Sleeping on the bottom bunk with a 4 year old
Futile attempts against the battle with exhaustion
Every parent I know is Very Tired, particularly during the holidays, and particularly during this season of Getting-Back-to-Normal-ish with lots of continued uncertainty. So it’s an extra face-melter that for the last three months, Julian has claimed a fear of portals and wakes up thrice a night screaming and making unreasonable requests to fix his blanket and fix the ice that’s melted in his water bottle. When my friend Jess published an Opinion piece in the NYT titled "What if Your Kids Never Let You Sleep Again?,” it was, as they say, highly relevant.
After falling asleep at the relatively normal hour of 8 p.m., Julian usually make it to midnight, which is when Jacob and I are often mad at ourselves for reverse procrastinating and not yet going to bed. Shortly after we fall asleep, Julian totters into our room. The footsteps are panicked and you can hear his voice reaching a high and increasingly scream-y pitch. “I need mamaaaaa.”
“I’m scared,” he says. The portals are in his bottom bunk. They will suck him up and nobody knows where the portals go. It is unclear where he got this idea (probably TV?) or what will alleviate it. We propose a sleeping bag on the floor or the couch. He could even sleep next to Ada in her bed, which is fine with her. She offers him stuffies. No and no and no.
I ask him what he proposes. “I can sleep in your bed,” he says, or “you can sleep in my bed.” Both of these are terrible solutions. The first means neither Jacob or I sleep. The latter means I don’t sleep. I choose the lesser of two evils, and curl up next to him, but “only for 3 minutes,” I say.
We whisper about the portals for a bit because I need a longer-term solution and maybe if I understand the fear I can abet the fear. “What do they look like?” I ask. “Like darkness,” he says. “They are outside, but they come in.” They aren’t real, I insist, knowing this is futile. “They come to the bottom bed so I can’t sleep in the bottom bed,” he claims. I’m quiet for a while and remind him this is the last time I’m laying here, that he can’t come back to our room, that I’m only staying for two more minutes.
In the morning when I wake up I am surprised to be in his bed. Ada realizes I’m there below her and whimpers about how it’s not fair. I am clear that it was not on purpose, nor enjoyable, two pieces of information Julian willingly ignores. Instead, he asks me if I had any good dreams. He asks if it’s a school day and if it’s going to be cold outside. He asks if I like waffles, and what it means when someone says, “I’m on the fast track to stardom.” Then he pauses and starts to sing some of his favorite lines from the Technotronic track, “Pump up the Jam.”
Make my day
Make my day
Get your booty on the floor tonight
Make my day
I roll over, my neck very sore from sleeping on a stuffed bear. At breakfast I’m haggard and remind him that we’re not doing this again. Tonight he must stay in his bed. Today we are making a sleep chart. Today we are going to let me sleep because my face might melt off. Without looking up he says, “That’s exactly what you said yesterday,” and goes on, eating his omelette.
Recommendations for the kids:
Activity journal: Artist Erin Jang’s You Me We! journal 2-pack is the best activity to do alongside your child. There’s one for the parent, and one for the child and Ada and I had so many sweet conversations stemming from these activities.
Stick & stick again: Tattly is now offering super cute re-stickable vinyl stickers out of their very popular designs, solving that extreme disposability of stickers problem one adhesive at a time.
Recommendations for the grown-ups:
Watch: The new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, is pretty damn fun and total eye candy. We rented it, since we’re parents and don’t go to the movie theater. (Also very excited about the new Mike Mills movie, C’mon C’mon)
Read/Bake: My favorite new (subscription) newsletter—if you want to deep dive on baking and recipe formation—is Kitchen Projects by Nicola Lamb, a recipe tester and pastry chef based out of London. This pecan miso honey tart is screaming at me.
Gratitude: Artist Austin Kleon’s newsletter has a free gratitude zine you can download and print out or do with your kids or put at the table for your guests.
Read: This fascinating piece about how actress Cece Moore became THE world’s leading self-taught genetic genealogist and has solved a ridiculous number of cold homicide cases in “How Your Family Tree Could Catch a Killer” (New Yorker)
Listen: Grew up with Paul Simon and he’s among the most sung in our house so was very moved by An excerpt from Miracle & Wonder: Conversations with Paul Simon on Rick Rubin’s podcast, Broken Record.
Whether you’re traveling, cooking, baking, hosting, table-setting, or skipping the holiday altogether this week, hope you have a restful rest of week. Grateful to all of you who read.