A Day In The Life

It occurs to me that many of you are not yet endowed with the gift of child, and so you really have little idea what that kind of life is like. I'm sure you've heard many otherwise reasonable adults speak on the bliss of parenthood, its glut of difficulties dismissed as they recite endless platitudes in a secret but organized effort to encourage single people to share their pain. But, rarely before I had my own son did I hear what life was actually going to be like with a baby on any sort of practical level, and certainly never with the angle of a gamer. Some might suggest that this is because the idea of gamers being given the opportunity to propagate is somewhat spurious, but I think it's a practical result of the desire in all parents to watch non-parents brimming with child-rearing hubris derived from books foolishly leap from the diving board straight into the shark tank. And, while even I enjoy watching the folly of new parents, I offer a glimpse into a day in the life.

Also, this is a blatant pretext for talking about my son.

The precise point at which my day begins is a hard beast to pin down. My nine-month old is experiencing what a doctor might call chronic sleeping problems, and what I might call not going the hell to sleep. Chronic in the sense that never in his life has he slept for a consecutive stretch of more than, say, three hours. Further, he rejects the entire concept of his bed, and responds to being put in it the way you might respond being put into a bathtub full of piranhas. So, most nights, we eventually get worn out and just put the guy in bed with us, because for all practical purposes it is the fastest method to achieve sleep for everyone. Apparently there's some debate as to whether parents should let a baby sleep in bed with them – because God forbid they feel safe! – but my feeling is that if you got a good night's sleep last night then you can just go choke on your objections.

The downside to this is that being with us through the night does not mean he sleeps longer, just that he wakes in a better mood. And often throughout the night The Exploring Finger (an apt name, I assure you) finds its way onto my eyelid or up my nostril where it seeks to discover more about its surrounding. I don't know if you've ever awakened to someone else's finger up your nose, but it is a curious moment.

Considering the regular intervals of consciousness that my wife and, to a much lesser extent, I enjoy throughout any given night, I think it's fair to say that my days neither truly begin nor end, but flow seamlessly into one another. Yet, it is really around six-thirty to seven in the morning that my day begins, and it begins with my wife getting out of an increasingly creaky bed as quietly as humanly possible. For if she can get out of the bed and into the shower without waking our son, then she can take her own leisurely time about it, and I can get some extra sleep before The Finger awakes. If, however, a spring squeaks at just the right pitch and tone, then angry eyes will snap open and see the betrayal of abandonment. Then will we hear the lamentations of our wronged boy!

After the shower my wife takes Daniel downstairs and I have a precious seventeen minutes of uninterrupted sleep to enjoy. These are prized moments of my day as the vacant bed becomes a vast fertile plain of drowsy delight. Seventeen minutes where a small knee does not suddenly insert itself into my increasingly soft abdomen, where tiny fingernails do not try to pry open my eyelids, where small vocal chords do not suddenly erupt into a violent wail that could be heard over an AC/DC concert. Two-thousand seven-hundred and twenty seconds of sleep before the day begins in earnest.

I arrive bleary-eyed downstairs to a boy with a full belly and the expression of a man settling down to a Packers/Lions game after Thanksgiving dinner. On the television, Clifford the Big Red Dog is prancing about startling people with his amazing size. I used to get up, sit down with some water, milk, coffee, or soda, relax on the couch and wake up to the morning news. Now I wake up to the Clifford theme song, a song so ponderous and wandering that I believe it may have been written on some toilet paper just before being recorded. It's like listening to a drunk man tell a story. Shortly thereafter my wife goes to work, and my son and I begin our day.

The morning tends to be fairly brief as nine o'clock usually sees Daniel's first nap. This should make sense considering his long night of being awake and poking stuff. My son does not approach drowsiness well, and denies its existence the way the KGB might have denied the existence of top secret operatives. I imagine that his crying is a baby's way of saying, "I'm not sleepy" with some notable expletives removed. This is despite his obvious inability to keep his eyes open through any kind of voluntary will. He falls asleep.

Now, I might put him in his crib at this point, but that's a bit like rubbing your body in bacon grease and playing with feral wolves, in that it is not an advisable course of action unless you like to hear screaming. So usually I just let him sleep wherever he fell, and see what I've got on TiVo. This would normally be the time where I could get some work done, that is if I had a child who didn't resent sleep on deep and powerful levels. I tell myself he doesn't like sleep because he's so interested in the world, or in short that he's too friggin' smart to sleep, and I will kill anyone who dispels that illusion. Instead this is the point in my day where I watch television and feel my brain go quietly into that good night. It really doesn't matter, he sleeps and there is peace.

