“Are you sure you’re okay with me leaving you alone tonight?” WonderWife™ asked.
“My god woman, yes!” I exclaimed. “Go out and have fun. I’ll be fine.”
This was the 150th time we were having this conversation.
It was Christmas Eve and friends of ours were hosting a Feast of the Seven Fishes. There are not many times when WW™ wants to go out. She’s perfectly content being a homebody and I’m more than happy to represent for the both of us at social functions. So for WW™ to have a night out by herself is a rare treat. With the house to myself, I planned a great night. I had bought a beautiful piece of ahi and a bottle of wine and a Battlestar Galactica DVD had arrived the day before. But she couldn’t help but feel guilty for leaving me alone on Christmas Eve. I tried to explain to her that 1) we were Jewish and 2) I go out all of the time without guilt. This seemed to pacify her.
The Bean was cranky for most of the day, so by the time WW™ left for the party, my patience reserves were just about tapped. The dinner/bath/nighttime process was sluggish and the kid seemed to be doing everything in his power to stall. I was finally able to get him down about a half-hour after his usual bedtime. I feasted on seared tuna and polished off the bottle of wine while watching two episodes. I was just about to start the third when I heard screaming from the nursery.
“Bleah! Bleah!” The kid was shrieking and covered in vomit. I shook off my wine buzz and immediately sprung into Super Daddy Mode. All I had to do was clean the kid off, change his pajamas, change the bed, calm him down and get him back to sleep. No problem. Except that he was freaking out because he threw up and when I turned on the light to change him he starts screeching, “Bright! Bright” as if he were a Mogwai. I flick off the light and hope that all of those hours spent in the darkroom for my college photography classes will pay off as I’m fumbling to change him in the dark.
Somehow, it gets done. Now it’s on to task two.
I park the Bean on the couch (a move that I later realized was pretty risky for a kid with a sick stomach). I promise him that I’ll be right back, which only makes him howl louder, but at least he’s not moving. I race to his room and tear off the spoiled sheet, expecting to find another one underneath (which we put there for just such an emergency). But apparently the sheet I just removed was the emergency sheet. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
It’s at this exact moment, with the smell of vomit in my nostrils, a screaming kid on the couch, the remains of a great wine buzz long gone and no bloody idea where the extra sheets are kept that I stopped to marvel at how good of a mom my wife is. She’s gotten up in the middle of the night at least a half a dozen times to tend to the Bean and has never seemed to break a sweat. Here I am soaked and stressed, desperate to figure out my next move. I managed to find a sheet, which I quickly realized was the wrong size when I nearly ripped it to shreds trying to get it on. After much cursing, I finally had a crib that wasn’t pretty, but was clean and good enough to get the kid through the rest of the night.
Task three: Calming him down. I dimmed the lights. I rocked him. I read him a book. I sang him a song. He calmed down. That is until I placed him back in his crib, the very act seemed to trigger his memories of a few moments ago in the same way that I can no longer drink tequila after a spring break trip to Cancun. Lots of screaming and than finally…quiet. All was once again peaceful. Until ten minutes later the screaming began again. “Bleah! Bleah!”
So the whole thing starts over again. This time, the Bean had managed to keep his PJs clean. He was sobbing uncontrollably. I cradled him on my chest and sat down on the couch. I sang him every song I knew (and even one that I made up). Eons went by before he was sound asleep. This was all well and good, but now I was pinned to the couch. I sat there for a while, praying that WonderWife™ would be home soon to help me. When my limbs started to fall asleep it became clear to me that I was on my own. I attempted to transfer him to the couch with the care of a bomb specialist in a Bruckheimer movie. If it had been a movie, I would have blown up the Valley because as soon as I moved the Bean an inch, he woke up and began screaming again. I thought about turning on the TV to pacify him, but pictured WW's™ reaction as she came home to our vomit soaked kid zoned out in front of the Doodlebops while I was tearing his bedroom apart to find a clean sheet. She would never leave the house again.
There was only one thing left to do, plead with my son. This usually never works with a toddler, but maybe it was the tone in my voice or maybe it was the fact that he was ready for the night to be over as much as I was because he calmed down. I changed the bed for a second time and within seconds he was snoozing once again.
There is no great lesson to be learned here. I’m not the first parent to have a bad night with my kid. I’m sure there are many more ahead. I just have to remember that without the lows, the highs wouldn’t be as spectacular.