In the Dursleys’ Wine Cellar

Our youngest is not a “bed” guy. For years, he slept on the floor in his brothers’ rooms, dragging sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals and his book down the hall every night.

With the older two entering teen-dom, however, their patience eventually dried up. So, he set up camp on the floor in his own room right next to his bed. It took us a few months of cajoling to realize he is afraid of falling out of bed. So, we bought a queen-size mattress and put it on the floor (no bedsprings) with new super soft, red fleece sheets.

It worked. For months, he climbed into bed every night, then spent ten minutes methodically setting up shop. Large stuffed bear and pillows along the non-wall side. Seven foxes snuggled against Big Bear in order of whose night of the week it was to sleep closest to him. “Blue Blanky” as first blanket, because it’s his favorite, then the others on top.

But something snapped.

He realized that if he pulls the mattress away from the wall, he can set up a bed back there… on the floor.

The ten-minute bedtime process got moved.

Then two nights ago, when he was feeling sorry for himself, it moved again…

…to the closet.

“I want to hide from the world!”

Big Bear, Blue Blanky, pillow, foxes, flashlight, book all in the smallest possible place to sleep. Shirts hanging just above him.

“Like Harry Potter’s bed at the Dursleys’,” I said, thinking that would discourage him. But by Night #2, it was his happy place.

Harry had to sleep in the wine cellar. Remember? It was under the stairs.”

As if that made all the difference.

And in all my years of reading Harry Potter books, I never pictured the Durselys drinking wine.

A Rooftop Christmas Crash

On Christmas Eve, just before the kids went down for their long winter nap and, according to NORAD, Rudolph’s red nose was leading Santa north from South America, our 12 year old lost a tooth.

Already excited, the lost tooth and resulting bloody grin infused the boys with even more energy. It took some time to settle down as Mom and Dad worried that Santa – and now the Tooth Fairy – would fall asleep before the kids did.

Then I heard someone gasp, “What if Santa and the Tooth Fairy crash into each other at our house?”

And all I could think was….

Another 15 minutes of adrenaline as young brains ponder the possibility. Another 15 minutes before Santa and the Tooth Fairy can sleep.

Historic World Series

Soccer practice was over. Homework was done. The dinner dishes were clean. So we all headed upstairs to get ready for bed, do the third grader’s out-loud reading, and watch the end of the 7th game of the World Series.

Indians versus Cubs. Two teams you want to cheer for because success must be sweeter for an almost-forever underdog. We are Rockies fans, so we know. And while we decided that 1948 and more than a century feel equally bad, we went for the longest-time loser.

And our former outfielder – a Rocky turned Cubby – started the game with an historic walk-on homerun.

But the second I closed my third grader’s The Worst Class Trip Ever, I crashed into a deep sleep. So did my husband and the third grader, while the older boys watched and cheered around us. It has been a very busy few weeks.

Then suddenly… “Cubbies won! Cubbies won!” Boys jumping on the bed. Hi-fiving. Our dog, disturbed from slumber, barking. Three once sleeping bodies trampled on. “Go Cubs!”

An exciting Series for two teams who have wanted it for so long. Sadly, mom, dad and the third grader missed its thrilling end. Sometimes, no matter how much you want to see the ninth inning or the tenth – history in the making – your typically insignificant eyelids wield their power. And you sleep.

How I Know What’s Up in School

Typically, I hear from the girls’ moms in my fifth graders class when they have a big assignment due, as my son and his friends often “forget” to write them down in their assignment books or bring the required books home.

“Have you guys started studying for the test?” “This project is taking my daughter hours.” “What is your son for doing for that project?”

…and worse… “How did your son do on the pre-test? It sounds like everyone failed it!”

I look blankly at them. What pretest?!

But when he is truly engaged or inspired or upset, I hear it all. I am re-learning the bones of the body. I have heard all about the hero of Wonder and his struggles. I now know every plot point in Rick Riordan’s latest Percy Jackson book.

And last Friday afternoon, my fifth grader slid into the car, looking disturbed. I immediately learned that his concern was for humanity. A tough burden for a little guy.

