Over these last 16 years of parenting, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of delegation. And, to my husband’s credit, he’s usually pretty good about picking up the pieces that I delegate to him in the arena of childcare. With one exception: anything that happens in the middle of the night. If it happens in the middle of the night, it’s my domain.
This was understandable when our children were babies. When they’d wake for their nightly feedings, I was the only one with the “equipment” to satisfy their hunger, and so it fell to me to wake up the countless times at night for those feedings. As the children got older, however, a pattern had been established that I was the night-time caretaker and, therefore, Troy would always wake me to take care of the children…or even the dog.
For example, for many years we had a female boxer named Maddie. She was, technically speaking, my dog; but she had chosen Troy to be her master. In the middle of the night when she needed to relieve herself, she’d walk over to Troy’s side of the bed and wake him in the most effective way she could manage by sticking her muzzle in his face until he could feel her breath on his cheek and smell the foul odor.
“Your dog needs to go out,” he’d say as he rolled over to wake me up. There was no arguing this logic. She had selected him to be her master, but it was I who had promised to be the primary caretaker of her needs if he’d relent and let me have her. So I’d drag my butt out of bed at whatever time it was at night to take the dog out.
The children weren’t any different. Once we’d passed the stage of night-time feedings, we’d already become so accustomed to the pattern that “Mommy handles nighttime issues” that it seemed impossible to change the pattern. When one of the children would awaken with a bad dream, a wet bed, a tummy ache or whatever, we’d hear the cry: “Mommy! Mommy!” followed by whatever the issue was.
“Troy,” I’d mumble in my sleep. “Can you go see what Braden wants?”
“He said Mommy. He wants you,” he’d reply. And so out of bed I’d get to go deal with a child who really didn’t care which parent came to resolve his issue. He had just gotten so used to calling for Mommy that it was the first name that popped out of his mouth.
This wasn’t always a problem. Amber had spoiled us because, when she fell asleep, she was always out cold until the next morning unless it was a truly serious issue. Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky with Braden who had developed into a pattern of urgent night-time needs.
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” he’d call from his room two or three times every night. I’d rush to his room to find him sitting up in the middle of the bed and saying. “My blankets falled off.”
It didn’t matter how much I tucked those blankets in, every night – two or three times each night – I’d get the call: “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! My blankets falled off!”
“Troy…will you please go help Braden?” I’d ask.
In his sleep-induced half coma, Troy would respond “He wants you. He said Mommy, not Daddy. When he calls for me, it means he wants me. He’s calling for you.”
These nightly wakings went on so long that I was beginning to lose my mind. Every single night was the same thing. And every single morning I’d awaken and go through my day like the walking dead. Children were supposed to grow out of their night wakings by about a year. Braden was now 4 and he was continuing to wake me multiple times every night. I couldn’t take it any more!
Finally one night as I tucked Braden into bed, I said “Listen, Braden. DO NOT wake Mommy up tonight. Do you understand? If your blankets fall off, you need a drink of water, you wet the bed or the house is burning down, you call Daddy. Not Mommy. Do you understand? Mommy is really exhausted and I seriously need to get some sleep. You’re too old to keep waking up several times at night, so if you wake up and just have to have help, call Daddy. Understand?”
He assured me that he understood, and so off to sleep he went.
At about 2:30 in the morning, we heard the first strains of Braden’s voice coming from his bedroom. “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! My blankets falled off.”
Not surprisingly, Troy rolled over and nudged me saying, “Braden wants you.”
I waited…wondering whether he’d call again and whether that call would go out to me or to Troy.
“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! My blankets falled off!” Braden called out for a second time.
Finally Troy was beginning to come out of his sleep coma. Nudging me a second time, he said “Braden wants you.”
Finally I responded. “Ummm…no way Buddy. Listen again. I specifically heard him say, ‘Daddy.’” He’s clearly calling for you.
And then the call came out again…”Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! My blankets falled off!”
With a groan and a half-growl, Troy crawled out of bed to attend to his son. “Somehow I have a feeling you’re involved in his sudden need for me,” he said.
I’ll never tell. But I will admit that I slept well that night. After the first time he called for Daddy, I didn’t even bother to roll over the next two or three times.
The moral of the story? When dealing with a thoroughly logical husband (i.e., “Your son is clearly calling ‘Mommy.’”), sometimes you have to be devious to outsmart him!