Tag Archives: Parenting

Sleep All Haywire. Again.

Bedtime’s all haywire again. For a while there I thought we’d cracked it. Just turned three, out of his crib and in a bed for big boys and, for a while, a solid nine-and-a-half-hour schedule. Up in smoke. Now, it’s all about Mama. Deep attachment issues. Attachment like spending half the day clawing at her left calf attachment, and bedtime resembles something we need hockey masks for. He basically won’t go to bed for “mama.” With me he’s fine: a bottle, two books, teeth brushed, down he goes, gets to call out one time and out. All of which only works if “mama” ain’t in the house.

So she’s been doing a lot of yoga. Half the time actually doing yoga and half the time taking the yoga mat out to the car and then heading to CVS to compare shampoo and Dramamine prices. If she’s home, he wants to read six books, plus another three bottles, then water, then, when she finally gets him into bed, he’s calling out every three minutes for his blankets to be fixed or to have Buzz Lightyear closer to his head, or Bear-Bear more precisely at a forty-three degree angle from the wall and exactly an inch-and-three-quarters from Squirrel. The only thing that works, “if you don’t stop this right now, Papa’s putting you to bed.” Cause, you know, Papa’s such a bold stroke disciplinarian with the intimidating physique and the no-nonsense voice. Which I’m not. Except to a three-year-old. For mama, he won’t even stay in his room. Just keeps on coming out like Jack from his box.

The base line for all this: I haven’t been out for months. I mean, we’ve been out as a couple, cause, you know, for a baby-sitter he’s down by 7:30 and the mice don’t even rustle. Nancy’s out all the time cause, well, it’s easier for everyone, but I’m basically attached to the house. Haven’t been for a beer in six weeks. Nobody to talk to my perfect marriage about, my perfect colleagues, my perfect life. Instead, high and dry on the couch every night grading papers on “Heathcliff as heroic: discuss,” cause, you know, I’ve no excuse not to be doing such things–though you would think I’d have more time to come up with better essay questions. The other advantage being the obvious one of a partner who does yoga six days a week.

Of course I know it’s another stage, but they come so quickly. In a couple of days we’re off to England for Christmas and that’s going to throw him into a monster spin, hopefully the kind that realigns his sleep patterns into a neat 7:45 at night to 7:15 in the morning virtual perfect circle kind of thing cause that’s what happens when kids don’t nap for two weeks, sleep in blow-up beds in bedrooms so damp that the ceilings buckle, and eat fruit loops and Christmas cake at every meal cause that’s what their cousins do. The other possibility being that he comes back to Los Angeles and never sleeps again.

To Santa or Not to Santa

Dark Santa
Dark Santa

As December 25 gets closer the questions about Santa intensify:

Will Santa come into my room, Papa? No honey.

But he’ll be in the house? Yes, but only in the living room.

He’s going to drink from our cups though, right? Well, yes.


Can we put out a plastic cup?

She’s nine. Just. A Virgo. And a firm believer, but nervous. The logistics bother her a little—the impossibility of traversing the globe in twenty-four hours. She wanted to time one of us coming in the front door, dropping off a couple of gifts, a quick port and brandy, and then back out and getting into the car—the car as the stand in for the sleigh. She really wanted one of us to come down the chimney but agreed that was a touch unreasonable. We were having none of it, but did do the whole visualization thing, did the steps in our head. We struggled a bit with the math, and by “we” I’m not being generous, I do mean “we.” The need to multiply 24 by 60 and then 60 again to get to seconds. The quickest we could imagine Santa getting in and out? Thirty-four seconds. And that a svelte Santa in a jump suit mind you. Thirty-four seconds plus seven for the chimney, so forty-one. Which extrapolates out to just over 2,107 children. Even with a willing band of inebriated four-fingered, seven-armed elves, it’s difficult to account for the other 1.9 billion.

Where do the elves sit, Papa? How come the sleigh doesn’t tip over?

She’s thinking of all the American Girl Dolls and bicycles. So, logic beginning to undermine magic. But, still, the dodgy logistics nothing compared to the threat of Santa advancing beyond the living room—Santa sallying unhindered into her room.

Can we lock my door, Papa? He won’t come in, Honey.

But, Papa, what if he does? He won’t, honey. He only goes in the living room, by the tree.

But my friend Alison says he goes into her room and leaves a stocking at the end of the bed. One of her mum’s stockings.

A pause as she figures out the stockings thing means Santa’s been sniffing about in her mum’s bedroom first. In her mum’s drawers.

He doesn’t have time to do that in every house, honey.

Can’t we lock the door? That’s a fire hazard, honey.