After he wakes some hour and a half later, my son begins practicing the new skills he's learned, like pressing the buttons on the television, and messing with the wall sockets (safely childproofed, but still"…) while looking at me with an expression that says, "˜I know I'm not supposed to be doing this, but I can pretend not to speak your language, and you have to be nice to me! He also laughs at things. They aren't necessarily funny things, at least not in any way I recognize; they are things like remote controls, small pieces of fluid filled plastic, and the carpet. All hilarious.

Along with laughing, he's capable of saying Dada. I know this because everything but me is called Dada. In fact, if he's not laughing at a given thing, it's likely he's claiming it responsible for his parentage. But most of all, the thing my son may be best at is ignoring me, having mastered the art of pretending he doesn't hear phrases like "˜no', "˜don't touch that', and "˜ow, that's my eye'.

He's also developed a strong crawling skill which he uses to pursue the cat. I'm not sure what the hell our cat is thinking even coming into the same room with him anymore. It wasn't such a big deal a few months ago when he had no locomotive skills and could merely wiggle on the floor and shout at her. But now, as the cat sits obviously fixing my wife and me with resentful expressions, he crawls up behind her and tackles with the ferocity of a blind side blitz. I wouldn't necessarily approve her decision should she choose to let fly claws and fangs, but I'd at least understand it. No, she just looks briefly surprised and then resigned to what must seem a certain fate. I can't imagine that she realizes Daniel's infatuation with her, nor that he can only express that infatuation by pulling her hair out and drooling on it, but she doesn't seem to think he's hurting her on purpose, which, I must admit, would be my assumption if I were a cat and something fell upon me and began gleefully ripping out my fur.

Eventually he eats some solid food-mush, which he mostly absorbs through the skin around his lips. And, at some point he suddenly cries for no apparent reason, I think just to keep me guessing. We play, and by play I mean I hand him toys and he puts them in his mouth. At some point, I might try to sit down and write something, which is openly offensive to him, obviously a snub of some kind. He rebuffs me by either shouting, or finding inappropriate places to practice reaching for and grabbing things. I can imagine him in these moments like Stewie from Family Guy: "I say, are you molesting that ridiculous contraption again! You half-witted buffoon, am I to be left wallowing in my own filth while you regurgitate banal prose in some misguided delusion of grandeur. I will enjoy killing you."

At some point we both feel far too cooped up in the house, and we explore the world in very tiny segments. Sometimes we wander the park, sometimes we wander the mall, and sometimes we just drive so that he can laugh at passing telephone poles. In his stroller, which he seems to enjoy the way men enjoy motorcycles, the world is both very near and yet completely separate. He is fascinated by the very fact of other people, though children befuddle him somewhat. When we pass other strollers I find that the babies usually consider each other with the sense of wariness you'd expect from two ships passing one another in treacherous waters. Again, Stewie emerges sensing now a worthy foe which he will vanquish. Or, he cries. It's hard to predict.

And so, around eleven in the morning I suddenly realize it's not eleven in the morning at all, but five thirty in the evening. There's something temporally disorienting about managing a bundle of increasingly willful energy, and the day races by like a stock car at a time trial. I've gotten nothing appreciable done, except manage to not let my son kill or maim himself in horrible ways. Don't misunderstand me, this is a Herculean task, but the wake from the tumult could probably use some tidying.

My wife arrives home, and though IÂ'm a bit exhausted it's important for me to remember that my day was probably better than hers. At no point does anyone want to come home from work and here, "Man, this morning was rough; we only got a forty-five minute nap." I'd beat that person with sticks.

Daniel usually becomes adorable and saintly for his returning mother, belying the furious motion and trouble of which I know he's capable. The rest of the evening is a slow denouement on the day, a steadily quieter and quieter event. Cacophony gives way to din, and din gives way to a tense calm. It's a big trick, as my son suspects, as we hint that the waning light means sleep should be considered as an option. At some point he realizes that we're going to try and make him sleep again soon, and he reacts with a stunning burst of energy. Consider him as you would a massive star nearing collapse, having exhausted its fuel it begins to wane, but then heavier elements reach nuclear fission and it lets out a giant gasp in its throes. The end for our star is as inevitable as sleep for our son, but that doesn't stop either from emitting waves of energy that might literally engulf the entire Earth. But, eventually, as if my mistake, my son finally drifts to a light sleep. Not deep enough to actually be put in a bed, mind you, he drowses with us for an hour or so until he is literally snoring. We try to put him in his crib, and it's even odds whether he stays.

