October 12th, 2010


Let There Be Light, As Long As It’s Quiet…

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. Please leave any comments there.

So there I was last night, up at Pee O’clock in the morning, only to find SOBUMD awake at my desk.  We talked for a while, then I went upstairs to play one of my favorite games:  Guess Who Turned Their Lights Off.  Usually, I have to turn off at least 1 or 2 and sometimes all 3 lights, sometimes removing books from sleeping fingers in the process.

Last night was a full win – every one of them had turned their own light out before crashing.  Score! 

The days of insisting their lights were out before I went downstairs went away when they learned to read.  Nothing teaches personal responsibility like falling asleep in class because you’ve stayed up too late reading a book, and the sooner they learn this – and the Human Tape Recorder gets it already – the better. 

Sleeping With Harry

Sleeping With Harry

The Reigning Queen of Pink, above, is on her way to learning it, I think. The flash on the camera didn’t even wake her that morning, and the sound of a camera to the RQoP usually has the same effect that the crack of ice had on Joe Lewis.  She was beat.

Number One Son, on the other hand, sometimes requires more extreme measures.  Yeah, I know, go figure.

He came downstairs one morning a few weeks ago and mentioned that his light was broken.  I told him I’d look at it – oh look, it’s working now!  The next morning he told me it broke again.  By the third night, he noticed that his light broke at 10:30 every evening, and asked me about that.  I told him there must be a problem with the breaker – probably couldn’t be fixed. 

He didn’t actually notice the timer SOBUMD had plugged into his lamp for a week, by which time he’d gotten a little closer to back on schedule and was getting to sleep before midnight.  He wasn’t even mad, which I took for a good sign. 

The first time I caught the Human Tape Recorder sitting under her blanket reading a book with a flashlight, I told her that she had to stop that Right Now.  She was all of 6 years old, and I have no idea anymore what she was reading, but she looked up at me very obviously trying to gauge my mood – she could tell I wasn’t’ really angry, but the *words* were angry, and this threw her for a moment.  I was trying to decide just what the hell the right response was.  Yell at her for disobeying?  Yell at her for falling into a cliché?  Congratulate her on her reading skills?  What behavior was I trying to reinforce here, anyhow?

I decided, all in an instant, to take this lesson from my own childhood, which was (of course) also spent with flashlights and books under sheets.  I had done the same thing.  My parents had made the standard desultory efforts to curb this behavior.  It never worked, and by the time I was maybe 10, they decided the hell with it - as long as I was quiet, they were going to bed. 

So, I figure all my kids are genetically pre-programmed to read in bed.  But there was a critical difference between me and my daughter.  I still don’t wear glasses.  She’s had glasses since she was 2 years old.

“OK kid.  Turn your damn lights on if you’re reading, your eyes are bad enough already.  Don’t stay up too late, and don’t make any noise.  Daddy needs plausible deniability, OK?”

“OK Daddy!”

And we just don’t talk about why all my kids could define “plausible deniability” before they could write their names…

And now, just to check before I post this here at 11:30 at night, let’s play again – shall we?  Be right back.

Still a win – two lights out, one light on, and all three sound asleep!  I’ll take it.  And so, good night.