I’m not saying which son, because I very, very, very much (times one thousand) want my children to someday visit me in the Old Folks’ Home, but one of my boys regularly channels the spirit of a 104-year-old man.
I know this is true because my son awakens every night at midnight, approximately 4 hours after he goes to bed. He opens his creaky door, and he wanders into the hall. Fifteen minutes later, due to the nearly inert velocity at which he shuffles, he arrives three doors down, in my bedroom, mumbling, “Where am I? Where, oh where, am I?”
Except, of course, at midnight and when you’re a 104-year-old man, consonants are too, too hard to use, so he sounds like he’s performing a vocal exercise for theatre or choir, complete with scales and dramatic intonation.
“WHEH eh I?” he asks. “WHEH, oh, WHEH eh Iieeee?”
It’s sort of like being haunted by a benevolent but rather misguided thespian ghost who has lost his GPS and needs directions to his next gig. And who also mistakenly thinks that holding onto his front bits helps him with his balance.
“Son,” I say, “you’re confused. You’re sleeping. Go back to bed.”
And he says, “I’m confused?” in his confused voice which, of course, comes out, “Iieee unUSE?”
And I say, “Yes. And you’re still asleep. Go back to bed.”
And he says, “I’m still asleep?” in his sleepy voice. “Iieee EEL uhWEEP?”
And I say, “The important part is, go back to bed.”
And he says, “Oo mah bed?” in his confused, sleepy voice.
He starts to scratch using big, wide, sweeping scratches. His belly. His neck. His pits. His bits.
You know what? Sometimes things just need to be scratched, folks. I know it’s true. You know it’s true. We all know it’s true. But hear this: not everything that needs to be scratched needs to be scratched in the presence of others. This is a foundational concept in the parenting of children, and yet it appears in no parenting book. NOT ONE. I challenge you, find the parenting book with a chapter on techniques for reliably teaching appropriate scratching and picking etiquette, and that is a parenting book I will actually buy.
And I say, “Mister, listen very carefully. Go back to bed, and scratch when you’re alone.”
And, for reasons I do not understand, he finally reaches midnight conversation saturation, nods his head and shuffles out the door.
Fifteen minutes later, he arrives in his room and goes back to bed, peacefully and blissfully asleep. He’ll have no recollection of this in the morning because he slept through the entire exchange.
Sleep well, 104-year-old boy child. Sleep well. And I will try to do the same.
For tomorrow we do this again.