Friday, May 17, 2013

A Fresh Hell: Getting up the Middle of the Night, Part II

So what if I was a jellyfish in the middle of the night?  So what if my knees buckled at the sound of a baby crying?  So what if I didn’t know how to change a diaper.  So what?

After a quick second, though, I had gotten the courage. 

“HONEY.”  No, I didn’t say it that loud.  It was more of a “honey”  or even a “honey.”  No caveman yet, ok?

She opened her eyes.  I could tell they were open in the dark room for two reasons: 

1.  She was so tired, her eyelids creaked. 
2.  The red laser light of her anger flashed around the room. 

At this point, I was wondering why Jonah wasn’t crying anymore.  I was also wondering why I was in the room, waking up Sunday and causing a huge stinky commotion in the middle of the night. 

Sunday was wondering the same thing.

“I couldn’t get him to be quiet.”

“You haven’t been in there that long, have you?”

“You’ve been asleep.  You don’t know how long I’ve been in there.”

“Matt, he’s been screaming the whole time.  I’ve been awake.”  I looked at Jonah with silent blame.

“I don’t know how to get him to be quiet.”

“Try again.” 

This “try again” was said in about the same tone your mother uses when she says your first and middle names.  It’s a warning, a sign that all three names will soon be used and then a fresh hell will be unleashed in an unmerciful fury against which no one on the planet will be able to withstand. 

Sunday, the merciful, was giving me a warning. 

I didn’t get it.  “Well, I was hoping you’d help…”

“No.  I am going to sleep and you are going to take care of him.”


Here is the most damning thing she’s said to me.  Ever.  “Because you said you would.”

That was it.  No cave man.  No Jell-O spine.  No quitting.  I said I would and I was going to have to do it.  Now, she was telling me:  “Suck it up and quit being a baby.”  I would have to engage in the difficult things. I had to wipe that stupid look off my face, walk back into Jonah’s room, and stay there until he passed out.   Not because I wanted to, or because Jonah needed it.  I was going to plug in, raise my IQ, and get to work because Sunday expected it of me.

As she said, “Because you said you would,” I had no response.  No reply.  Nada.  I stood there, in the dark, holding our baby with nothing to say.

You know what Sunday’s response to my silence was?  She rolled over and went back to sleep.  She was snoring by the time I had collected my thoughts well enough to realize Jonah was asleep, too. 

I’ve thought about that night for a number of reasons, and I’ve always asked why she confident enough to go back to sleep.  Some women would have badgered me until I gave up my will to live or simply refused to ask me to do anything from then on.

No, here are the reasons I believe Sunday rolled over and went to sleep.

1.  She decided that there could only be one exhausted parent in Jonah’s life, and I had been chosen to be that parent.

2.  She was not in the mood for my garbage.  This one’s important.  There are times when I absolutely need her to swallow a big shovel full of my attitude.  I need it.  There, in the middle of the night, was NOT one of those times.

3.  She knew that, if she took Jonah then, she would take him for the rest of his nocturnal scream-fests.  A kick from Jackie Chan couldn’t get me out of bed if there was a chance that she would end up taking him.

4.  She knew I could handle it.  No emotional melt-downs, no hierarchy of knowledge.  Neither one of us knew what we were doing, so it didn’t matter who was trying to get him to shut up.  Our ignorance was parallel and simultaneous.  (That means that we walked in oblivion, all at the same time.)

5.  She knew Jonah didn’t care which one of us got him back to sleep.  He just wanted to sleep.  And since Sunday was the one in the supine position, then I must have been the one who got him out of bed.  Thus, it was my job to put him back. 

6.  She knew I’d do it.  She knew it.  She didn’t have the fear that I’d forget, or I wouldn’t think it was important or that I’d whine until she woke up again.  She could trust me enough to take our small baby back to his room, lay him down, and run quickly away before he started crying again.  She knew I’d do it. 

Looking back on that night, I’m glad she left me holding the baby.  That meant she cared enough—about me AND about Jonah—to do that.

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