I have discovered the key to great parenting. Sleep!
I don’t mean sleep for you, the parent. Don’t be silly. You won’t get another good night’s sleep until you’re dead. Sorry, but it’s true. First you have the kid(s). Getting any sleep with an infant in the house is simply not possible. In the roughly five years that we had little crying diaper fillers in the house, my wife and I slept a combined total of twenty-seven hours.
Next, they grow up a little and start coming into your room to wake you up in the middle of the night about crazy dreams, bodily functions, or late night sibling injustices. Once they get to high school you’ll lose sleep over where they are and what kind of trouble they’re getting into.
Send them off to college and now you have to get up early and work late to pay for it all. Think you’ll finally get some sleep when you retire? Nope. Sure, the house is quiet, but you have to get up three times in the middle of the night to pee.
Now you’re really wishing you slept more in your twenties, huh? I hear you.
No, I’m talking about getting the kids enough sleep. We have an early bedtime for our three boys, and up until this morning, I hadn’t realized one of them might not be getting enough sleep.
It all started when I realized his mattress was sub-par, at best. You see, they are all in the same room, and Son Number Two has the top spot in a bunk bed. Since I am afraid I’ll destroy the entire structure and crush his little brother underneath if I get up on it, I have never actually been on his bed.
So, a few weeks ago, he mentioned something about his mattress being slightly uncomfortable, and I climbed up the ladder to inspect it. I’m not even sure where or when we got his mattress, but after feeling it, it appeared to be about three hundred years past its prime. I’m not shocked very easily, and I have very few, if any, feelings of sympathy for my children. But something akin to guilt and shame washed over me, momentarily anyway, when I felt his mattress.
It felt like someone had placed a thin sheet over the top of a pile of rebar. It was awful. You could easily make out the shape and diameter of every spring. It was borderline child abuse. I have no idea how he ever slept on it at all. So, as a loving and caring father, I looked him in the eye and said, “Looks like you need a new mattress. Well, goodnight.”
Then I wrote it on my to-do list under fifty-seven other things and forgot about it for two weeks. Like I said, little to no sympathy. He should just be happy there’s a roof over the top of his crappy mattress, dammit.
We finally made it over to the bargain cave in the back of RC Willey yesterday, and picked him up a brand-new discount budget mattress. I splurged and spent the extra twenty-five dollars on the “European top” model, since the lower-priced version reminded me a lot of his current torture device disguising itself as a bed.
I managed to haul the new mattress upstairs by myself, and swapped them out. The trip downstairs with the old one was easier. I just folded it in half a few times and carried it downstairs one-handed. Bedtime had him remarking how nice and comfy his new bed was.
For me, last night anyway, the new mattress was just a check mark on a to-do list. Another chore taken care of. It wasn’t until this morning that I realized how much more it really was to our family.
Son Number Two slept all the way until the alarm - something he rarely did in the past.
He didn’t start a fight with either of his brothers – something he always did in the past.
He joked with me instead of complaining to me – very rare indeed.
He swept the floor – unheard of.
He swept the floor. (I just wanted to say it again, because it was so amazing.)
He actually got out the broom and swept the kitchen floor because it was messy. Unprompted. All on his own. He did something to help without being asked. My well-rested son cleaned something!
We have a five-bedroom house. I need an office, and we want to have a guest room, so that leaves two other rooms for three boys. This is why they’re all in the same room. We don’t want to play favorites or have some kind of complicated biannual room swap to deal with.
I’m only dealing with one night’s worth of data, here, but if this type of behavior keeps up from Son Number Two and I can attribute it to better sleep, I’m going to start playing favorites in a big way.
If I can get him to keep cleaning the rest of the five-bedroom house, I’ll give him his own room with blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and a five thousand dollar Tempur-Pedic mattress.
Totally worth it.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen
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