Bruce Cameron Column February 15, 2009
My first nap
My mother says that when I was a newborn baby, I didn’t take a nap until I was 28 years old. I think this is probably an exaggeration — after all, this is the same woman who claims that when it came to my birth, she was in labor for the entire Eisenhower administration.
I do understand wanting little children to sleep — I’ve always said that having a newborn in the house gives parents a good chance to catch up on their awake.
Until kids are old enough to be left on their own, you dare not take your eyes off of them long enough for a nap, and every cough or nightmare in the night awakens you in an instant. Then you’ve got a small window of opportunity for a few years before they start dating and staying out past curfew, and the sleeplessness starts up again.
This is a story, though, of when my children finally hit that sweet spot and became DNE (Dad Nap Eligible). My kids were 10, 7 and 3.
It was a snowy Saturday, and the three of them were huddled around the VCR like it was a camp stove, while I sprawled on a couch nearby, willfully forgetting my promise to fold laundry, my consciousness racing for the exits.
“Kids,” I told them sleepily, “I’m going to take a little nap. Wake me if anything happens, OK?”
I closed my eyes, deciding that if it were up to me, I’d give a Nobel Prize to the person who invented the couch. I was just drifting off when I heard the light patter of my son’s 3-year-old feet, and his tiny hand touched my face.
“Daddy, you nap?”
“Yes, son. Go watch the movie.”
“No, I’m just going to lie here motionless and snore.”
That seemed to satisfy him. He returned to his movie, and I returned to that luxurious prelude to sleep.
Suddenly, a wet blast hit me: My idiot dog had discovered me and was trying to inhale me through his nose.
“Hey!” I protested. The dog licked my face just in case there was anything to eat on my cheeks.
There was a short silence, and then I felt the couch cushions sag — the dog, thinking that if I were going to sleep in the middle of the day that all the rules of the house must be suspended, was trying to climb up on the couch.
“No! Get off! Lie down!” I commanded.
His look indicated he was very disappointed in me. Groaning, he collapsed on the floor, clearly suffering great pain from having to lie on the carpet instead of the couch.
“Dad,” my oldest child yelled, “can I make popcorn?”
“Do you know how?”
“I think so!”
I thought about it. “Good enough.” I figured that it was for situations like these that God made smoke alarms.
“Dad?” It was my younger daughter. “Can I make popcorn, too?”
“You can take some of your sister’s popcorn and put it in your own bowl,” I suggested seductively.
Unfortunately, the word “bowl” was one my dog recognized, and he leaped to attention, sure we were talking about feeding him.
“I don’t want hers, I want mine,” my younger daughter wailed.
My dog barked. “It’s not dinnertime,” I hissed at him.
My pet gave me an “Oh, yeah? Check this out” expression and did the only trick he knew:
“shake.” Since I was lying down, his paw did “shake” with my nose.
Ouch! My sleepiness was leaving like children who ring the doorbell and run away. Come back, I mentally begged.
“OK, you can have some popcorn if you’ll just lie down,” I promised my dog.
“Dad!” my older daughter shrieked. “We’re out of popcorn!” The dog glared accusingly at me.
“Just watch the movie!” I told her. I pointed at my dog. “You, too,” I said.
The dog slunk off. Muttering about the lack of popcorn, my kids returned to their movie. Ahhh, peace at last.
I was groping for sleep, trying to embrace it, when my son’s tiny fingers lifted my right eyelid. I looked at him blearily.
“Daddy, you nap?”
“No, son, not today,” I sighed.
To write Bruce Cameron, visit his Website at http://www.wbrucecameron.com.