"We Don't Let Dorothy Crack The Eggs Anymore" Chapter 11; The Insomni-Acts

I would quarrel with the mattress-makers, who in pushing their products spring forth with information that we spend one-third of our lives in bed.

This family's percentage has GOT to be lower.

Like, we're lucky if any six-hour stretch is not interrupted at least twice. Subtract two distractions, add two requests for water and multiply by four wandering waifs, age 3 to 7, whose nocturnal strolls are more to be feared than the Great Jewel Robbers.

You don't come up with one-third, fella. More like one-eighth.

The insomni-acts of our brood are explained by Gesell and clocked by Spock. Spock asserts, "If the first child is trained to sleep until a convenient hour, there should be a good likelihood of inculcating the same pattern in subsequent children, even though they have to share rooms."

Ha! A big, fat HA!

An emdee told me to play "possum" in those pre-dawn hours when babies first snort and snuffle. That way they won't grow up expecting mama to vault out of lullabye-land forever at that first simpering whimper.

This has become my credo and I've even thought of stitching it into a sampler and embroidering the wall with it -- I vow to pass the nights I can't sleep playing possum.

No more cribs for this quartet. It's bunk beds and togetherness to the tune of all four wanting to sleep in the same room, a room with dimensions suitable for 1.03 people, after you take up space for Gaylord the pup, 584 books we no longer read, plus 38 Soaky toys and assorted stuffed animals too beat up for Salvation Army to accept.

Child-rearing experts may disagree on what time you plunk the progeny between the sheets. But show me a child who is EVER ready for bed and I will show you a prescription for tranquilizers.

The other night we had a houseguest, junior size.

An only child. Age 8. His first time out. At 3 ayem I heard mumbles and rumbles. Play possum and they'll drift back to sleep? Any possum who could sleep through the tumult which followed could win first prize for playing people.

At 4 ayem I investigated. In the spare bed lay one very wide-eyed 8-year-old boy, gripping his blanket until his knuckles showed white at the sight he beheld. Every one of four young hosts was fully dressed, inveigling him to join them in a game mispronounced as Mah-no-pol-ee.

In the next scene, the mother figure is tapping out Morse code with a hard-soled slipper across four bottoms whilst the bug-eyed houseguest sits bolt upright, jaws agape.

(Despite the physical admonishment he witnessed, the youngster begged to be permitted to return the following week -- he thinks the pre-dawn fun-and-games is customarily the way we live.)

Another thing. How do you clue them when they have passed the stage of wanting to sleep with Mommy?

It wasn't so bad with just the four-year-old, who insists I am the mother cat and she is the kitten. But, there is no king-size bed to accommodate all the clamor in our little Pajamasville. Gesell writes about this problem as if you had just one kid.

Try waking up sometime after the other three have snuck into bed with you (unbeknownst because you finally mastered the possum-playing) and you feel like a Timex watch that didn't survive all that intentional jostling.

Gesell says one of the most common fears of children is being afraid of the dark. Mine aren't, I'd venture, because they're always meandering after the light bulbs have grown cold to the touch.

Me? I'm afraid of the light.

It comes much too soon, that sun-drenching reveille. I could swear I'd only closed my eyes for 10 minutes.