We're All Damaged

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I'm Still Standing

Since about her twelfth week on earth, my daughter has been a champion sleeper. Every night at around 6:55 p.m., she’d gently rub her eyes and sigh theatrically. This was our cue to take her upstairs, dress her in some footy pajamas, and lay her down in her bed.

“Goodnight, sweetie,” I’d say, or something like that. But, by then it would be too late, because she would have fallen instantly to sleep and would not be heard from again until around 6:30 the next morning.

“Our daughter sleeps through the night. Usually about eleven hours straight.”

Either my wife or I would say this to our poor sap friends who have sleepless, unholy demon babies. We’d plead ignorance and pretend like this was industry standard, as if all babies sleep like cartoon lambs. Our friends would look at us, varying degrees of loathing on their sunken, tired faces. “What?” they’d ask, or, “How long?”

“Matt Norman, you good-looking bastard, I hate you,” others would say.

To most babies, sleep is a sworn enemy. Throughout the night, you’ll check your baby monitor and find them doing something other than sleeping. Screaming. Thrashing. Tangling their pudgy limps in their sleep sacks and writhing like recently harpooned sea creatures. A friend of mine once reported walking into his daughter’s room at 3 a.m. to find her smoking a cigarette and sipping from a bottle of 5-Hour Energy Drink. “That’s right, daddy, you’re in my world now,” she supposedly said.

But not us. My wife and I were perpetually well-rested, happy even. That’s because our daughter was the mew prototype—an entirely unique version of a human baby, programmed to sleep for long stretches of time, be adorable, and smell like lavender.

However, about two week ago, our lives changed forever. It was a normal evening. I’d put her down in her crib, set her noise machine to “sleep” and headed to the door, back toward independence and relaxation and parental ease. But there was rustling followed by whining, and when I turned around, my 9-month old was standing in her crib clutching the wooden bars like a tiny inmate. Her hair stood crazed on her head.

My emotions were mixed. The fact that she was standing was a revelation. She’d never done that before. But the fact that she was NOT sleeping was frightening. I didn’t know it then, but one chapter had ended, and another had begun.

“Look who’s standing now, daddy,” she said, flashing two small teeth. “I sure hope you’re DVRing that episode of Entourage, cuz you’re in for a long, long night.”

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