Monday, June 13, 2011

Adventures in Real Parenting: Alone in a darkened room

As happens most summers, Chaos is once again in charge. Days go unstructured and we become the playthings of inertia. There's a lot of deciding at the last minute to do things or not do things. A lot of slow-talking about what we might could be doing if only we could get up off the couch and unglue our eyeballs from Hot in Cleveland. A lot of listening to the iPod while waiting for the inflatable kiddie pool to refill. A lot of mixing concoctions made up of the remains of the liquor cabinet. The occasional act of kindness when one of us gets up to go to the kitchen for something and offers to bring back beverages and a nosh for whomever else is lying around in the dark even in the middle of the day.

Our sleep habits are disrupted in disturbing and sinister ways. Once Doug and the kids stop having school, it's anything goes. It's kind of like living in a dorm the day before Spring Break when people are in various states of undress, inebriation and panic because they forgot to turn in their English paper that counts for ninety percent of their grade except the panic has more to do with the paying of bills than it does academics. Thankfully, strongly mixed drinks transform panic into singing and dancing on tabletops with trusted reliability.

Each of us reacts to this lack of routine differently. For example, Sophia has metamorphosed into a vampire. She stays up until I don't know when and wakes at 2:30 or 3:00 p.m. at which point she lumbers down the stairs all small-eyed and long-legged asking what's for breakfast. I look up from my book, finish chewing what's left of my afternoon protein bar and announce she's grown a bit more since I saw her at about midnight. (Petty sidenote:  This sudden litheness of body and legginess has created a sour jealousy among the other females in the household who are forced to move through this world on stubby stumps with a bit too much thigh.)

Since Sophie has become a child of the night, it's rather a good thing we continue to draw the Blackout curtains against the sun for energy efficiency purposes. Otherwise, she might turn to dust in the glare or blind us all as she stands glittering in the living room that normally gets a ton of natural light.  Pick your vampire lore, my friends.)

Anyway, I call them Blackout Curtains, but they're actually a mismatched assemblage of dark-colored sheets, duvet covers and discarded bleach-speckled shower curtains thumbtacked over the miniblinds. I've refrained from using beach towels because the backside of the now classic Budweiser can towel just screams white trash and I have my pride microscopic though it is.

I've also discovered that with a bit of patience, sobriety and certain evoked oaths, a twin-sized fitted sheet stretches perfectly over some of our window casings.

It looks like hell from inside, but our thermostat is set at 79 degrees and no one has been diagnosed with heat exhaustion yet. We did encounter some controversy over the psychological effects of the red sheet tacked over the window and filtering a disturbing red light into the room kind of like the Kenny Rogers Effect, but we eventually hit upon a reasonable solution.

When teamed with the somewhat threadbare navy blue sheet over the opposite window, the red sheet's effect is less disconcerting and more patriotic. So much so that I find myself resisting the urge to recite The Pledge of Allegiance each time I enter the bedroom.

The cats, of course, despise having their one method for reassuring themselves that there is a indeed a world beyond this dreary split-level obliterated. They're inconsolable. You can tell by all that sleeping during the day and general lack of interest in anything except sniffing one another's backsides. Which reminds me - why do they do that? In all my years as a slave to cats, I've never figured that odd habit out. I mean, these are the same five cats who have been living together for years. Regarding butt smell, what's going to change?

Anyway, kitty anti Ds are being administered and the bum sniffing as a way to constantly reacquaint themselves with one another continues unfettered by the Summertime Blues.

But I was telling you about Sophie the Creature of the Night. Yes, I'm concerned. While the neighborhood can always use another method for controlling the rat population, I don't like the idea that while her father and I sleep in the Grand Old Flag Suite, our youngest precious is wide awake watching DVDs of the original Upstairs Downstairs, playing First Person Shooter games on her iPod Touch, rearranging furniture, shopping in Chloe's closet and raiding the pantry.

Evidently, twelve year old female vampires don't crave blood. They crave JIF peanut butter straight from the jar. And they don't appreciate being nagged by their mothers to brush their fangs.