I find some time to play games, to write some articles, and occasionally to bathe, where I can. It's really not that big a deal to me – well, except the bathing part, and that's a big deal to everybody with whom I come in contact - because for all my words the days are worthwhile and filled with the fascinating process of watching a mind wake up. Even after he's fallen asleep and I have some time to myself, I find I miss his presence, his stuttered awkward crawling, his nearly constant babbling, the pull of his tiny hands on my jeans as he struggles to discover this bizarre process known as standing.

I'm just saying, don't kid yourself. It ain't easy.

- Elysium

Comments

God help me, I misread 9 months as 9 _years_. Rechecked only in mid-article, when the horror became too much to bear .

And to think that I think I'm actually ready for this...

Great article, as always, Elysium!

I prefer my status as godfather. The kid likes me because I spoil the crap out of her and then hand her off to her mother. That, and everyone treats me like Al Pacino...

"The only wealth in this world is children. More than all the money, power on the earth."

Very long. But funny. Like clown porn.

Can I write about my cat? She does hilarious things when I'm trying to play computer games: stays asleep on the sofa; miaows sometimes; doesn't get tangled in my xbox controller leads.

It's a laugh a minute.

Brilliant article, Elysium! I always find "A day in the life of..."-articles very interesting, moreso if it involves a gamer.

I'm pretty sure anyone with kids would nod and laugh throughout. My daughter is 3 so we're finally moving out of some of these things, and "we" (my wife more than I of course) are expecting #2, so I'm ready to once again challenge not only "the finger", but "the knee" and the "sleeping sideways head" that oh so often woke me up in the harshest of manners.

Grand article! Funny, well-written and it gives me a hint of what to look forward to in about six months.
I really enjoyed reading it.

I'm glad to hear of somebody else with a kid with sleep problems(I loved the piranha line).

We're always hearing from people that thier kid slept through the night. It was driving us crazy.

We've hit a pretty good point at the moment, after about 10 months he actually started sleeping through the night consistently. It's the most amazing thing.
(1 year old and still going strong)

So, have you taught him to shave yet? That cute little beard of his must be getting pretty heavy by now!

I'm glad to hear of somebody else with a kid with sleep problems

How kind of you. (Yeah, yeah, I know how it was supposed to be meant.)

Wow - Someone to share our pain! Our son (born about a month before yours) has not slept a full nights sleep since, oh, December 2003. Unfortunately, though, I am prone to night terrors, so we can not have him in the bed with us. So, my wonderful, sweet, magnificant, wonderful wife, goes into his room each and every night to sleep with him on a air mattress that has had WAY more use than it ever was intended.

Her nights typically go like this:

7:30 P.M. - Asleep in bed.
10:00 P.M. - First waking
11:00 P.M. - Second waking
1:00 A.M. - Third waking
2:30 A.M. - Fourth waking
5:00 A.M. - Fifth waking
6:30 A.M. - Final waking to "Aaboo aaboo aaaboooooo"

He's the best natured kid in the world, but the absolute last thing in the world he wants to do is sleep. He fights naps until the bitter end - to the point now that our daycare people have given up on him taking naps of any significance. I figured if anyone could get him to go to sleep, they could.

We've had friends who went through similar things, and apparently in almost every case, something seemed to snap and the child would just all-of-a-sudden sleep through the night. Needless to say, we are awaiting this epiphany on his part with great anticipation. Yawn!

I suddenly feel very blessed. Our 10.5 month old has been sleeping through the night since 6 months. Granted he FIGHTS going to sleep like a wild banshee, but once out he is OUT.

Great article So many similarities hehe.

sheared wrote:
Unfortunately, though, I am prone to night terrors, so we can not have him in the bed with us.

That to me sounds like a great reason to have him in bed with you, I'm thinking comedic gold-mine. sh*t, I'd like to hear some stories of how your other half handles it.

Elysium forgot to mention all our wonderful ICQ conversations throughout the day. Sadly, I think I'm the only one who keeps him socialized and sane. Sure, it's mostly verbal abuse but it's better than nothing!

Fantastic article! I have a two year old girl and a two month old boy and I felt like I could be reading my wife's journal. My son absolutely loves to sleep during the day. Like yours, he hasn't slept more than 3 hours straight at night.

