Last night the 2 year old woke up and crawled into bed with us. After dealing with him thrashing about and endangering his little infant sister, I made the discovery that he apparently just wanted some one-on-one snuggle time. He needed that affection.
So I dutifully took blanket and pillow out to the living room, leading him by the hand, and we snuggled up on the couch together. And then it began.
He says, "Buzz! Buzz!". "You want to watch Toy Story? Now??" It's 2:30 in the morning. But he wants to, and I figure that he'll just fall asleep with me as we watch it. So I pop in our old antiquated VHS copy of the original Toy Story, and hit play.
Then the 4 year old shows up. And wants milk. I get her and the 2 year old both some milk and together we all snuggle under one blanket at 2:30 in the morning to watch Toy Story.
Then the 6 year old walks out into the living room. He too, wants milk, but I encourage him to share with his sister. And together, all four of us snuggle under one blanket at 2:30 in the morning to watch Toy Story.
And none of them fall asleep. It is a magical, spontaneous, wondrous time of father-child bonding. A twisted and tender moment, just the very kind that tends to stick in your mind for years. A Neujahr-style bizzarro family movie night.
With these thoughts now racing through my head, I begin to recall all the various bonding moments done in the wee hours since our oldest daughter was born. There are the memories of croup, rocking infants in a steam-filled bathroom. The memories of sleeping with one eye open and one hand on a vomit bucket for the child with the flu. Finding a bed empty and then finding the sleepwalking child in the yard. Shushing and cooing away the frantic half-awake fears brought on by nightmares.
There are memories of discovering a child in the kitchen eating the last of the cheesecake because "I'm a tiger." Of rushing into a bedroom at the sound of a thump and finding a child still asleep, but fallen on the hard wood floor. There are late-night diapers and feedings for itty-bitty ones feeling either heavy or empty and early-morning counseling and consolation for bigger ones feeling the same.
Memories of running a vacuum to provide enough white noise for a crabby child to sleep. Memories of midnight drives to rock a baby to sleep. Memories of nosebleeds on pillows, of cough medicines and prayers for it to work, of children creeping unbidden into my bed and of me blearily laying down in theirs at their small-voiced, big-eyed requests. There is forever printed upon my mind and body the loving service of the routine awakenings and the panicked adrenaline of the emergency ones.
And in this flood of memories, I came to a profound and great revelation. The force of this new insight overwhelmed me, and under its rocking blow I was moved nearly to tears.
I realized I haven't had a decent night's sleep in nearly 20 years!!