We've discussed the messed up sleep rhythms, but reached no conclusions. I'm already fretting about the nightmare it will become in early August when Sophie has to return to the routine of school. Mathman, always the pragmatist, suggests I close my trap and reminds me that at Sophie's age I, too, was a raging insomniac.

Oh, he's heard the stories about how I would lie in bed as the hours crept by. I'd entertain myself with reading by flashlight, mentally creating elaborate designs for tiny houses with not one inch of space wasted, or just counting to sixty as I tried to time it just right when the next glow in the dark number of my sister's white clock radio would flip over slower than anything I'd ever seen in my life.

He's right, of course, but I like to point out that I stayed in bed and didn't wander the house, leaving a trail of mess and peanut butter smeared spoons. My dad worked the swing shift and you never knew when he would be coming through the door. The man who worked sixteen hour days so we could wear clothes from Shillito's instead of Kmart would have had a thing or two to say about insomnia.

To be continued.......


  1. I'm worried about our impending slide into summer insomnia. It just doesn't work in a small apartment.

  2. Summer insomnia? Is this a new plague? I've never figured out why animals sniff each others arses. Our ferrets however, bite each others. To each their own.

  3. I was totally the same at your daughter's age. I loved being up when no one else was, especially in the summer. I'd talk on the phone to my best friend at like 2 in the morning, watch movies and eat cereal. :)

    I've become somewhat more well-behaved these days...somewhat...

  4. I keep everyone on schedule in the summer simply because I don't want the headache of reeling them in come September. How lame is that????

  5. My stepson stays up way late playing team shooting games on the xBox with his friends or whomever he finds....drinking frappacino's. :P

  6. If only my children behaved like I did when I was their age...

  7. Love this post. Fabulous writing.

  8. I especially loved the bit about Sophia not liking to be told to brush her fangs. If that picture is close to reality I'd say she ought to find Mr. Toothbrush right now.

    It's a funny thing about being a young teen and wondering why anyone would want to sleep when 2am is such a wonderful time to be alive.

  9. Growing vampires are insatiable; try driving a steak through her digestive system.

  10. I want to be more like you and yet, I can't believe I'm admitting this, but my kids are on a strict bedtime schedule.
    With both of us working we're outside more in the summer, but if they don't go to bed there is just no time to write, to read, to do anything. It could be the ages, but as much as I love my kids, I can't wait for them to go to bed so I can be a grown up.
    The dream of me as the hippie chick is dying a slow and painful death.

  11. You might want to give Peter Cushing a call. Although at least she didn't turn into Renfield, making weird noises all hours of the night.

  12. Sophie reminds me of my daughter at that age. She was totally into vampires and horror. I sat through some of those movies holding my hands in front of my eyes! It didn't phase her. She was amused.

  13. My brother and I are early risers (acquired by my brother, natural for me), but my sister-in-law and two of their three kids are night owls. Whenever I go down to visit, my sense of time gets screwed up. I wonder how they do it.

  14. As so frequently happens, I am completely stymied trying to decide whether the life you are describing, or your descriptions of it, are the more entertainingly bizarre. You have great material and you do marvelous things with it.

  15. Insomnia sucks! I've had it all week, and I really need to just pass out and not move for 24 hours. But I do like being up when no one else is. It's easier to sneak peanut butter crackies.

  16. This cracked me up.

    What is this thing with the youngest daughter getting the longest legs? It's the same in my family. Definitely not FAIR.

  17. Sophia should meet my 12-yr-old, Carson. They have much in common. Wait! They probably DO know each other! They're texting one another in the wee hours, and are occasionally moved to burst into their parents' room at 3:30 a.m. demanding the dandruff shampoo because they suddenly realize their scalp is full of flakes.

    Wait, now I'm completely confusing your daughter with my son. But yes, I so know the summer insomnia song. The dark night of the scalp. The need to watch replays of the ManU-Barca game on the cable until dawn.

    And let us not forget the crusty plates of congealed cream cheese on the hockey puck bagels.

    It's summer. They're home all the time. Too young to work, too old for day camp in the park.


And then you say....

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