Of course he’s awake. I mean, why wouldn’t he be? It’s only 5:30 in the morning. The sun won’t be up for another hour. His baby sister will be awake in about fifteen minutes, but after a light snack, she at least will go back to dreamland for another two hours or so. But no, he’s awake. Which means I have to be awake, because today is my day to get up early with the kids.
Make no mistake, the mind of a child is a lot more powerful than we give them credit for.
On some level, he knows that I agreed to get up for the early shift with the kids so that my wife could have one blessed day of sleeping in. He knows that we had a drink or two last night and got to bed later than usual. He knows that I want nothing more than to turn off their monitors and let them cry it out until they fall asleep again, or until I wake up of my own accord. But I won’t do that, because I’m dad.
They work together in ways you couldn’t imagine, these kids of mine. Sure, Sprout #2 pretends to be completely defenseless and powerless to do anything and completely dependent upon my wife and I (okay, completely dependent on my wife), but I swear she’s communicating with Sprout #1, who is developing a kind of literary and oratory prowess that unnerves me a little. Just the other day, he was playing with his toys and without any prompting, warning, or cue, turned to my wife and quoted with authority the entirety of page 37 of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham: “Would you like them in a car? // I would not, could not, in a car!” Confession time, that may not be page 37 of the book, but the quote is verbatim; I know this because I’ve only read it to him about four hundred times. See, lately, he’s graduated from “want that” and “no beef stew” to actually using nouns and verbs together in the way they are intended, his tiny little stabs at formal language taking shape like so much silly putty being formed into the likeness of a sticky pink Statue of Liberty.
So I know he’s communicating with Sprout #2. Covertly, of course. While my wife and I think he’s just babbling incoherence or yelling for the sheer joy of hearing his not-so-tiny-anymore voice reverberate off the crayon-festooned walls, he’s slipping her messages. I can only guess at what they are, but they are coordinating over the past several days in ways too numerous to ignore. For example…
They don’t nap at the same time. Ever. The most we get is a fifteen-minute overlap, presumably the result of Sprout #1 falling too fast asleep and forgetting to wake up to hold up his end of the deal.
Sprout #1 will basically start crying whenever she stops. He’ll find something to get upset about, something to want that he can’t have, something he wants to do that we can’t allow, something to fall off of and hurt himself. When she’s crying or upset, he’s mostly cool, but as soon as she chills, it’s time for him to go to eleven. Sprout #2, on the other hand, cries whenever I look in her direction, except when Sprout #1 is throwing a fit, then she falls asleep in a way that benefits us none at all. Unless they decide to both go into full four-alarm screaming tantrums at the same time. Then all you can do is sit on the couch and press your fingers into your temples until the world fades away. Of course, then, Sprout #1 will throw a full bag of crayons at your unguarded privates, and then the whole screamy world comes crashing back into your cranium.
They can both go from being absolutely adorable to being nightmares out of a Stephen King novel in the space of about ten seconds. All it takes for Sprout #1 to turn is tripping over a toy, or being told he can’t have a popsicle, or his daddy taking a little too long to get him loaded into the car to go to the playground. Sprout #2, as I mentioned before, can turn on me in the space of a second for no reason I can discern. I think she just likes to see if she can make me cry by crying at me, in a weird sort of reversal of the “let me imitate the face you’re making” game that kids apparently like so much.
They coordinate farts. This cannot be made up, and I would not dare to embellish. Just this morning (shortly after they both woke up prior to 6 AM) we were sat on the couch watching PUPPY SHOW (I’ve no idea what the show is called, LeapFrog something I think, but Sprout #1 calls it PUPPY SHOW so PUPPY SHOW it is), when I felt the tiny little burst on my left thigh where Sprout #2 was sitting. Not a moment later, a somewhat bigger, juicier, louder brap on my right thigh. Then a series of staccato fut-fut-futs on my left thigh from the newborn. Then a deeper, gut-rumbling pfffththththth on the right. Then I’m sitting there, holding the two of them, laughing so hard I’m crying as their symphony of gastrointestinal woodwinds blows away in my lap.
And of course, they don’t let us sleep in. No, she wakes up at 5:30 or 5:45 like clockwork for her early morning snack, and he’s up and kicking by 6:30, just about the time my wife is falling asleep again after providing the snack for the newborn. But no, when it’s Daddy’s morning to get up early with the babies, they’re both up at 5:15 and there is no falling back to sleep for them or for Daddy until the sun is out and it’s so hot in the house no adult could sleep for fear of suffocating on his own sweat.
I love my children, I really do. But I think they’re trying to kill me. Not cold-blooded murder, you understand. Just the long, slow, inescapable death of gradual exhaustion by degrees.
This post is part of SoCS: