Child number one: up 4 times overnight, calling out for backrubs and cuddles until, sometime in the crack between the floorboards of 2:47 and 3:12, I concede defeat and crawl, Downey Jr-like, into my toddler’s bed. For the next several hours I doze fitfully, occasionally pelted in the face by a nearly-three-year-old-girl’s flung hand, until I hear a whisper around 6:47 a.m.
“Abba, can we have breakfast?”
I do not move. I do not respond. I am thinking, in my head, the actual words: “If I pretend to be dead, the bear will nose at me and move along to the next campsite. I will think unappetizing thoughts and the bear … will … leave … me … alone.”The bear leaves me alone for ten minutes and then returns, her paws treading on my chest and the faintest scent of toothpaste and urine preceding her. "Hey, Abba, is it time for breakfast?" At this, I "pretend" to have just woken up and "pretend" that I didn't get a particularly good night's sleep what with the face pelting and the bed being too short for me, and pretend that getting plaintively and piercingly called for at least three times in the wee hours didn't leave me on the dock, staring at the just-departed Good Ship Night's Sleep, its jaunty smokestacks filling the evening's dusk with white steam and the faint clink of glasses from the dinner party aboard just barely filtering back to me, holding my suitcases in one hand and my ticket clenched in my teeth.
It’s pretty easy to convincingly pretend these things when you’ve got a theater background as long as I have.
The bear suggests cold cereal for breakfast, to which I groggily acquiesce, but then changes her mind mid-bowl, her deft spoon-work transitioning into a knife-sharp whine as she realizes that what she’d really like for breakfast is yesterday’s lollipop, carefully wrapped up for “later.” “Later,” she has decided, is “now” and “mid-breakfast,” and to this point I respectfully disagree, which causes bursts of toddler invective and tears and a decent rendition of the sound of a band saw struggling to cut through an over-tightened double-bass guitar. Kate wakes up, stumbles downstairs to attempt to sleep in a cooler bedroom behind a closed door, and ultimately fails. I make a cup of tea for Kate to drink half of, and then manage to spill the whole thing across the kitchen counter.
Eventually, enough breakfast passes the toddler’s lips: the lollipop, dubbed The One Treat For The Day, is handed over. As I clear the breakfast dishes, Kate discovers that Child Number Two, who has gone without a Number Two for six days, has pooped so enormously as to have overrun her diaper and her onesie, leaving her damp, smelling of way-bad yogurt from approximately her sternum south, and seemingly much relieved.
As we extract Child Number Two from an emergency bath, we realize the lollipop-scented Child Number One has fallen completely asleep on her bed, virtually guaranteeing that the day’s usual sleep schedule will be utterly FUBAR. Child Number Two falls asleep. Kate and I entertain a momentary thought that perhaps we, too, might make up some of the night’s losses by napping … but then our to-do lists nag at us, and we unwisely turn to them: unshowered, cranky, and insufficiently caffeinated. So it goes.