Saturday, June 28, 2014

You'll Be Sleeping with the Dog

This hippie dog and her babies have saved one family lots of sleep and bruised ribs, despite being a bed hog.

For his fourth birthday, our son got plenty of cool stuff...a soccer net, some books, and an eviction notice from his mother.

His mom kicked him out of our bed. Some time ago, we noted that of the three kids, the oldest and the youngest had no interest in co-sleeping with anyone outside of their stuffed animals. But the middle child couldn't get to sleep unless he had his fingers twirled around his mother's neck hair. That plus the consistent kicks to the crotch, kneeing in the small of the back, face-punching and eye-gouging equaled some sort of MMA thing every night in bed. The only thing missing was Gus Johnson calling the action bedside.

Having had enough, we sat him down and gave him the "You're 4 years old, you're a
big boy now" speech which never works on anybody of any age, including adults. But yet, somehow, it seemed to work this time. The light bulb suddenly went on as the lights went out every night. He laid down in his bed with his feet hanging out the bottom of the sheets.

The first few nights he looked pretty uncomfortable, so we removed the books, the baseball bat, the dump trucks, the Thomas trains, the lawnmower, and the Dirt Devil from his bed. "Here, this might give you a little more room." Then I insisted that he cover his feet with a blanket, despite the heat, because really, who sleeps well with their feet hanging out of the blanket? He relented, closed his eyes and turned his body dismissively away from us.

We were a little shocked that it was that easy. Once again God had given us only as much as we could handle, and once again He looked at us, snickered, shook His head, sighed, and gave us a huge break.

The first few nights, as half-expected, we were greeted in the wee hours by a semi-conscious kid coming back and either tapping one of us on the arm or crawling over us into his customary spot in the middle. So we had to reprise the "big boy" speech, to no effect. But progress was progress, in my mind, as at least he was starting the night in his own sack.

But I wasn't my wife, still getting her neck hair pulled and her butt kicked nightly. So we confronted him once more and asked why he was still coming over.

"Something was flying me over there while I was sleeping." It's no wonder kids believe in Santa Claus.

"Well, we'll have to tell that thing to stop now, won't we?"

(This was not much different than the time our oldest blamed all of her behavior on an imaginary friend named Baby.

"Baby said we should jump upside down on the couch with scissors."

"I told Baby not to, but she said you said it was ok to dump the whole box of Cheerios in the crack between the refrigerator and the counter."

At one point, we threatened to ship our daughter to a different family if it meant some time apart from this Baby character. At four, we couldn't afford to have her running with the wrong crowd. Baby quickly became imaginary unfriended.)

Our saving grace was a stuffed animal. Our family dentist gives away a stuffed animal monthly, and on a recent visit, the co-sleeper accompanied me. But I had forgotten to bring all the things that keep kids quiet in quiet places, like electronics and lollipops. Though I imagine bringing a lollipop to a dentist's office would get me on a list somewhere. Luckily, my son kept quiet and watched whatever movie they were showing on the TV. (It's entirely possible I am this dentist's only adult patient.) The receptionist encouraged us to sign up for this month's drawing.

The whole thing seems a bit fishy in retrospect. As I was lying in the chair, with tools hanging out of my mouth and angry drills threatening me, a cheery woman came in from behind and announced that my son had just won the drawing. Fishy for a number of reasons:

1. We just entered the monthly drawing 15 minutes ago.
2. My son was scheduled for his own appointment in two weeks and appeared as genuinely scared of the drill as I was.
3. My son, much to his credit, wasn't acting like a total jackass the way most kids do when they're bored.

The prize was a dog twice the size of Marmaduke. Imagine the biggest stuffed animal you ever won at the fair. Then imagine that animal training in the off-season with Barry Bonds. We had to re-arrange the back seat of the car to fit her (and her two babies!) to make sure everyone made it home ok. I was less nervous bringing the kids home from the hospital for the first time.

This presented a problem at home, as now my son wanted to sleep with this huge dog. And us. And the two babies.  Or it presented a solution. Given that two of us are in the 90th percentile for weight (for him that means "healthy", for me that means "obese") adding a big dog to a full-size bed was not an attractive option, since my wife and I had already been sometimes forced to each sleep with one foot on the ground, Newhart style.

