Monday morning, 3 a. m.
Daddy is gently awakened by Mommy whispering into his ear. It sounds like she is saying, “I’m welding a metal Titanic.”
Daddy tries to shake off his sleep. “Huh?” he whispers.
“I’m feeling a little romantic,” Mommy repeats.
Daddy is tired. He has to go to work in the morning and he always has trouble getting to sleep on Sunday nights. Yet, with the birth of the baby, and Mommy’s long recovery afterward, it’s been a little lonely on his side of the bed. He does some sleepy calculations and determines that he should take his romance when he can get it. He pulls Mommy close and puts his lips softly on the nape of her neck.
Mommy yawns. Daddy was hoping for a sound more similar to a welcoming coo, but it’s 3 a. m., so he assumes that there was some sort of encouraging noise hidden beneath the yawn. Mommy is tired too. For the last four weeks, she’s had to convert herself into a buffet table every two or three hours. She has to get up at least as early as Daddy if she hopes to get anything accomplished before the boys wake up.
Their spooning feels so nice. It is so comfortable that there is a good chance they will both simply fall back to sleep. Daddy means to kiss Mommy’s neck, but his lips feel settled and content on the spot where they first landed.
This is such an awkward time, Daddy thinks. If only it were . . . he runs all the other times of the day through his head until he realizes that this awkward hour is the only possible time. The three-year-old hasn’t taken a daytime nap in a year and a half. The infant’s loud demands eat away at both ends of nighttime. It’s now or never.
Since never seems like an even longer time than it’s already been, Daddy redoubles his focus. He nudges his sloth lips into activity. Mommy responds. She takes Daddy’s hand and carefully guides it to. . .
“Ehnt!” a sleepy little voice calls from the cradle.
Mommy and Daddy freeze. Maybe if they are very still and quiet, he’ll drift back to sleep.
A quiet moment passes. Hope builds. Mommy and Daddy resume their soft movements.
Again, they freeze. Mommy silently rolls over and stares into the dark cradle. Daddy keeps what fleeting contact with Mommy he can.
Another quiet moment passes. Mommy rolls back to Daddy. They resume, but the belief has gone out of their caresses. Their attentions are in their perked ears. Silence. Maybe it was a false alarm after all. They begin to relax and think about each other again.
“Erwhaaaaa! Erwhaaaaa! Erwhaaaaa!”
Mommy sits up. “I’ll feed him a little bit,” she says. “Maybe he’ll go right back to sleep.”
“Okay,” Daddy replies, trying hard to sound like he buys into the fantasy.
Mommy gets the baby and goes to sit with him in the rocking chair. Daddy stays in the big, lonesome bed.
Daddy opens his eyes. The sun is up. The clock says it’s 7. Time to get up for work.
The baby is sleeping soundly in the cradle. Mommy is zonked out in the rocking chair.
Daddy gets up and stumbles over to Mommy. He kisses her on the forehead. “Morning, sunshine.”
Mommy opens her eyes and immediately moves them until they rest upon the baby. “Morning.”
“Good news!” Daddy tells her. “Our birth control worked again.”
There are many forms of birth control; some may be more effective than children are, but none are more zealous in their cause. Children can sense impending intimacy and their mission is to put the nix on it. There seems to be a subconscious Darwinism in their minds that tells them that intimacy equals more siblings. More siblings means more sharing. Sharing limits a young person’s ability to hoard all the ice cream, cupcakes, and other resources necessary to live a childhood safely above the level of hardscrabble existence. Hence, intimacy must be eliminated from the household.
Statistic show that one of every three clips on America’s Funniest Home Videos results in some hapless father being thumped in the nuts with a blunt object by one of his children. These are not accidents. These are calculated assaults on human reproduction by children who have nearby relatives to babysit them on alternating Saturday nights. This creates a dangerous gap in their control over their parents’ activities; therefore they have resorted to Plan B. Plan B is not subtle, but these are desperate times.
With only one child, it wasn’t so bad. He was outnumbered, and he couldn’t stay awake all the time. Now, we’ve gone and made things more difficult by giving him a reinforcement. Between the two of them, they do a pretty thorough job of guarding both the day and the night. Together, those brothers are worthy adversaries.
I don’t know if we will have more children. I don’t know if we will decide to have more, and if we do, I’m not sure we will get past the sentries.
*Artist: George Hand Wright