Empty bed = the dream.
We’ve finally managed to get our children out of our bed at night (at least for the first few hours), but what that means is that we now have to “snuggle” until each of them falls asleep. And Kendrick is fun, so they don’t fall asleep with him, which means that after he’s done being the cool parent I have to be the “GO TO SLEEP” parent, and which also means that I spend about an hour and a half every night of my life
snuggling trying desperately not to fall asleep in toddler beds (because toddler beds are extremely bad for grownup necks, and also because I am seriously behind on American’s Next Top Model).
I don’t always make it; there is many a night that I wake from a dead sleep and realize that I’m crunched up in 1/8th of a 3-foot-long bed with a baby foot planted firmly in my eye socket (which was sealed shut with makeup anyway because I hadn’t been planning to actually pass out). And the reason why this happens with such frequency?
Because children are psychic.
If you pretend to fall asleep next to them so that you can lure them into sleeping, too, they know. And they will put an end to the charade by looping one (inexplicably strong) arm around your neck and shouting – directly into your eardrum – “MAMA YOU STAY HERE.”
If you wait for them to fall asleep and then try to slowly, slowly, slooooooooowly roll off the mattress and towards the door? They immediately sense a disturbance in The Snuggle and spring up in bed as if via electroshock. “MAMA, WATER!” So you bring water (no not that water, THE WATER IN THE PURPLE CUUUUUP), and then you lay down next to them, balancing yourself on the very outermost edge of the bed in between seventeen Barbies and the enormous stuffed dog that Nana sent for Christmas even though you said no presents over twelve inches long, and then it’s 4AM and you didn’t set the house alarm and FUUUUCK THE DOGS PEED ON THE CARPET.
In short: Children know when you are dreaming of joys that do not involve them. And then they shatter those dreams, simply because they can.
What, exactly, is happening here?!
A couple of months ago, Kendrick and I were talking to another couple about how hard it is to get away without the kids – particularly when you don’t have family nearby to watch them overnight – and suddenly realized that the last night we’d spent alone together was this one.
Which was ALMOST FOUR YEARS AGO.
The realization that it had been that long stunned me. It made me think about the fact that the stolen moments we spend together, just us, are so rare that they feel like gulps of air. The fact that we’re both running from morning to night and don’t cross paths for very long, let alone find time to be still together. The fact that between the children and the jobs and the responsibilities there’s still us: those people who fell in love and decided to start a life together way back when.
So when my son’s school held a charity auction and I saw that a one-night stay in a local resort (plus breakfast in bed!) was listed, I bid on it, and won. The night – last Saturday night – rolled around, and we dropped off our son and our daughter at their friends’ houses for their first sleepover (different friends, because our children are combustible chemicals that should be kept separate in unstable situations). We drove to our hotel room and collapsed on the bed, holding our breath to remember what silence sounds like. We drove through the rain looking for somewhere to eat and saw an Italian place with fairy lights that reminded us of our beloved Upper East Side hole-in-the-wall. We ordered lasagna and chicken parmigiana and told each other stories about what it was like when we met.
We cracked each other up and took weird Snapchat selfies. We stayed for an extra drink.
Then we drove back to the hotel, and Kendrick parked the car while I went up to our room, only to discover that the hotel staff had apparently mistaken us for honeymooners (or something) and had left champagne and flower petals on our bed. Obviously this was an omen. And, hello, an opportunity to pose dramatically on a bed of roses.
“Come in,” I said. (Sultrily.)
He strode through the door, all rain-tousled and dashing. He flung his umbrella into a corner.
“Champagne, darling?” I asked him. (Sultrily.)
So, remember that part in The Little Mermaid when Ariel and Eric are in the boat and the entire lagoon population is conspiring to get them to kiss? Remember how all the fish are spouting little phosphorescent fountains and singing “shalalalalala my oh my”? Remember how the crab is practically falling out of his shell from the romance of it all?
And remember the eel who overturns the boat and derails the whole damn situation?
That eel, in this story, was my friend Erin. (Who is also a hero because she helped my son throw up into her World Market wicker basket and tried to find some way – any way – to make him feel better before ultimately realizing that nope: she was gonna have to flip our boat.)
Actually, scratch that. Erin isn’t the eel in this story.
My child is the eel.
Because they know, you see. They know when their parents are maybe possibly having fun without them, or maybe possibly relaxing. And what they do with this knowledge is they put an end to that BS.
If you follow me on IG or Snapchat you already know how this story ends: with me laying alone in an expensive hotel room (which was honestly kind of okay because I also had champagne and YouTube). The next morning, Kendrick returned with our daughter and our (happy as a clam, not-even-a-tiny-bit-sick) son in tow, and we ate our romantic room service breakfast while watching Bad News Bears and explaining why there were dead roses on the ground.
Was it the night we’d planned on? Ah, no. Not even close.
But sitting there the next morning in a huge, unmade bed full of children and muffin crumbs, handing Times sections to each other so at least we could each try to speed-read while simultaneously helping our son decode the secrets of Angry Birds…you know what I realized?
That, right there, is true romance.
*Addendum: Kendrick would like you to know that he is, capable, stoic, and brave. His resolute decision to forego a night in a hotel bed without complaint or hesitation should be applauded. Donations for compensatory solo hotel stays and/or Playstation games humbly accepted.