I cannot believe I am saying this, and it’s a clear indication of how long it’s been since I’ve had a small child, but there are some times when you just don’t want to answer the bedroom door after lights out.
We could be doing anything—usually nothing—when that small knock and even smaller voice comes once you’ve settled down in bed after the last tuck-in. We will hear it, and freeze. And look at each other. And glare. And I silently thank the gods that it’s not my kid. Fact: the one who just won’t shut up during the day and shouts every fleeting thought as if you were deaf will have the tiniest, softest voice on the other side of that door. All day long? Pandemonium. After lights-out? A feeble, “Please, sir, may I come in, sir?”
Sometimes we let that first request go. If we can’t hear distinct words and they don’t ask again, we’re in the clear. No harm, no foul. But it’s the repeated knocking and the every-fourth-word clarity that drives us up the wall.
“Dad? Dad? Um, my arm [mumblemumble] the music’s [mumblemumblemumble] tell him to quit it?”
“What the hell?”
“Sounds like someone’s still listening to music and he can’t fall asleep.” Sigh. Deep breath, and then “OK, I’ll be right there. Give me a minute.”
“Think he’ll notice if we just go to sleep?”
“Give it a sec.”
“Dad? [mumblemumblemumble] about my arm?”
“His arm? What’s wrong with his arm?”
“No idea.” Louder, “I’ll get you some Advil.” Then to me, “Eventually.”
“I’m sorry, I’m just picturing his arm bent at five angles and us telling him to just splint it for now.”
“Make a traction bar out of Legos.”
“‘What about my head wound?’ Just hold the edges together. Patience.”
“Can you look it up on WebMD? Borrow your brother’s iPod, he’s not supposed to be using it anyway.”
“Look up the body diagram and the symptom checker and get back to me.”
“Just don’t let the dog lick it.”
“Don’t you have like sixteen pillows? Staunch it.”
“Look up ‘staunch.’ Websters.com.”
Now we’re giggling and haven’t heard any more knocking. We’ve hit a new water mark for indifferent parenting.
“You know, staying up with you past ten is like a lounge show. Before then, you’re fairly serious, but after… Jesus.”
“Hey, that’s your kid out there bleeding to death. Or being eaten by dingos.”
“I’m going, I’m going.” I heard rustling, a drawer slamming, the fridge opening, and then the bedroom door opening and closing again. No sign of the child, but my husband’s clutching two ice cream bars.