Probably not the right thing to say, but running out of alternatives. My wife thinks we should just tell her. Take out a lot of the stress. Hers and ours. If Santa all of a sudden becomes a hologram in a department store window, then we don’t need to worry about hiding different colored wrapping paper under the kitchen sink or concealing half the presents in a lock-box in the next-door neighbor’s garage with a twenty-gallon tarantula habitat on top. I’m against blowing Santa’s cover. For host of reasons, but primarily because her believing in Santa Claus means she’s the right side of worrying about push-up bras and how to keep braces interlocking while French kissing. Still inhabiting a world where “war,” “poverty,” and “melting ice caps” sound like distant pieces in a board game.

I asked one of my high school English classes. Unanimous. Don’t tell her. One fifteen-year-old girl recounted her mum taking her for a walk around the neighborhood and telling her, unequivocally and very seriously, that, quote you will never be a wizard end quote. I would have figured that out, the girl says. All on my own. And not at like sixteen. Ten maybe. I would have figured it out. Even if Santa’s a little bit scary, you know, cause he’s on the larger side and hairy and uniformed and it seems like his breath might be bordering on the fetid, it’s better that she believes in him cause of the magical part. And whatever happens—again unanimous—you can’t be the one that breaks it to her. Cause the ring of trust will be broken. Maybe irrevocably. All good points, and I love the smattering of vocab words. The larger point being that even tarnished magic if truly believed to be magic beats absolutely anything the real world has to offer. You know, things like “war,” and “poverty,” and “melting ice caps.”

Somebody Else’s Blocks and Trains


So Hugo just started daycare, which is connected to Thanksgiving because, well, he’s in daycare three days a week sticking feathers on cut-out turkeys, scribbling over pilgrims and learning to say “yams.” It’s quite a transition for him. From three days a week with home as base and just him and the babysitter walking down to the park, bit of playtime, back for lunch, on the floor with blocks and trains, and then nap time. Every moment all about him. All of a sudden, somebody else’s base, somebody else’s blocks and trains, sleeping in a room not his own with four or five other beds not his own, and, most significantly, four or five other two-foot wonders splitting the attention of the one five-foot-five wonder.

Hard for him to make sense of. So he’s stoically choosing not to. Apparently, he’s perfectly behaved at daycare: eats lots of Indian food for lunch, poops accordingly, doesn’t bite or scratch, or even scream. Just a different child. At home he shadows Nancy between rooms chanting eyewanamama, eyewanamama like a lost, chanting ball of unraveling string, eats only yellow or white food, and, of course, believes naps unnecessary.

The other side of this—maybe the same side with different edges—he’s showing his sensitive side. And it’s very sensitive. And very large. Almost as large as his marvelously over-sized noggin. He’s in the 99th percentile for height. His head in it’s own category. He has a forehead you could play catch on. But the sensitive side. Whenever you tell him, “No,” no matter how gently, he covers his eyes with his little knuckle-less fists and his lip begins to quiver—not even, more a quaver, and just the bottom one. His go to move is to reach for his sister. Hugo, don’t use that stack of papa’s papers as a nesting box. Immediately, off he goes, his arms out in front of him, desperately seeking Georgia. No howling, just outstretched arms, and Georgia has to coo to him for a good half minute until he’s sufficiently recovered to go back to using twenty bland papers about Hamlet as an engineering project.

When chastised, he’s not asking me for a hug. Not even Nancy. Only Georgia. Even when it’s Georgia doing the chastising. It has to be that he thinks she can somehow relate to his pain. Probably cause he’s seen us yelling at her for various misdeed after misdeed. Deservedly yelled at to boot. And no, we’re not bad parents, she’s plain and simple a mischievous scamp, born to be doing things that happen to necessitate yelling as the obvious and direct next thing. Like giving Hugo the icepick to play with. Like watching him in awe while he writes on the couch with a purple sharpie. Like squirting jets of soapy water into his eye from a rubber sea lion. To see, in answer to the subsequent inquest, if it stings the same in his as it does in mine. So why he reaches out for her, I don’t know. I’m his protector. She’s the banshee in a pretty pink and white dress.

This though being what siblings do. Hard to believe we considered stopping at one and getting a dog. That was the plan for a while when the second adoption initially fell through. Maybe two dogs—little and large. Two hundred dogs and a back yard big enough to keep them in couldn’t stand in for that little stone-tapped face as the “No, Hugo” begins to sink in and the arms go out, wrap themselves around his sister’s bony neck, the pulling back and then the going in again on account of  his little heart being not quite ready. A remarkable thing. Almost worth coming up with additional reasons to chastise him. As if we didn’t have enough.