In The Middle of The Night...

About once a month, I like to oil the hardwood floors in our house. Right before Nate gets home from school and Sam gets up from his nap. I always use too much oil and it makes the floor especially slippery. Am I fun or what?


Maybe just mean. They love it until one of them slides into the baker’s rack. Or wipes out at the bottom of the steps. If you remove your shoes and weave around in just socks, you can totally catch air if you get up to speed, as long as you cut at just the right angle.


“Did you clean the floor again?” Tighe asked as he skated into our bedroom closet the next morning.


Following day:


Tighe was traveling again, but I needed sleep, so I took an over-the-counter aid. Nothing serious— strong enough to overpower my bad guy/haunted house anxiety and make me feel a bit hung over in the morning, but at least well rested.


Bedtime for Nate and Sam went as smoothly as it ever does. I read stories to them while they wrestled and shoved each other, fighting for a good view of the pictures. The good news is that while they scuffle from the bed to the floor, I get to skip sentences, paragraphs, even full pages!  A big benefit, since, for some reason, Nate has to pick out the longest books ever. We might as well be reading the screenplay from The English Patient.


This isn’t the easiest statement to make, but Sam, my son Sam, young, blonde, blue-eyed, cutest-thing in-the-world Sam, yes him, is trying to kill me. 


After stories were read and prayers were recited and Nate and Sam were in their respective beds in their respective rooms, it was show time for Sam. It’s like he waited for nightfall before the true, anarchistic nature of his being was unleashed, like a demon. 


I shut his door and stood outside to listen for a few moments. After a moment or two, I heard it. Thud. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Finally, the click of a doorknob.


I busted open the door and grabbed his tiny wrist. The little monster was trying to break into Nate’s room through the Jack and Jill bathroom.


“Oh, no! Back in bed!” I returned him to his crib and went back to my sentry post, on guard outside his room.


We did this a few more times until finally, it’s quiet in there. And then I hear the singing.


“Aww, cute. He’s singing himself to sleep,” I thought, retreated downstairs to forget about my two trophies of adulthood who lay in bed upstairs—resting up, recharging for our duels the next day.


I was getting really into a Food Network episode—something about the largest deep-fried BLT donut ever made—I heard a door slam. I froze, hoping it’s a neighbor’s car outside.


No such luck. Sam. I heard his feet thud across the hardwood floor in Nate’s room.


I charged up the stairs, two at a time.


Sam, startled, began pleading with me. “My bed now! My bed!”


He’s wanted to graduate to the twin bed in Nate’s room for several months now. The problem is…he can’t seem to make it work. Here’s a hint, Sam: Lie down and close your eyes!


He does that—for a few seconds and then he gets up to play with Nate’s toys while Nate sleeps nearby. He rearranges Nate’s belongings, plays with the radio, flushes the toilet. Later, I find shoes and football jerseys in the trashcan. I’ve even found him hovering over Nate’s bed watching him sleep. Creepy.


In this case Nate was still awake.


“No, Mom!” he shouted. “Sam’s going to do bad things in my room!” Are they the Menendez brothers? Was it Lyle? Kyle? A Lyle and a Kyle? And they murdered their parents, right? For the rhyming names?  Have Nate and Sam been similarly conspiring?


“Let’s try it,” I reasoned, even though this would be the fortieth time we’ve tried the merging of domiciles. “Sam, you need to stay in bed and go to sleep. Like a big boy.”


Sam was agreeable. He stuffed his lovies by his side, threw his head back on the pillow. I tucked the comforter around him.


“Sam, if you get out of the bed, you can go back to your crib. I’ll give you one chance.”


Nate rolled his eyes as I said goodnight to them. I lurked on the steps for a minute or two to ensure it was quiet and then returned to the couch downstairs. I suddenly needed M&M’s, my favorite mind-warping drug.


I gave him three chances. Maybe four. Nate dutifully fell asleep, like any favorite child would, while Sam tiptoed around snooping and peeping.


Finally, I got fed up and returned him to his crib where he cried himself to sleep. Angry but exhausted. Downstairs, I resumed my research of boarding schools, wondering whether we could afford six-figure tuition if we moved to a tent in the woods somewhere. Maybe an uninhabited beach?


I went through my own bedtime routine, remembering to take my sleeping pill—who am I, Chelsea Handler?—and promptly fell into a deep sleep.


For about four hours.


Then suddenly—SLAM!


I glanced at the clock. 2:21. The neighbors sure keep odd hours. I closed my eyes and curled up in my comforter.




