Four children, and not one of them had ever crawled into bed with us in the middle of the night. Nor have they bounced on our bed on Christmas morning; they howl from their rooms, as if we’ve imprisoned them in there, “Waaaake uuuup!!! MOM! DAD!” Most consider us lucky, but I always felt like I was missing out on something. I like cuddling.
Two weeks ago, Daniel woke up in the middle of the night screaming. I walked in his room and he started blubbering about a weird noise, the rain, a bug, the rise of China and the threat of global warming. He was bereft. So I gathered him in my arms and brought him into our bed. He burrowed down into the covers and lay completely still, like a warm loaf of bread. He let out a tiny sigh, went to sleep, and stayed perfectly still until 7 in the morning.
It was glorious.
My other three children are cuddling failures. Caleb slept for the first four days of his life and then took up a hobby: screaming at the top of his lung until he turned purple for large portions of the day and night. He adamantly refused to go asleep on his own. He required to be moving in his swing at about 80 mph or bounced on my knees for a good half hour before he would drift off. Forget about trying to set him down. The moment he felt that easy drop toward his crib, he would wake up and passionately recite a speech by Benito Mussolini. My life had been taken over by a 10-pound fascist dictator with no teeth and a penchant for drooling.
For the first four months of his life, I ended up curled up on the couch with Caleb, where I lay perfectly still and came in and out of uneasy, murky sleep. Living a life in perpetual fear of waking your dictator child is not really a life at all; I had to break Caleb of his habit. Which was like trying to unseat Mussolini, minus the hanging bit. Since then, Caleb has been a restless, twitchy sleeper who gets about seven hours of shut-eye a night and is not one for cuddling.
Ben’s a good sleeper- has been since day one. He’s squirmy, though. We shared a bed once, and I woke up in the middle of the night with his heel in my eye. I gently moved him back into position and woke up 20 minutes later with no covers and his other heel in my eye. I pity his future wife.
Ella is too social to cuddle. She wants to talk. And sing. And discuss plans for her birthday, which is seven months away. She wants to jump on the bed and tickle feet and recite a monologue by one Dora the Explorer. She wants to dabble in Spanish and make animal shadows on the wall. She wants to giggle, randomly, for no apparent reason. She wants to know where her twin is; she sleeps well next to him. She refuses to be still with the rest of us.
A few nights ago, Daniel came into our room and tapped me on the forehead until I woke up. I couldn’t make out what he was saying. He was upset about something. I grabbed him and he molded into the side of me and stayed there until the morning. He’s so squishy and soft.
Sadly, it hasn’t happened since, so I’ve been telling him some slight untruths. Like the following:
1. The book “There’s a Nightmare in My Closet” by Maurice Sendak is based on a true story.
2. So is “Where the Wild Things Are.”
3. Sharks swim in oceans, but occasionally make it to Lake Ontario. Occasionally.
4. The buzzing sound in his room is probably a nest of bees in between the rafters, but they won’t get in unless they find that tiny hole in the corner.
5. I don’t think his stuffed animals came alive at night and gave him that bruise on his leg, but I can’t be sure.
6. Sometimes mommy forgets to lock the front door, but bad guys only rob yellow houses. Our house is yellow? Well, I guess mommy should start locking the doors!
7. Sometimes dogs turn into werewolves in the middle of the night, but only dogs who live in yellow houses.
8. Come to think of it, yellow also attracts aliens. Maybe we should get new siding?
9. Did I ever tell you the story about when an alien stole me from my bed and took me to his planet and made me eat copious amounts of peas?
10. Yes, that’s why aliens are green. Because they eat a diet solely consisting of peas.
Any night now…