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.

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