Ok, that was definitely inside the house. I hope it’s a burglar. Take my wallet! The checkbook is in the junk drawer in the kitchen! It’s yours. Just let me sleep!


Sam! I shot out of bed and then fell back. Whoa. That over-the-counter sleep aid is pretty strong.


I stumbled to the other side of the room and threw on my robe. I moved toward the bedroom door and slipped on the blasted hardwood. Parallel to the ground for a moment, I managed to regain footing and charged down the hall to Nate’s room.


Sam was sitting in his future bed arranging his lovies, pretending he was about to fall asleep.


“Fine. You… Sleep here.” Half asleep, I was in no state to argue or pretend to be strict or formulate words. My limbs were numb. So was my brain. “Go to sleep.”


I stumbled back to bed. Ten seconds into slumber I heard him again.


Oh, come on. Hopping out of bed and fighting to balance myself, I tried to run to the door. I slipped, nearly wiping out—again—and moved down the hall.


Back in Nate’s room, Sam was—actually, I don’t know what he was doing. I was basically unconscious.


But I do know that he was not in bed and he was not sleeping.


“Back in bed!”


He obeyed. But he was giggling. A maniacal giggle.


I returned to my bed, confused. Why is Sam awake? Why does he hate me? Maybe God hates me. Maybe there is no God.


Or maybe—just maybe—Sam will finally fall asleep in this bed! We’re finally making the transition! It’s not ideal, it’s 2:30 in the morning, but that’s ok! He’s growing up!


Smiling, proud of the little guy, I rolled over to sleep.


Jarred awake moments later, I tripped and slipped back to Nate’s room. Sam, causing mischief again like a young Menendez brother—ok, I’m not really comfortable with the whole Menendez comparison…maybe just like an archetypal younger brother…Kevin McCallister? Whatever Sam was doing was loud enough to stir Nate.


Nate can sleep through anything! Did Sam finally go too far?


We both froze, knowing that if Nate, the sleeping giant, woke, he’d be cranky and angry, wondering what we were doing in his room and whether the treasures—his golden eggs—he hoards were safe.


We watched as he groaned and rolled over, back to sleep. Yikes, that was close!


Sam feigned obedience again and climbed back in the twin bed. It felt like we were rehearsing a play. I returned to my mark, my bed, waiting for my cue.


And I heard it, moments later. Only louder this time. Heavier footsteps. Nate’s footsteps! Oh, no!


As practiced, I slipped on the floor as I ran to Nate’s room.


I stood still in the doorway, trying to determine how this horror movie would end. Sam was crouching in the corner, his eyes on Nate. Nate was zigzag walking to the bathroom. His eyes were shut.


Sam and I held our breaths while Nate fumbled with the doorknob, then struggled to stay upright, evacuating his bladder. I made a mental note to clean the toilet and floor—a mental note I forgot about until typing this sentence—and we watched as Nate sleepwalked back to his bed.


Exhaling, I raced to Sam, who was trying to escape my grasp. I scooped him and brought him back to his room. To his crib. This was too close for comfort. We can’t mess with Nate’s sleep. He’s a diva like that. All play and no sleep makes Nate very grumpy!


“No! No! My lovies!”


I fetched Sam’s blue, satin lovies from Nate’s room and delivered them to his crib. “Good night, Sam! Sleep!”


But he didn’t. Because nighttime is bewitching.


We fought the same war for another hour—him, trying to flee the oppression of his crib and me struggling to fight the fog of the sleeping pill and establish what was reality. At one point, I think I made a preemptive strike—busting into his room before he had broken from the crib. At another point, he tried to open-mouth kiss me.


By the end, around 4 AM, he was hoarse and sobbing and delirious. I, on the other hand, was hoarse and sobbing and delirious. We both fell asleep in our respective beds, each cursing the other’s stubbornness.


I was awoken at 6:45 in the morning to Nate’s pre-breakfast cheer. “Hey, Mom! Want to play Ninja Turtles? Hey, Mom, do you miss your husband? Hey, Mom, when’s Tighe coming home? Mom, want to play Ninja Turtles? Mom, I’m pretty hungry. Mom, I think I’m bleeding. Just a little bit, right there. See it? See it, Mom?”


Desperately trying to doze just a few more minutes, I handed him my phone so he could peruse pictures of parakeets befriending a giant golden retriever. While my son was lost in his imaginative universe of animal friendships, suddenly I remembered.


Eric! Eric Menendez! Lyle and Eric Menendez. Convicted of murdering both their parents in 1989. That lucky, lucky mom and dad—finally able to get some rest.