I wake in the early hours of the morning to an all-too familiar little voice pleading, "Mooom! Moooom!" I lift my head from the pillow to glance at the glowing digital numbers of the clock, reading 2:36. My head plummets back to the mattress and I burrow under the pillow. If I can't hear him, he isn't there. If I can't hear him, he isn't..."Mooooom! Mom! Mom! Moooom!" Ah, now he's alternating the plaintive, drawn out, "Mooom!" with short, staccato bursts, "Mom! Mom! Mom!" I have to award points for effectiveness. That combo is not easy to ignore. No, sir, it is not.
I look over at Eli, blissfully sleeping as though without a care in the world, and I remember when Eliot was a newborn and we used to take turns getting up with him in the night. You know, back when we were pretending that childcare was going to be a 50/50 effort. Ha! Foolish! But the important thing is that I'm not bitter, right?! Ahem. Moving on.
So I haul my tired ass up out of bed and navigate around to the other side of the room, tripping over Eliot's Hot Wheels motorcycle, which sits, inexplicably, in the middle of our bedroom. I make my way to Eliot's room in the dark, my path worn and familiar from so many of these midnight, 1:30, 2:00 entreaties.
Honestly, I can't complain much about Eliot not sleeping. He does a fabulous job of going to bed with minimal fussing. We have a routine pretty much down pat where Eli gives him a bath around 7:30, he gets into pj jammies, and then lies in our bed eating a snack, taking his breathing treatment and watching "Olivia" until 9:00, when I take him to his room, sit beside his bed and tell a few Farmer Eliot stories before tucking him in and kissing him goodnight. Then I leave and pull the door to, and most nights, he falls asleep on his own, snuggling one or more of the approximately 683 stuffed animals that share his bed. The current lineup must include (but is not limited to) Elmo, Mickey, Pluto, Monkey Bob, and Baby Nico. If one of the five is missing, he'll yowl, "I'm missin' a guy! Where's my guy? My guy? My guy?" He can't sleep without his guys. Wouldn't even think of it.
As long as everyone is in place, however, bedtime usually goes pretty smoothly and he's snoozing by 9:05.
Lately, though, he's gotten into the habit of waking in the middle of the night and hollering at me about random, pressing problems that need to be remedied immediately, right now, NOW. I'll appear at his bedside at 3:00 a.m., for example, only to find that he is yelling for me because Elmo fell out of bed and is now lying three inches away from him on the floor. And it is imperative that I pick up Elmo, kiss him, tuck him back in, and then tell them both "Sweet dreams" before leaving the room and collapsing back into my own bed.
One dark, cold morning at some ungodly hour, I was summoned by this child because he NEEDED me to "take [his] socks off! SOCKS! Take them off!" Then all was well and we slept once more. Countless nights he's cried wanting juice. And then woken me up crying again thirty minutes later because he needs to pee. This involves me getting up, telling him that yes, he can go to the bathroom and pee, standing outside while he does his business, and then tucking him back into bed, kissing him, and telling him "Sweet dreams," before I leave the room. I don't actually do anything when he has to pee. He is now actually quite capable of going to the bathroom on his own. Nevertheless, my reassuring presence is required for such a maneuver.
So flashback to this morning, 2:36 a.m., which is now something like 2:39 a.m., and when I reach his bedroom, Eliot tells me, "I've got a hair!" I don't know that that means. "You've got a hair?" I ask. He sticks his tongue out to better demonstrate. "EH GAA A HEH! A HEH! EH GAA A HEH!" With a sinking feeling, I realize the problem. And it's going to necessitate the turning on of lights, which, at 2:39 a.m., is just wrong. WRONG. The world is dark at 2:39 a.m. That's the way it should be. Dark.
I warn him that I'm going to flip the light on so I can identify this errant hair and get rid of it. Flip. Lights! Bright! And both he and I start screaming, "Aahhhhh," like a couple of vampires exposed to the sun. And now he won't stick out his tongue because he's too busy covering his eyes and yelling, "Is too BIGHT! TOO BIGHT!" And I'm yelling, "I KNOW it's too bright--lie down and stick out your tongue so I can find this hair and turn the light back off!" (Meanwhile, Eli still snores contentedly in the next room.)
So with his arm flung over his scwenched tight shut eyes, Eliot sticks out his tongue and sure enough, right there in the middle of it is this long brown hair (mine). I scrape it off with my fingernail and then RUN back to the switch to bathe us in darkness once more.
He's already curled back up in the fetal position with Elmo securely tucked under his arm, lying there waiting for his cheek kiss and "sweet dreams." I tromp back to my bedroom, circle carefully around the Hot Wheels, and slide beneath my covers. I lie there awake, listening, waiting to hear my name again.
My name is "Mooom!"