Just before I headed off to bed two nights ago, I called down the stairs to my daughter Kelly, who had cloistered herself in the basement for a marathon John Hughes screening/mourning session.
As you might expect, Kelly responded to my call for her to “wrap things up” by:
1. coming up the stairs;
2. going to the kitchen freezer;
3. grabbing a tub of ice cream;
4. heading up to her room;
5. setting the late-night dessert next to her bed; and
6. falling asleep for seven hours.
Kelly is a somnambulist—which I believe is the formal name for one who, with no knowledge of her actions, steals ice cream I planned to enjoy but now can’t because it’s “room temperature cream”. Kelly is now a bad, bad daughter. She’s also a sleepwalker.
My first opportunity to make fun of my little girl for something out of her control came years before, when we lived in an apartment. Kelly strolled into the room, rocked on her heels a few times, and then blurted words that made no sense. The specifics elude me, but let’s just say the conversation went something like this:
“Daddy, will you always be a responsible parent?”
“Honestly? I doubt it, sweetie.”
“Okay. Can I have ice cream?”
“Maybe in a few years.”
My wife Patty, who at bedtime snores but never strolls, pointed out that, in speaking to Kelly, I was wasting my breath. I cast a knock-it-off glare, made a shield for my lips, pointed at Kelly through my hand and then mouthed, “Honey, I know…but she’s right here.”
“No, moron. She’s fast asleep.”
Unconvinced, I walked over to Kelly, waved my hand in her face and stuck my tongue out—nothing. I then poked her in the forehead with my index finger. Apparently, this gesture approximated pushing a Go-Back-to-Bed button, because she then turned and left. I smiled at Patty.
“Wow. That was really cool.” And then, “Let's make her do it again.”
Of course, this wasn’t my first exposure to sleepwalking—which, according to the National Sleep Foundation, afflicts up to 15 percent of the population. As a child, I dreamed I was a firefighter. No blaze was too big for me, the world’s all-time #1 hero. What snapped me back to reality was my father’s angry question:
“Brian, why are you peeing in my night table drawer?”
I had no good answer. To be fair, had a fire been blazing in the drawer, it would be out.
Poetic justice came calling many years later, when I was a father to a two-year-old. Devin, who to that point only ever went to his mother should he awaken at night, walked right past her, came to me and extended his arms. Of course, this painted the dopey “awwwww” look on my face. I pulled him up to my chest, snuggled my head against his, and adored him like never before. And then he drained his bladder on my T-shirt.
I believe this was the only time I ever referred to a child as a “little fucker”.
For some, sleepwalking is benign. Those afflicted do little but walk around, carry on conversations with floor lamps and steal things that—not to put too fine a point on it—aren’t fucking theirs.
Others kill everyone in their home.
I’ll miss the ice cream but, in the scheme of things, I’m ready to let it go.