Years ago – I’m a little hazy on precisely how far back – my three children participated in an unsanctioned contest every Saturday morning: Who will wake up first and ensure that dad’s five hours of slumber will come to an ugly and sudden end?
I didn’t keep records, but I believe they essentially took turns. On some weekends it was Daniel sheepishly entering the bedroom to nudge me awake.
“No. Dad’s not here. I just look a little like him. He said he would be back at 10:00. Come back in a few hours and he’ll be able to help you out.”
Sigh. “Yes, Daniel? Do you need some help with breakfast and your juice and that sort of thing?”
“Yeah. Sorry. Thanks.”
On other occasions it was Luke breaking my reverie first, bounding into the room and shaking me vigorously while wisely taking care not to rouse his mother. (For reasons I ought to have studied carefully but neglected, all three amigos – from an extremely young age – woke me up first each weekend morning, and sought me out when they were scared or sick in the middle of the night. I suspect Krista utilized some spell, voodoo hex, or hypnotic trance or something. Whatever she did, it was very sneaky. And smart.)
“Hey! Hey! Hey, dad! Wake up! Get up, man!”
“Why, Luke? Did the coffee maker catch on fire or something? Is there a burglar rummaging through our extremely valuable set of plastic cereal bowls? Has someone kidnapped Abby and demanded ransom? My wallet’s downstairs on mom’s desk. They can have whatever’s in there.”
When they were younger, the kids usually wanted some assistance pouring milk on their cereal, someone to help them get started on a playtime routine, and a little adult company. Creating stuff with Play-Doh, tossing a ball, make-believing with dolls, drawing pictures, and weaving stories early on Saturdays necessarily meant that my imagination was given a steady workout and that I accumulated a lot of indelible, precious memories. It was tiring, but also satisfying. I felt both needed and wanted.
The amigos are teenagers now, and those early Saturday mornings are a distant memory. They have entered that period of life which author Martin Amis referred to as the epoch when it takes all the energy one can muster, during the course of an entire day, to move one’s socks from one end of a room to the other.
To put it another way: The kids are in a serious catatonic state on Saturday mornings until noon or later. They are collectively and individually a medical marvel. I am certain that if I could on any given Saturday morning employ Atlas himself to pick up our house and lay it down 10 yards from a Manhattan high-rise construction site, the temporarily deaf-dumb-and-blind trio would continue to snooze, quite blissfully, through the cacophony. If one of our fire alarms ever went off at, say, 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday, Daniel might eventually rouse after a few minutes of the siren’s wailing. After 10 or 15 minutes Abby would dreamily ask Luke to turn off his clock, roll over, and immediately reenter night-night-nipperland. Luke? Well, let’s give credit where it’s due. The guy can flat-out sleep with the best of them. His delta brain waves would never vary and he’d wake up wondering why the joint smelled so strongly of smoke.
So I find myself wandering the house on Saturday mornings, sipping coffee and surfing the web, waiting for children to arise and complicate my life. I try in vain to sleep beyond 7:45, though I am very tired from a fairly stressful week.
Ah, and when they do wake up, they don’t need my assistance with getting dressed, helping prepare their breakfasts, or serving as a play-mate. This is a welcome development, of course, but still – one likes to feel needed. Once upon a time, they hunted me down and begged me to help them put something together, dress up, or entertain them in some fashion. Nowadays, the most common sentence each utters upon my arrival in whatever room they’re occupying is “What do you want?” and it’s usually delivered with a mildly icy tone.
“What do I want?” I echoed Luke the other day.
“Yeah. No offense … but I’m kinda busy.”
“Nothing, I guess. Sorry to interrupt.”
“That’s okay. Dad?”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings or anything.”
“It’s okay – I’m good.”
“Hey. You look kinda tired.”
“Well, we’re fine down here. Why don’t you go take a nap?”
“Good idea. I have several years of sleep to catch up on.”