins back to their beds in silence. How I love a good frogmarch at 3 a.m.!
I’ve tried everything everyone recommends. Twice. I guess these two are just night owls. Or, possibly, vampires.
My daughter’s apparition phase may be coming to an end. (On the other hand, she’s taken to tapping on the wall between our two rooms like a prisoner of war in an old World War II movie.) My son shows no signs of calling a halt to his nighttime punditry.
This will be over by middle school, right? Right?
It occurs to me that my kids’ nocturnal visits could work as a metaphor for much of the parenting experience. Our kids come as they are – talkers or not, midnight roamers or not – and we can only do so much. It can be tiring, baffling, and downright irritating. They reach out to us for reassurance, even sometimes in the middle of the night, when we really wish they wouldn’t.
It turns out that all we can do is guide them back to where they belong, or move over and make a little room for where they are now.