Opinion: While sometimes boring, parenthood is no snoozefest

Brian Adams photo.

Brian Adams photo. Brian Adams photo.


Published: 05-18-2024 8:30 AM

Brian Adams of Andover, Mass., is a UNH alumnus originally from Londonderry. He was previously a sketch comedy writing instructor and staff writer at ImprovBoston and a founding contributor to satirical online newspaper Recyculus. He is a father to three girls ages 6 and under.

My daughter Alexandra had always been a champion sleeper. As a toddler, there was no need for an elaborate bedtime routine. No excuses as to why she didn’t want to go to bed yet. She would simply lie down, say goodnight, close her eyes, and dream about Elmo. We knew we had it good, we just didn’t realize how good.

“What time did she come in here last night?” my wife, Kim, asked me as I sat up to get out of bed last week.

“Maybe 4:30? I don’t remember,” I muttered.

Alexandra is no longer a champion sleeper. Now having completed her 6th year on the planet, she has lost all interest in Elmo, as well as her own bed. Like a retired snowbird shuttling up and down the coast, season to season, she spends half of her sleeping hours in the warm comfort of our bed, spending as little time in her room down the hall as the law will allow.

My wife has grown increasingly agitated by this arrangement.

“We can’t keep doing this,” Kim said to me, just as she has said to me every day for the past four months.

“I know,” I replied, as I do every day.

As cute as it may be for your six-year-old to snuggle up to you in bed every night, it does not amount to restful sleep for anyone involved. I’ve never had to share sleeping quarters with an over-caffeinated orangutan, but I imagine the experience to be similar. When you’re not being put in a chokehold, it’s likely that your eye sockets are being used as elbow rests or your kidneys are doubling as punching bags, none of which is likely to qualify as good sleep hygiene.

“Why won’t you stay in your room at night anymore?” I asked Alexandra one evening before bedtime. She got a very serious look on her face, then dramatically pointed an accusatory finger across the room like a star witness identifying the perpetrator in court.

“The Hocus Pocus poster?” I asked, confused. “But you love that movie.”

“Not at night,” she explained. “It’s too scary.”

Some adults may have dismissed the notion of being scared by a poster, but with me, she had found an audience.

When I was in elementary school, I had a life-sized poster of Boston Celtics legend Kevin McHale next to my bed. While I enjoyed watching him play, I most certainly did not enjoy the image of his giant body lurking over me as I slept. I never told my parents about it, thinking it to be a foolish problem. So when Alexandra told me about her issue with the witches of Hocus Pocus, all of whom are objectively spookier than Kevin McHale, I promptly removed the framed poster from the wall. Problem solved.

I’m kidding, but wouldn’t that be nice? A problem with a straightforward solution. That doesn’t seem to be how most things work, unfortunately. No magic bullet fixes. No eureka! moment. Just another issue that needs to be worked out over time. I do not recall exactly how or when I became okay with sleeping in Kevin McHale’s shadow, but eventually I just did.

On the occasions when I’m able to sleep for more than a few hours at a time these days, it’s tempting to dream of a time in the future when Alexandra will be a champion sleeper once again. As tired as I may be, though, I try to make sure I’m not sleepwalking through this (or any) challenging chapter of my daughter’s childhood, reminding myself that someday I will miss that tiny hand tapping my shoulder, silently requesting to be hoisted into our bed in the early hours of the morning.