The fifth graders had just watched a film about the Holocaust.

Before yesterday, he knew about Hitler. He knew that Hitler and his minions had murdered millions. He knew that the U.S. and the British and Russia were on the same team. He is always pleased to recount the happy ending, that we won, that Hitler is gone.

But he did not have a picture in his head of what it means to murder millions.

“Warning, mom,” he said, “I wouldn’t plan on sleeping tonight.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m not sleeping. I don’t want to have any nightmares. We saw the scariest movie today that I have ever seen.”

With Halloween approaching, I assumed he was talking about a ghost story.

He was. A real one.

“Why did they have to show so many dead bodies?”

“Because one of the worse things about growing up is that you learn about how really horrible people can be. And you see things that you wish you hadn’t.”

“I’m never sleeping again.” Code for “you are never sleeping again.”

“But there have always been more good people than bad people, and that’s why it’s going to be okay.”

“I know, mom,” he said, forcing himself to appease me. “But we’re staying up tonight.”

A Tired Mommy

A bad night is when your son wakes you up at 2:30am in a total panic that he cannot breathe. Listening to the amount of snot he keeps sucking back in, you quickly realize all he needs to do is blow his nose a few hundred times. Of course, then he keeps crying that he is too scared to go to sleep because he is afraid he will stop breathing. (More evidence that men are drama queens when they get the slightest bit sick.)

You double up on pillows for him so his head is raised. The rest of the night is spent listening to his gloppy breathing, weak nose blowing and noisy water guzzling. And when you wake up thirsty, you realize he’s been drinking your water.

Less than three hours later, he wakes up crying that his eardrum is exploding.

Of course, by the time the sun comes up, he has studied for his vocabulary test and is enthusiastically telling me all about the digestive system… for the hundredth time this week.

Pompeii and Poor Parenting

Yesterday, I took three kids to see the “A Day in Pompeii” exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. They were boys (two nine year olds and one four year old) who are fascinated by natural disasters like volcanoes. All three of them have watched the Star Wars movies, the scary scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc, and they play video games they probably should not play.

I did not think twice before taking them through the Pompeii exhibit. That was a mistake that I paid for last night.

The exhibit is beautiful and dramatic. It is almost too good. It provides visitors with a view of what life was like in Pompeii, using frescoes, kitchen artifacts, a cool gladiator helmet and more. But just as the exit sign comes into view, you have the opportunity to view a film about the city’s final hours.

My four year old sat on my lap. I should have left when I felt his temperature rise and he leaned his warm cheek against mine. My nine year old son’s friend sat next to me. I should have left when he stopped wiggling in his seat, or when he turned to me and whispered, “This is really well-done.”

But I didn’t.

After watching the volcanic ash cover the city in tidal wave-like clouds of black, we stood up a bit subdued. And then in the short distance between the movie and the exit sign, we passed through multiple casts of those who did not get away: two young women holding on to each other, a dog whose owners left it chained in the yard when they fled, a prisoner or slave with shackles on his feet who almost made it out the city gates.

“That’s really sad,” my nine year old said.

But they seemed to forget it, and had fun running through another exhibit that they’ve been through a hundred times before.

Then in the car on the way home, the friend asked, “Except for Hawaii, there aren’t any volcanoes in the U.S., right?”

And when we got home, my four year old stopped playing with his brothers and found me to say, “Remember that city we learned about? That was sad.” Then he ran back to their play.

Then at midnight, my nine year old told me for the first time that he couldn’t sleep. He still had not slept at 2:30. At 4:00, he told me he couldn’t stop thinking about Pompeii. I took him back to his room and sat with him until he fell asleep. I think it was almost 4:30 a.m.

Real life makes an impact… even on kids who battle monsters and bad guys on video games and can slice a light-saber like a Jedi Knight. Real life can still keep them up at night. I need to remember that, so that I do not find myself sitting on the edge of my son’s bed, holding his hand and waiting for his eyes to close just as the sun comes up.

Nearly 2,000 years later, the lesson of Pompeii remains…know when to get up and leave.