I’m miles from consciousness – wonderfully and deeply asleep in that zone where screaming goats outside the bedroom window could not have shrieked their way past my double REM cocoon to disturb me. If I’m dreaming at all, I’m dreaming that I’m dreaming a dream of dreaming deep comfortable dreams, about dreaming, I’m ever so happily wrapped in many layers of warm and weightless neurological insulation due to a very long and nearly sleepless week.
My arm , the last time I was able to check, is, or at least was, around my wife’s waist. She barely reacted when I crawled in and curled up beside her. She was already a couple hours into a sleep itinerary, a trip we called soul-travel. This is a state that we’re sure is as close to Heaven as a person can get without being dead.
All I need is about 6 more hours of this. What I got instead was some kind of klaxon blasting away at a frequency sharper than a scalpel, slashing it’s way through the layers of deep REM dreaming – dragging me back to the real world.
I clawed my way back to the bed and finally managed to get one eye open enough to verify that I was still in my own bedroom. What is that noise? I struggled to roll over enough to see the clock. Ugh – 2:17 am. The klaxon went off again, God almighty, something was seriously wrong. Wait! I know that sound. Not again. . .
Now I understood and time was short. Any more of this and my wife would also wake up. Come’on, it’s time to man up and face down this threat – again. It was a repeat late-night attack of our baby daughter – awake and ready to play when the rest of our world was safely fast asleep. Aieh! There she goes again.
I had recently shut down my computer science education business and started a new job as the first course developer and instructor for a small but significant database company conveniently near our home in San Carlos California. They had a huge need. They had seen my work with a technology of similar complexity and wanted to bring my methods in-house, but time was short and as easy as I thought their problem would be to solve, I had recently realized that I missed many layers of unexpected complexity and now was burning lots of extra hours to sort it all out and meet my promises.
Our first born, a boy, was about two and half. My wife was still recovering from the arrival of our newest creation, our girl-child had just figured out how to stand up in the crib, hold the rail and scream for what sounded like national emergency each night between 1 and 3am, doing her best to prevent mom from getting any sleep. It was another night of dad to the rescue and I could not afford to lose to this pocket sized wad of early morning energy, but this meeting for fun and games each night was getting old. Something had to be done.
I was groggy and barely awake myself, but was ready to try a new system I’d setup earlier just before dinner. I lifted her out of her crib to calm her down, “Hey you”, I whispered. “What are you doing awake?” She squirmed in for a better cuddle as I gently used my foot to push a well-rolled up quilt out from beneath her crib to the center of the room, then a gentle kick caused it to unroll across the floor leaving it laid out like a sleeping bag ready with pillow and folded-back top ready for the baby girl and her dad to crawl into. I then give her a swaddle of a snuggle and, hoping I’d done this all fast enough so that neither of us were so awake that we couldn’t easily fall back to sleep. She seemed to quiet down in my arms and within minutes was fast asleep. Wow – I don’t believe that actually worked. Previous nights of fussing with a blanket out on the couch had not worked nearly as well.
Victorious or not, I still needed sleep, so I slept through my own victory lap.
I was still kind of grouchy about having to do this. My job was very demanding and I really needed the sleep. After about of week of successful nights of sleeping on her bedroom floor (which was much better than not sleeping at all) I was working at keeping a decent attitude about it one night right after she again fell asleep in my arms. I realized that all my precious daughter wanted was me hugging her.
Good Lord! I thought. She’s going to outgrow this as fast as she’s outgrowing everything else. She thinks she needs me. Where else would I rather be?
Well, she did outgrow it, and sooner than I would have liked. I found out that for the short time that she wanted this extra attention, it cemented itself into my mind, and hers (even though she does not recall it) as one of the best memories I have of her childhood. Through her single digit years, through her teens, now into her mid 20’s, and to this day – and especially when she feels beat up by life, she tells me that there is nothing like a dad-hug.
I have never regretted a second of the time I invested doing this.
God only loans us our kids for too-short a time. This memory is going to help when she packs her things and moves on to start her own life. Trust me on this, she won’t get away without a good hug.