As my constant readers may have noticed, the steady stream of content has dried a bit during these summer months. Some of that you can chalk that up to normal summer doldrums (it’s so hard to write when I could be outside playing Kick the Can or brushing up on my So You Think You Can Dance audition). In addition, I took a small hiatus last week – taking leave from the job, packing up the family Truckster and pointing the brood Northward – where we spent the better part of a week sequestered in Andi’s Dad’s lake house.
Prior to departure, the household was gripped by a spell of stress, with some nagging home improvements staring us down and some parenting issues raised by our once expert sleeper Colin, who had decided to launch a strike against slumber.
Since he was about 3 months old, Colin has been the absolute perfect sleeper. As soon as you placed him in his crib – he would babble on (sometimes up to an hour) before gently escorting himself to sleep. We had relatively few of those sleepless nights where parents do everything from playing tracks from the Hasselhoff Night Writher CD to strapping the car carrier to the ski-rack of the Forester and barreling down I-95 with hopes that the whoosh of the air stream and the rhythmic splat of June Bugs would lull Junior to sleep.
I can recall approaching the segue way from crib to bed with great trepidation – as I was absolutely positive the disruption (timed at the exact moment he changed bedrooms ahead of his sister Aria’s arrival) would lead our little Van Winkle to suddenly announce his jones for a steady stream of late night John Shibley infomercials. Once again, all that worry was for naught, as Colin was placed in his bed that first night and had fallen asleep 15 minutes later on the floor beside it. The next night, he fell asleep in the bed without the 5-inch excursion to the floor, and to date, that is where he has been most comfortable.
That was until Thursday July 13th – when Colin rose from his bed 5 minutes after being placed down – with a tearful plea that he needed a wet face cloth to dry the tears from his eyes. Yes, it’s that very paradox (crying giant tears for a wet face cloth to dry the tears he was shedding for said face cloth) that prefaces the End of Days. Or Nights. Sweet, Restful Nights!!!
This same routine played out over the next several nights and culminated in the Mother of all Sleepless Nights – Sunday July 16th – the very evening before we departed for vacation. That night, Colin awoke several times and wouldn’t go to sleep until I slept on the floor next to his bed. At 3:00 a.m. I relented and lay my weary head upon a makeshift pillow of Tickle Me Elmo and Finding Nemo feet pajamas. Of course, Colin proceeded to narrate his victory for the next hour and a half – cheerfully exclaiming that “Daddy is sleeping on my floor!!!” over and over again. Finally, ‘round 5:00 a.m., we both drifted off for a few hours.
The following night we were in Maine. He was as expected, exhausted, and whether it was the change of scenery or his body relenting to the fatigue, we had a battle free night.
Then on Tuesday, it was – as they say in Ultimate Fighting – “ON!!!” Colin was placed to bed at 8:00 p.m. and up a moment later. Andi and I took turns escorting him back to bed – a task which remained futile as the moment we got him back in bed, he popped back out with another request.
“Need a drink.”
“Want another pillow.”
“Daddy needs to sleep on my floor.”
“How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?”
That does it, I said. I looked at Andi and sketched the plan. We needed to bond together in a fierce display of parent power. If we kept relenting – if she went out and found him the signed 1st Edition of Paradise Lost that he was requesting – he’d hold all the cards. He’s currently 39” tall – on target for seven feet by Armistice Day. We had to draw a line in the sandbox.
We each made a fist and pressed our wedding bands together.
Andi: Form of an Unmovable Mountain.
Ed: Form of an Ice…ahhhh… Disciplinarian. (Damn, that ice dude seriously got the shaft when those super powers were doled out. Hell, even that space monkey Gleek had him punked.)
So we put up a gate, let him know that this behavior was unacceptable, and stopped giving in to the demands. We could block out the crying and screaming and hope that the message would be sent. No matter how hard he yelled, we weren’t budging – meaning all that yelling would be for naught. (It’s the same tactic I hope to employ with those Lemming-headed Bruins fans that still flock to the Garden, fork over 5 sawbucks for a bid to ape Rick Flair’s ‘Wooooooooooooo!!!’ each time the B’s score a gold.) You just end up losing your voice with nothing to show for it.
Well, knock on wood, it worked. Colin was asleep by 9:00 p.m. and now – over a week later – the episode appears to have subsided. We have negotiated a few new terms in our contract – for example, letting him sleep with his door open so he can see our room if he wakes in the middle of the night (fearing that an undisclosed fear of the dark or being alone could have prompted this episode) – but in the end, Andi and I came out on top by working off pure instinct. I think the lesson learned here is that you can scout the Internet and read a billion books and talk to every parent you know – but nothing works better than your own gut instincts.
As post-script to this tale, the week in Maine ended up being a pure delight and culminated with a fantastic trip to North Conway (just 40 miles due west of the Maine cottage) on the last full day. On Thursday July 20th, we all headed west to bring the kids to Story Land for the first time.
Now, regarding Story Land, I need to go on record and say I was opposed to the idea as I had this nagging suspicion that it had really gone to seed since I was a kid. Hell – from what I remember – it was a pit in the 70’s – what state of disrepair could it possible be in now?
I’m happy to say that I was proven as wrong as one can be. Whether the site is under new ownership – or someone pumped a ton of cash into it – the park was as clean and aesthetically pleasing as a parent could hope. My description to Andi – upon seeing it’s surprising concealed sprawling landscape – is “this is like Six Flags for Toddlers.” The park was as clean as Disney World, had a huge parchment of real estate that winds through scenic mountain country, was very affordable (a bottle of water actually costs $1.25 – not the usual $4 – $5 you mortgage your house for) and had an abundance of rides.
I was most happy seeing Colin’s face light up. What a difference a year makes! Last summer we headed to Six Flags in Agawam and there wasn’t a great deal of rides for a little guy. Those that were his speed – he didn’t seem too fond of – as Sean has documented with numerous shots of me drying his tears.
This year, I couldn’t get enough of his popular refrain – “Want to go Again!!!” He was absolutely thrilled and seeing his face beam just made me melt. There’s something so primal about seeing your children ecstatic that chases every worry and concern you have for them away.
Aria enjoyed quite a bit as well – even if the swan boat ride most likely has her one-year old mind convinced that humans have co-opted giant mutant birds as an alternative transportation method (high gas prices can make us do crazy things).
Following the all day adventure, we stopped off at my favorite North Conway watering hole and grill, the Muddy Moose, and recharged calories for the trek back East. A great dinner was had by all – although it did get a bit dicey when Colin noticed a moose head perched on the wall above the bar and reflected – “that moose got stuck.” I decided to parlay the whole Circle of Life lesson for another day. The only thing that would be killed today was another round of Buffalo Squirrel.
All in all, it was the perfect cap to a very nice week that started a bit stormy but ended up with a bright, shining ray of sunshine and hope.