Sunday, April 08, 2012

The Sleep Deprivation Games

“There will be twenty-four of us.  Odds are someone else will kill him before I do,” I read aloud to my little listener last week, who stared at me with crossed blue eyes.  At four days old, he might have been a little young for The Hunger Games, and I might have been a little old, but if you average my thirty-four years and his zero years, we’re right in the target demographic.

I wasn’t sure what else to do with him at four in the morning, as he gazed at a point about six inches in front of my nose, expecting entertainment.  I grabbed my wife’s Kindle and started reading the only book that wouldn’t have featured a shirtless Highlander on the cover.

Actually, I’d heard good things about both The Hunger Games movie and the books, so I thought my night shifts with our new son, Zack, would be a good time to get caught up on my cultural literacy, which is currently at an all-time low, in large part because I’ve never seen any of the “Real Housewives” shows.

Since Kara had already read the books, I wanted to get through them, too, so we’d be in good shape to see the movie during our next free evening, which should be in about three presidential administrations, or thirty-seven iPhone models.

“…and for a brief time we grapple for it and then he coughs, splattering my face with blood,” I read to Zack in a soothing voice as he, captivated by my narrative skills, tried to breastfeed on my sweatshirt.

Just then, a scream pierced the stillness of our house, which happens with enough frequency that it’s more surprising that there’s any stillness in the first place.

Our older son, Evan, began crying from his bed upstairs, threatening to ruin the hard-earned nap that Kara was trying to enjoy.  On cue, Zack started screaming for milk, an hour before his schedule called for it.  Our sons were like loons calling to each other across a mountain lake, if loons sounded like hyenas fighting over a vulture carcass.

It was my first experience with dueling screaming children.  I knew this moment would come, and actually felt somewhat prepared to handle it, though it might have flustered me just a few years ago.  Kara and I are both more confident caregivers now.  Over the past couple of years, we’ve successfully raised both a baby and a dog, and only one of them has eaten a box of crayons.

“Shhhh, quiet, quiet,” I said to Zack as I ripped off the tangle of baby blankets and pillows that pinned me to the couch, trying to quiet him down and get to Evan before the cacophony woke up Kara.  The teenagers killing each other with medieval weaponry in our quiet bedtime book would have to wait.

I cradled Zack like a powder-blue, screaming football and headed up the stairs.  The dog, always loyal and wanting to be helpful, trotted alongside, looking for a way to alleviate the situation and deciding that, in the end, she could be of most use by vomiting at my feet.

“Seriously, dog?” I whispered.  By that point, I might as well have dispensed with the whispering.  A New Orleans jazz quartet marching down the hallway festooned with cowbells would have been quieter than Zack and Evan’s a cappella performance.

Kara stumbled into the hallway, trying to figure out if someone pulled a fire alarm.

“Everything’s under control,” I said, though I’m not sure she could hear me over the racket.

“Well, I’m up.  We can start my shift once we settle them down, and you can go back to sleep,” she said.

Then she went into Evan’s room, and I gave Zack his first high-five.

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