So it was either "sleep in your own bed" or "sleep with no huge dog up your butt." He chose to sleep in what was left of his own bed after the dog, and the rest was history. And the parenting tip here is: If you want your child to sleep in his own bed, get him a larger-than-life stuffed animal that simply doesn't fit anywhere else. Also, simply tell him to behave in public and maybe somebody will rig a lottery in his favor. The results can net you that extra sleep you've been waiting for.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

It's the Diaper Countdown

How many diapers do I have left?

The other night driving home my mind wandered out to the edges, and I asked myself that question. Given our careful planning of each pregnancy to ensure a constant monthly diaper expense seven years and counting, but with a full-fledged toddler intimating a need for advanced potty-training, ("I poot on the FLOOR!")  misty eyes started looking ahead to the cleanest, most humane of childhood milestones...potty training the last child.

I think I have thirteen diapers left to change in my lifetime.

The calculation is simple but not frivolous. We are aiming to train our youngest to go on the can by mid-August, by forcing him to wear underpants that cause all sorts of uncomfortable leakage issues if he goes anywhere but the potty. That's seven weeks from now. At an average of 1.5 diapers per week, plus allowing for 2-3 emergency diapers, and given my expectation of becoming that uncle/friend/"uncle"/grandfather who will hold a baby quite literally all day until the moment they fill their pants, then, scurrying, hold the baby out with arms extended as if holding a radioactive, exploding bag of crap, (which it is) I will present the baby to his parents:  "I think this is yours."

(The difference between uncle and "uncle" should be fairly intuitive. An uncle is family, your parent's brother or brother-in-law. An "uncle", then, is someone of no relation but who is so close to your parents that he deserves an honorary title, especially when he's letting you eat ice cream for breakfast and use his couch cushions as wrestling props...essentially the older brother you never had... way, WAY older, which is why he was never your older brother.)

HOLD ON. Someone in the crowd wonders, where does this guy get off changing 1.5 diapers per week? Either his kid has a life-threatening constipation issue or someone's got a case of the lazies. Deadbeat dad alert! This guy can't be bothered to change his kid's diaper but one-n-a-half times a week...

It comes down to choices. Not that I choose to let my child sit in his own filth, though he still seems cool with that. But, as she does with her kindergarten kids daily, my wife "empowers" me by allowing me to make my own decisions. "I'll change that diaper if you clean the kitchen floor..." "I'll change the kid's diaper if you pick up the basement..." "Would you rather change his diaper or stay on hold with the cable company?"

I still fall for it every time. Every single time. The "other" alternative, seemingly benign, has a hidden undercurrent of "fail" to it that makes a simple rotting diaper the least of the family's concerns. That kitchen floor? We had rice tonight. Gotta pick every one up, including the 3,000 that get stuck in the broom. The basement? Nobody told me they re-enacted the Boston Juice Box Party all over the couch. The cable company? Shoulda seen that one coming.

And once you make your choice, you're stuck with it. If you try to opt out, offer to stick your whole head inside the offending diaper for the right to change your mind, it is over. "You made your choice." The "and now you'll live with the consequences" is just sort of understood. There is little more deflating than realizing your misery is the result of your own choices. Kindergarten class of 2014-15, beware.

But besides all of that, there may appear to be a monetary benefit to this. The penny-pinching, corporate type in me wants badly to estimate how much money we have spent on diapers over the years, then compare that number to the price of a pretentious, douchey, over-priced car. There won't be any real savings anyway, because the money not spent on diapers will surely be spent on something else kid-related, like Frozen Dance Camp.

Frozen Dance Camp sounds like cheap fish sticks but is actually a week-long summer event based off of an obscure Disney movie that you're probably only vaguely familiar with. Frozen Dance Camp came to us by accident in a series of events so involved that the average length of the "Long Story Short" version is still three minutes and 26 seconds. By the end of this week, the participants, which include my daughter, will have created a Tour de Force of Frozen je ne sais quoi that, given their immersion with the subject matter, could match any of my daughter's former dance studio's annual output. Just not sure that it will be in French.

But that's for another time. Our diaper days are numbered and that makes my wife sad, because it's soon another milestone behind us. Maybe one last messy diaper for the baby book. But it makes me sad, too, because at least I knew when my kids were crapping in their pants instead of the toilet, we could be reasonably assured someone was then wiping their butts.