October 20, 2003


Very early in the morning, I lie dreaming in the quiet dark alongside my slumbering spouse. Until a tap-tap-tap on my arm wakes me up. I open my eyes to find a pajama-clad child looking at me expectantly.

“I have to go pee, Mommy.”

“Mmm hmm.” God, am I groggy. And what was that snippet of dream? I almost have it, if I can only go back to sleep I'll get it back.

Now the catch: “Mommy, check my underpants to see if they’re dry.”

As many kids do, Damian had a round of bed-wetting a while back. We found nothing that worked except a reward system. If he restrained himself, if he kept his bed and his clothes dry and actually got up to use the toilet, we’d give him a small treat. And even though he’s been quite good about it for months, he still expects the treat. After I say “Your pants are dry,” he says, “Mommy, get me a gummy heart.”

Rewards of this sort mostly fall away after their usefulness fades, but I think in this case it’s about the ritual of it. That, and a desire for my company. If we no longer gave him the heart, he’d probably find some other excuse. Which he sometimes does anyway: “Mommy, it’s too dark, hold my hand.” And so I guide him to the bathroom, open the door and stumble out into the dining room in quest of that small sweet for my small sweetie, dodging hungry, mewling cats as I go. When I return to the bathroom, Damian grins at me, far too chipper for four thirty a.m. “Mommy, do you have to go pee too?”

By the time we get into bed (he comes into our bed at this point, always has), I’ve lost the sleep mojo. He sometimes settles into an instant slumber wedged between his parents, but other times he’s all elbows and bony knees pressing into various tender parts of my body. Hard to fall back to sleep.

I know children all have comforting rituals to help them feel like the world is a safe, somewhat predictable place. My child perhaps needs this more than most. And that’s okay. In fact, I’m glad to give him that reassurance that we love him and are there for him even in the predawn hour of the wolf. But I have got to get a better night’s sleep. I feel like a walking zombie, nearly as tired as when this kid was a newborn waking to nurse every few hours. Like water slowly dripping creates a groove into solid rock, cumulative sleep deprivation is carving a groove into my brain.

So tonight when Damian taps my arm, I’ll roll over and tap Dan’s shoulder. Tonight is Daddy’s turn on gummy heart duty. Dan’s amenable and I’m needful. And hey, a small change in the routine will do Damian some good.

Sweet dreams.

Posted by Tamar at October 20, 2003 10:17 PM