When Chris finished, Sprout bopped around his room, doing his version of the Charlie Brown dance. He climbed in and out of the bed multiple times, figuring out how to use his comforter to create a slide. “It’s so much awesome!” he exclaimed.
Bedtime went relatively smoothly, albeit delayed because of the new bed celebration.
And so the count begins.
One: Just as we start to sit down on the couch, Sprout sticks his little blond head out of his door. (All three bedrooms are right next to our living room.) “I need something!” he yells several times. He refuses to specify what “something” is, only that it is badly needed. Chris goes into his room and returns him to his bed.
Two: A minute later, he opens his door and sticks his head out again. “What do you need?” I ask. He put his head back in and closes it.
Three: Before I’ve even put on the tea kettle, he’s opened the door and ran into the living room. He runs all the way to one end before we grab him and walk him back to his room.
Four-ten: We repeat this process several more times, to no avail. Chris keeps a calm demeanor, but I know he just wants to yell at him to “go the f**k to sleep!” in the classic words of Adam Mansbach. Unfortunately, Sprout thinks it’s a hilarious game. At one point, he says to Chris, “Now I chase you!” I press my lips together to keep from laughing.
Eleven: On this trip, I tell Sprout that if he keeps it up we’ll need to put a baby gate on his door. His eyes grow wide, his breathing is shuddering, and big tears start rolling down his face. It’s one of the first times he’s reacted to something I said with fear; I’m immediately swallowing back the wave of guilt. I almost backtrack, but instead qualify it by saying we won’t put up a baby gate tonight. He seems relieved, expressed by the fact that he sprints out of the room again.
Twelve through twenty-two: Back and forth, back and forth he goes. Chris is doing most of the corralling and retucking-in. None of it holds for more than a minute.
Twenty-three: “How do we deal with this?” Chris pleads. “I don’t know!” I reply. “Look it up or something!” he insists. I Google “toddler bedtime.” The page that comes up says to start with the “100 walks” method, where you basically walk the child back to bed over and over again. According to them, after 30+ times of doing it, the child will get bored and give up. “It’s been at least 30 times already and he’s not slowing down!” Chris replies. I shrug.
Twenty-four through thirty: The same thing, over and over.
Thirty-one: “I have an idea!” declares Sprout. “You know, ideas lead to dreams if you go to sleep,” Chris tells him, hoping that maybe he has a hook. Sprout’s face crumples into tears. “Are you scared of bad dreams?” I ask. He nods and climbs into my lap. “I have bad dreams too,” I say as I squeeze him. Figuring that dwelling too much on bad dreams isn’t a great idea, I try to lighten the mood. “Did you know that Pop [my dad] used to walk around in his sleep? He got up one night and opened the fridge. When Nana [my mom] asked what he was looking for, he said, ‘Farts!’ Isn’t that funny?” Upon realizing that I told a fart joke, albeit in the context of a true story, Sprout started laughing. He then repeated the story verbatim about three times. I steer him back to bed.
<Thirty-two to fifty: It’s 11:20 PM. Chris starts formally keeping track of how many times we run this relay. Between the two of us, we mark 28 times over the next half-hour. At 11:50 PM, we go to bed. It’s starting to remind me of when we went camping and the drunken college students next to us kept him awake past midnight.
Fifty plus: Both Chris and I are in bed, with all of the lights out. Suddenly, we see a small head poking up over the side of the bed. He doesn’t want to come in, just tell me, “You’re in pajamas!” “Yes, I am. Go to bed.” He leaves the room, then returns a minute later. Then he tells Chris, “It’s dark in the house.” “Yes, we know. Go to bed.”
Finally, there is peace.
Then, a cry in the night. Little Bird is awake and hungry. I sigh, get up and feed him.
On my way back to our room, I peek in Sprout’s door. I look at him sleeping and smile. Suddenly, like a hand rising from the grave in a horror movie, I hear, “Daddy, daddy, daddy.” I close the door quickly and hope he didn’t see me. Thankfully, all is quiet once again.