Elysium, Sheared, anyone else, please, please take this advice to heart: Let him cry it out. It's tje absolute hardest thing I've ever done but I swear it works. My wife and I were at our wit's end with my daughter. We were both working and my wife was actually taking her to work with here (family business). When my daughter was 8 months we read an article explaining that you just HAD to let some kids cry it out IN THEIR CRIBS. I refused to do it but my wife convinced me. Taking her to work, my wife had absolutely no rest or escape from the constant tension of parenting-that feeling of always having to be "on" and alert. This article swore that it would take no more than 5 days. It took 4. The first night she must have cried for 2 hours stright. The seconed night, 30 minutes. Then 5 and then about 30 seconds. You have to wait until they are like 6 or 7 months so their bellies can hold enough food for the night. We actually have a countdownfor my son's 6 month birthday (my wife keeps track of it. That and Christmas all year long). It will change your life. It really will change your life. It is absolute joy the moment you realize your kid is sleeping through the night. I used to literally go to sleep with a smile on my face. You forget how tough it is once you start sleeping and then you go and have an other kid. Very much like binge drinking and getting a hangover.

2 is disproportionately harder than 1. I'm still not really sure how we do it. There's a reason most people get vasectomys after their 2nd kid. I'm not kidding.

My son didnt sleep through the night until he was about 18 months old... The only time he would go to sleep was if he were allowed to "rack out" on my chest - he would then sleep and I would gently lay him in his crib - hoping the floor didnt creek or the bed squeak as I tried to get him into his own bed. We also did the "cry it out" thing and it does work. He would still wake up but it would be for a bottle and then he would go back to sleep... The first time he slept through the night - we woke up startled as daylight came in through the window - we rushed into the his room and I asked my ex-wife "Is he dead?" and she said "No you twit he is sleeping" then I said "I must be dead because that was heavenly..." and life became easier.... They grow fast after that and the first time he beats you at a video game you begin feeling old :), but when they can get up - jump in bed - snuggle - including the requisite knee to the groin or elbow to the larynx then you know it can only get better. Eventually, you get the joy of them being able to get their own drinks - go "potty" and "wipe" all by themselves :). Plus as a father and as a man you are admitted to a new vocabulary or words - potty, feetsies, binkyand various other "cool" kid words :). Mrs. Spy and I are considering having one, but every once in awhile I look at my son and smile, but the back of my mind screammmmmssss "18 months with no sleeppppppppp" and I shudder, but damn it was worth it.

Eezy_Bordone wrote:
sheared wrote:
Unfortunately, though, I am prone to night terrors, so we can not have him in the bed with us.

That to me sounds like a great reason to have him in bed with you, I'm thinking comedic gold-mine. sh*t, I'd like to hear some stories of how your other half handles it.

She's gotten pretty good at it. There was a period a few years ago where it occurred almost every single night. I've not had one (that I know of) for a few months now. Typically they involve me doing some stupid thing without knowing it. One night my wife found me braced up against the closet door "holding back the flood waters." Many nights she's had to calm me down after I pinned her to the bed with my forearm. Most of the time she has to talk me back into the bed after I quickly exit the room. She usually can't get near me for a while after it happens since I am typically drenched with sweat and radiating heat like crazy - actually hot to the touch (it was great for her on cold winter nights in Colorado, though). One of the common factors of all the events, though, is that I almost never remember them or only remember the ending (when she's trying to calm me).

Needless to say, after experiencing them off and on for 5-6 years, we have decided that it is in our son's best interest that he does not sleep in the same bed with me at night.

eldo wrote:
Fantastic article! I have a two year old girl and a two month old boy and I felt like I could be reading my wife's journal. My son absolutely loves to sleep during the day. Like yours, he hasn't slept more than 3 hours straight at night.

Elysium, Sheared, anyone else, please, please take this advice to heart: Let him cry it out. It's tje absolute hardest thing I've ever done but I swear it works. My wife and I were at our wit's end with my daughter. We were both working and my wife was actually taking her to work with here (family business). When my daughter was 8 months we read an article explaining that you just HAD to let some kids cry it out IN THEIR CRIBS. I refused to do it but my wife convinced me. Taking her to work, my wife had absolutely no rest or escape from the constant tension of parenting-that feeling of always having to be "on" and alert. This article swore that it would take no more than 5 days. It took 4. The first night she must have cried for 2 hours stright. The seconed night, 30 minutes. Then 5 and then about 30 seconds. You have to wait until they are like 6 or 7 months so their bellies can hold enough food for the night. We actually have a countdownfor my son's 6 month birthday (my wife keeps track of it. That and Christmas all year long). It will change your life. It really will change your life. It is absolute joy the moment you realize your kid is sleeping through the night. I used to literally go to sleep with a smile on my face. You forget how tough it is once you start sleeping and then you go and have an other kid. Very much like binge drinking and getting a hangover.

2 is disproportionately harder than 1. I'm still not really sure how we do it. There's a reason most people get vasectomys after their 2nd kid. I'm not kidding.

I agree with everything Eldo says, about crying it out and about 2 being harder than 1. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a tornado of noise and chaos.

