Sometimes I reckon I’m just messed up in the head and I have a circle of family and friends who will nod vehemently in agreement when they read this. Yes. Yes, that man is messed up in the head big time.
However, sometimes parenting necessitates a grasp of the insane in order to make something positive happen, even if later it looks like you lost your marbles and might soon be the one children point at when you walk down the street dancing to a tune only you can hear, wearing clown shoes and a mumu.
My daughter, my wife, and I are engaged in a time-honored struggle that has been waged since man first started raising children … getting a young’n to sleep in his/her own bed. I tried the most basic approach at the beginning. But things escalated from there to dangerous, then outright stupid.
“You’re sleeping in your room tonight, Pumpkin, like a big girl.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Awwww. Yes you are, because daddy needs his side of the bed.”
“No, I’m nooooot.” It would seem to be a respect problem right from the start if it weren’t so cute that she said it in sing-song while scooping potatoes atop her lastest Barbie’s head.
“Yes you aaarrrrreeee,” I sing-song back and rustle her adorable hair.
“Noooo I’m nooooooot.” (I realize that this spelling makes my daughter sound just as Scottish as the character from whom we got her name, but focus. It’s hard to spell out syllables in a child’s singing voice, especially when it’s frosted with a layer of playful disobedience.)
This parlay played out into the wee hours of the night until my voice was so exhausted from the argument and my hands were so tired from washing potatoes out of the hair of a naked Barbie, that I placed her gently between us and fell asleep, though not before trying to get in one last volley. “You’re sleeping in your own bed tomorrow night.”
I had won. There was no reply, at least not until I had just drifted off into a land where the cure for diabetes was fresh doughnuts and all the regular Coke I could drink, and out of the darkness, a tiny voice trickled like a brook over the noise of the fan.
“Noooo I’m noooooooooot.”
A different approach. Mr. Nice guy didn’t work, but I understand that she is a child, so I decided to take it from nice to funny. After all, when you want to get someone on your side, you make them laugh. It’s the oldest trick in the book for speakers who want a crowd of people to buy their new product. You get them to like you. If they like you, they’ll agree with you by nodding vehemently in agreement with you, thereby wanting to please you in the future by purchasing your widget or sharing your latest blog post. (See the opening paragraph of this article)
I saw a benefit in trying this out on my four year old because if I can get adults to want to do what I say, at least in theory, then a small child ought to be a breeze.
“Hey Merida … why did the chicken cross the road?”
“I don’t know.”
“To get to the other side of her own bed. Funny, right?”
“Is the chicken a rooster or a hen? Because Billy at daycare said that roosters were big and strong.”
“Well, it’s not really the point, but I guess it’s a rooster.”
“Are you saying I’m actually a boy, daddy?”
“You said a joke to make me sleep in my bed.”
“Yes, but …”
“Roosters are boys.”
“It’s a HEN! The chicken crossing the road is always a hen for you.” I began to sweat. This wasn’t going as planned. “You’re sleeping in your own bed tonight.”
“No, I’m not.”
Time for the backup plan. I would tickle her to get her laughing so hard she didn’t realize I had put her into her bed. The plan worked at first. She pitched a cackle so hard that she threw herself backward onto her pillow, but overshot it by a few inches and clocked the back of her head on the wooden book shelving that made up the headboard and must have seemed like a great idea on paper. She howled and I had to convince her to let me check her skull for fractures and wood chips.
With the protecting bumpers in place on the shelves behind her, comprised of pool noodles that were retrofitted to cover the dangerous bits, I implemented another phase of Operation: Sleep, Dangit!
I had seen movies where the good guy lured the villain into a place by distraction and guile. I don’t see my daughter as a villain by any means, but I definitely see myself as the hero in my own movie, so it should work, right?
“Hey darlin’, what’s that? Is that a new baby doll?”
“In your room. Now that we have you in your night night clothes, teeth brushed, and potty trip completed, I think we should check out the new baby doll I see in your room.”
Yes, I know this might seem more like bribery, but stay with me. You have to have an incentive to get the villai … um … the child interested in following you and I had no gold, nor suitcases full of money and crack. She ran into her bedroom.
“I don’t see it,” she gushed, excited.
“See that lump under the covers at the foot of your bed? I think that must be it! You’ll have to burrow down under your covers to get to it.”
The plan was for her to get under there and I would cuddle up next to her and read a book while she hugged her new doll, forgetting completely about mommy and daddy’s bed.
What happened was that she surprised me and whether what she did next was innocent cunning or a slap in my face with a smile, I’ll never know.
“It’s easier this way, daddy!”
She ran around to the foot of the bed, lifted the covers from that end and pulled out her new, too expensive doll. She hugged it tightly, just as I new she would, then ran down the hall to our bedroom screaming, “Thank you daddy, I love it!”
What can you do? I only have so much in me and I think I’ll need a recharge before I try this again. Until then, I’ll get as much sleep as I can in the six inches I have been allotted for my side of our king size bed.