I had to look after all three of my kids by myself this weekend, and when you are alone with children for that long, you are so put-upon that your memory stops working. I can't even recall what happened over those three days, because my brain went into Safe Mode and was like, NOPE. I'M NOT STORING ANY OF THIS SHIT. I have only one clear memory from that ordeal, and here it is:
On Friday night, all the kids were asleep at last, and I was drinking my face off, because I had earned it. Then 11 p.m. rolled around, and I decided to go to bed, so I trudged upstairs into my bedroom, turned on the light, and found my oldest kid sound asleep in MY bed. She sneaked over from her room earlier in the night and was passed out on my wife's side of the bed, her head resting on its side, and her hair spilled all over the pillow. I cradled her in my arms and carried her back over to her room, and she didn't move at all. Whenever I move a sleeping child from one place to another, I like to pretend I'm a fireman rescuing someone from a burning building. The building collapses just as I walk out the door.
When I got to her room, I was preparing to gently lay my kid down on the bed, when I realized she was facing the wrong way in my arms. So I set her down with her head at the foot of the bed, and then flopped her over like a tugboat throttle. Again, she did not move. It was lovely. I probably could have bounced a basketball off her head without her waking up.
Being a parent is a complete pain in the ass. You get yelled at and kicked, and you spend most of your day picking up shit that will end up on the floor again three minutes later. A sleeping child is your reward for all that tiresome labor. A sleeping child is the visual manifestation of what you think parenting OUGHT to be: quiet, peaceful, loving. Whenever you see an ad featuring babies or very small children, they are usually depicted sleeping, because a sleeping child is the goal. Sometimes a child will fall asleep in the wrong place at the wrong time—like right at the end of a flight or a car ride—and that's really annoying. But when they sleep at the correct time, it's the fucking best. It really is.
One time, my youngest kid had croup (sucks), and I had to take him to the hospital (sucks more) to get treated. The problem is that, when you get treated for croup, they have to keep you at the hospital for hours and hours afterward to make sure the treatment has been effective. If it isn't, they do it all over again. My kid required the treatment three times. This means sitting in a hospital room, waiting to leave and wanting to die.
It was the middle of the night, and my son needed to sleep, so I curled up on a gurney with him and cradled his big hairy head in my arms and spooned him, because there wasn't enough room for both of us to lie down flat. Eventually, the kid fell asleep. I never did, because I was in such an awkward position, but my son passed out, and that made it okay. I slipped my arm out from underneath his head and got up and stared at him until morning. And it was kinda nice. It almost made me glad that he had the Viking Death Cough, so that I could have that little moment with him. That happens a lot with kids: You pull a sliver of happiness out of the worst times.
Unlike me, children can sleep anywhere, and I have mentally chronicled every spot where my kids have passed out. I remember my son falling asleep on the plane, with his head in my lap. (That's always cool until your groin starts to sweat.) I remember all the times my kids have fallen asleep in the car, with their heads listing to the side and their mouths wide open and a patch of drool on the carseat cover. I've seen them pass out on couches and on the floor and in restaurants, and it's always worth taking a look. You look at the sleeping kid and you laugh and you say AWWWWWW and you take a picture, because you know at some point they will wake up again and start throwing shit. You have to take in all the sleeping child you can while it's available to you. That's the only chance you get for savoring.
My kids usually go to sleep before my wife and I do. At least, that is how we plan things. So before we go to sleep at night, my wife always sneaks into their rooms to adjust their sheets and make sure they aren't falling off the bed or that they haven't wet the mattress pad. It's a practical task, but she also does it so that she can watch them sleep one more time. That's the nice thing about sleeping kids: Their rest is your rest.
Drew Magary writes for Deadspin. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter @drewmagary and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also order Drew's book, Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.
Image by Jim Cooke.
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