Although crying it out works *sometimes*, people get dogmatic about it and there are some nights where you just can't take it anymore.

For what its worth, a 9 month old is usually at tghe toughest spot in terms of sleep. They're old enough to get separation anxiety but not old enough to cope with it.

2.5 years old, still not sleeping through the night. If he gets a nap in the afternoon, he won't fall asleep until after midnight.

Ridlin wrote:
2.5 years old, still not sleeping through the night. If he gets a nap in the afternoon, he won't fall asleep until after midnight.

Ugh. I feel for you.

(Looking up instructions for performing a self-vasectomy)

lol, KT, that would be sure to get you a Darwin Award!

It may be hard to picture, but in 15 years you will look back at these days as among the best of your life. My two daughters are 14 and 11. Boys are starting to call. My oldest is over 6 feet tall, an athlete with a models looks. Unfortunately, her academic interests have lessened with age.

My youngest is as short as my oldest is tall. She is a straight A student. Boys are starting to call. Both kids LOVE City of Heroes.

But my life is a miserable mess as boys are starting to call. My gun is loaded...

recently my wife and eldest son went to Germany for a week. That left me at home with the 2 younger boys, 3 years and 10 months. When she got back she brought every single germ, virus and bacteria on the european continent. I have had 3 seperate illnesses, plagues, colds, flues, near death experiences in the same number of weeks. My children have taken the art of gentic flu modification to a new level and can succeed in mutating the virus and passing it back to a sibling within 48 hours.

I believe that the epidemic is finally starting to wane, as me and my youngest son's sniffles are starting to pass. This is good news as I can look forward to 5- 7 days of healthy children. Of course in 2 weeks we are hosting a family reunion which will bring a vast sampling of some of the finest Canadian and American flu genes into our house. I suspect the start of August to be much like the first 3 weeks of July.

But then it will be almost the fall, (my favorite season) and also when my eldest will get to head back into the germ infested institution known as primary school...

You know you are a parent when... your first instinct around a vomiting person it to try and catch it.

Our 9-month old sleeps all night long. At 9pm I bathe him. At 9:30pm he goes to crib and gets his 8 oz of Similac Isomil, a pacifier within the reach in his crib, and 3-hour Mozart/Chipin/Brahms lullabies mix is being turned on on our Creative Wireless Music. THAT'S IT. No further attention required. We only need to remove the empty bottle from the crib and to cover him with the blankie when we ourselves go to sleep. He only wakes up at about 6:30am for his morning dose of Isomil.

Our elder one also slept very well in his baby years, except sporadically he'd wake up once for a drink of water.

Now he's 9-year old and is starting to call girls.

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:
Our 9-month old sleeps all night long. At 9pm I bathe him. At 9:30pm he goes to crib and gets his 8 oz of Similac Isomil, a pacifier within the reach in his crib, and 3-hour Mozart/Chipin/Brahms lullabies mix is being turned on on our Creative Wireless Music. THAT'S IT. No further attention required. We only need to remove the empty bottle from the crib and to cover him with the blankie when we ourselves go to sleep. He only wakes up at about 6:30am for his morning dose of Isomil.

You do realize you're going to have a contract on your head by about 7 parents after they read this thread...

hubbinsd wrote:

You do realize you're going to have a contract on your head by about 7 parents after they read this thread... ;)

Don't hate! Besides, I forgot to mention that he also naps very soundly from ~10:30am to 2pm, and ~5:30pm to 7pm. BWA-HA-HA-HA!!

We have mixed results with our 11month old who's birthday is this Sunday. Some nights he passes out and others he wails for a good hour with our periodic coming in to soothe him and tell him it's ok to fall asleep.

Many of our friends suggested that we put him down awake and let him learn how to fall asleep. We were against this for a couple of months to the detriment of our REM cycles and eventually gave in to our friends advice. It was hard letting him scream in his crib. Since then, when he sleeps, he sleeps soundly and most nights puts himself to sleep by repetetively turning on/off the Fisher Price Aquarium. These deep sleeps can last as long as 11 hours, so he is well rested for a busy day.

GL with your little one.

Many of our friends suggested that we put him down awake and let him learn how to fall asleep. We were against this for a couple of months to the detriment of our REM cycles and eventually gave in to our friends advice.

Yeah we did that, the first time was brutal, hardest 4 nights of my life....but the long term affects for us as parents and the little ones were good

With our first we lived in a tiny apartment where his crib was about 8 feet from our heads. Crying it out just sucked ass. Thankfully, with our second we had bought a house and he has his own room, so we were at least able to remain sane during the crying jags.