Tuesday, the little guy had quite the rough night. He gave me a fair amount of grief about taking his bath, and no sooner was I about to deploy the “watch it or I will rescind your bedtime story privileges” than he was screaming about wanting to go straight to bed RIGHT NOW. And so I obliged him, which I thought might have been the end of it, if his mood was due to being cranky and (over)tired. Instead, it was just the beginning, as he periodically cried and screamed for me, at which points I would go to his room and find him in various states of distress and confusion, half-awake and hot and sweaty and offering non-sensical answers to my what’s-wrong questions. I wasn’t able to locate the thermometer, but ultimately decided to dose him with Tylenol because it couldn’t hurt and might help. And it seemingly did.
My wife was at work for all of that but I filled her in as she was on her way home (which prompted her to stopa t CVS for a new thermometer). The next morning she took the little guy’s temperature and it was normal and he seemed fine, so off to daycare he went. No odd reports on that front, and he seemed fine when I picked him up, but although bath time was a little less confrontational, the rest of the night went down much as the one before. Rather than continue medicating him, my wife and I tried various other methods to get him to stay asleep, culminating in him sleeping in our bed, for the first time in ages, from about 1 a.m. until alarm clocks started buzzing. Somehow we groggily decided that I would stay home with the kids yesterday and try to make a day-of doctor’s appointment for the little guy, under the working theory that maybe he had another ear infection, which are notorious for waking him up shrieking from a sound sleep and generally confusing the bejeezus out of him.
The pediatrician was able to see us mid-morning but, sorta surprisingly, the little guy got a clean bill of health. I say sorta because my wife and I also suspected that his sleeplessness might be rooted in matters more emotional than physical, and with a physical cause ruled out, that seemed more and more probable.
My wife has been working two jobs for the past four weeks, which has meant increased time at daycare for the kids: four days a week instead of three, and two of those four days starting very early in the morning relative to the old schedule. This arrangement is supposed to be for a finite period of time, extending no further than early October at the absolute latest, but it’s where we find ourselves right now. Much of our focus has understandably been on the effect this has on my wife: it’s exhausting, and she misses the kids (and me), and she was also worried that the kids might not be thrilled about it either but I assured her that the kids would roll with it just fine, since they like their daycare center and are overall well-attached, happy munchkins. I may have even gone so far as to say that as small as the kids are, and as elastic as their underlying concept of time is, they might not even notice the schedule shift. But I have perhaps been off-base there.
I am not in any way, shape or form saying that my wife is the bad guy and has saddled our son with crippling toddler insomnia. It’s an unfortunate situation created by my wife doing the right thing in terms of taking advantage of career opportunities, couple with a really draconian contract at her soon-to-be-former employer that somehow requires three months notice for her to leave on good terms. And it’s entirely possible that other factors might have brought this on even without the schedule changing. Daycare for the little guy was a lot more school-like and stimulating up through June, but now they are in summer mode so he’s been fairly bored with it for the last month. He’s also gotten a new classmate at daycare who is extremely disruptive, and that is no doubt rattling our little guy’s sensitivities (i.e. persnickety preferences for orderliness). Plus on the home front, the little guy’s been steadily mounting a campaign to make up for lost time in the sibling rivalry department, trying to weasel his way into getting babied by us (which in his mind simply means being treated exactly the same way we treat his sister, despite their age difference). And I know I have been less than an exemplar of patience in dealing with his jealousies and regressions, partly because they’re irritating in and of themselves and partly because I’m stressed out about my wife’s double-job situation, and the backyard fence that needs replacing, and sundry other things.
So. Night freakouts. I think everyone in the house over the age of two is having them, honestly, it’s just that my wife and I can mostly suck it up and the little guy is less equipped to tough it out.
But he didn’t have to go to daycare yesterday, and he got a fair amount of one-on-one time with me while his sister napped. He also napped (which he almost never does at home any more, but it’s amazing how a fitful night predisposes him to it), but for a shorter span than the little girl, so when he woke up he and I had a long talk about how he wishes that all of us could stay home together every day. And I told him I wish that too! (Boy, do I.) But if it can’t be that way, we just have to make the best of it. There was also much reassurance that his mother and I love him very much, all the time, even on the days where we don’t see each other as much. And I didn’t get into it with him in that conversation, but I made a binding mental resolution to cut the little guy some slack, stay calm and not snap at him so much. He is not yet four and yet it is all too easy to fall into the mental trap of expecting him to make great efforts to make my life easier, which is ultimately absurd. I believe I can raise him and mold him and set boundaries for him and teach him and all that, without stressing the poor kid out. I don’t believe it will be terribly easy, but that’s not really the point.
In any case, we did have a pretty fun day hanging out together. The little guy dabbled a bit in pop music criticism as we drove to the pediatrician’s office and I had a Steve Miller song cranked up on the dinosaur rock station. (Little Guy: “Why does that guy just keep saying ‘abra cadabra’ over and over again?”) And ... I swear there was some other instance of him being cute and funny, but now it slips my mind. Just accept as a given that he is consistently adorable and hilarious.
I did make a deal with the little guy that if he stayed on track going to bed on time every night, that the following mornings I would come into his room to say good morning and goodbye before I left for work (since one of the little guy’s complaints was not seeing me until the end of daycare some days). He kept up his end of the deal last night (and mercifully slept through the night) so I went to wake him up as promised this morning. I found him sleeping on a bare pillow, with the pillowcase pulled up around his legs like he had collapsed into bed after winning a potato race. I asked him what happened to his pillow and he explained he had been pretending he was a dog, and made his pillow a dog bed, and dog beds don’t have coverings. How the covering wound up sheathing his lower half remains a mystery I leave as an exercise for the reader.