Sleepless Nights and Logical Consequences

I was blissfully asleep when soft sobbing across the hall awoke me. I glanced at my sleeping husband and briefly considered waking him so that he could go comfort the child. Most likely, Hal had rolled away from his blanket. All I would have to do is go in there and tuck it back into his hands. To get my husband to do it, I’d have to shake him awake and explain what’s going on. No, I decided, I will get back to sleep quicker and with less fuss if I tend to this myself. I glanced at the clock as I got up. 2:30.

When I entered the boys’ room, I found Hal standing in his bed, holding his blanket. So much for that theory. The sobbing was getting stronger. Soon it would be all-out crying. “Hal, what is wrong, baby?”

“My tajamas are wet!”

“Did you pee in them?”

“Yes! And not just a little bit!”

I reached out to touch his pajamas. Sure enough, his fuzzy footed monster pajamas were dripping wet. As was the blanket, the pillow pet, the sheets. Everything. I sighed. “You didn’t go potty before you went to bed, did you?”

He admitted tearfully that he had not. My husband would make him carry the wet items to the washing machine. I knew from experience that that would cause me considerable grief and delay my return to bed. Natural Consequences, Logical Consequences, none of that mattered to me right then. The voice that urged the best parenting move for long-term gain was ruthlessly shoved to the back of my head. My decision making was centered completely around getting back to sleep as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, this boy was soaked. I peeled off his clothes and walked him to the bathroom. Walking naked to the bathroom is not what sleepy four year-olds like to do in the middle of a cold night so he screamed and cried all the way down the hall. I began to wipe him down with a wet washcloth.

The crying was loud enough to wake Daddy, who soon appeared in the bathroom doorway. “What happened?”

“Hal peed in his bed. Not just a little bit. He peed a lot. I mean, A LOT.”

He addressed Hal very sternly, “Hal? I asked you if you went potty. You said you did. I said, ‘I don’t think you did. Are you sure?’ You said you were. You even said, ‘I went potty earlier. Didn’t you hear me flush?!’ And I warned you, didn’t I? I told you that if you wet your bed, you’d have to carry your sheets to the washing machine and take a shower.” A shower? No! When am I ever going to get back to bed?!

We returned to the bedroom where Daddy flipped on the light! Poor Daryl! He started gathering up the sheets while I helped Hal get another pair of pajamas on. Then he told Hal to pick up the bundle and carry it to the laundry room before heading down the hall himself to get paper towels and cleaner. I found myself staring at Hal, who was staring at the bundle.

In a tired voice that dreaded what was coming, I tried to encourage him, “Go ahead and pick it up.”

“It’s too big!”

“Honey!” I called out, “He says it’s too big and it’s going to get his pajamas wet.” Please let’s just take care of it so we can get back to bed!

“Well, I guess he better take those pajamas off then, huh?”

With yet another sigh, I helped him back out of his pajamas. Daddy returned with the cleaner, which I took and he shepherded the wailing child to the other end of the house. I cleaned the plastic bed cover and then looked for new sheets. Oh, yeah, I decided to store all the sheets in Jane’s closet. Brilliant.

When I entered her room, she looked up at me. Of course. She hadn’t been able to sleep through all the mayhem. I grimaced at her and felt around in the closet for some sheets. By the time I got Hal’s bed made, Hal was wailing in the shower. I finished up quickly and turned the light back off.

As I practically ran back to my now cold bed, I heard Daddy joking with Hal. He had kept his temper the whole time. He had sternly enacted the consequences that had been promised, but never got angry. “Are you ready to get your pajamas back on?”


“Do you want to take another shower?”


They both laughed. Daddy hugged son and then helped him back into his pajamas before carrying him to bed. He then crawled in beside me and, with a brief “Goodnight sweetheart,” returned to the wonderful world of slumber.

I was destined to lay there awake for another hour and a half. In the morning I learned that Daryl had slept through the entire ordeal. Jane was tired. I was exhausted. But you know what? Now, when we ask Hal if he went to the bathroom, he only says yes if he actually did. Otherwise, he stands up straight, fesses up, and heads off to the toilet. I guess one sleepless night was worth it.

How Much I Love You

If you have a child born sometime in the last six or seven years, then there is a good chance you are familiar with the book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. The book tells the tale of two Nutbrown Hares, referred to simply as Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare. Little Nutbrown Hare asks Big Nutbrown Hare, “Guess How Much I Love You?” and the book proceeds with each Hare outdoing the other to show just how much they love each other, using bigger and bigger measures each time.

I strongly suspect that this book has been a regular during story time at the preschool. For several weeks now, Hal has walked up to me and asked, “Do you know how much I love you?”

Each time, I have responded, “How much do you love me?”

He then stretches his arms out as wide as they go, pulled as far back behind him as he can reach. “THIIIIIIIS MUCH!” he cries triumphantly.

I smile in return and, staying true to the book, stretch my much longer arms in the same way and say, “Well, I love you THIS MUCH!”

Recently, we were eating dinner, just the two of us. He looked up and asked, “Do you know how much I love you?”

I stopped eating and smiled at him expectantly as I asked, “How much do you love me?”

He cocked his head to the side just a bit and then put his hands in front of him, about a foot apart, and said quite matter-of-factly, “Oh, just this much.”

“What? You only love me that much? That’s not very much! What happened to this much?” I stretched my arms out to demonstrate.

“Well, I only wanted to put my hands up this much. Besides, I’m sitting in a chair. I can’t put them out like this.” He demonstrated perfectly the arm positioning that he usually does but was unable to do at this time.

“But you just put them out like that.”

“No I didn’t. I was just showing you that I couldn’t do it.”

“Yes, but you did it while showing me what it was you couldn’t do.”

“No I didn’t.”

Germs’ll Make ‘Em Tougher

I have a dear friend who is a new mom and very concerned about germs. She dutifully followed the doctor’s instructions to keep the baby at home for the first six weeks. She also kept him away from children until he had his 3 month shots. And don’t even think about touching him if you haven’t washed your hands!

These may very well be good precautions that all mothers should take. In fact, I think more and more mothers are exceptionally careful about sanitizing their children’s environment. I am not one of them. Never have been, not even with my first child, and my children are almost never sick.

Daryl was born on a Wednesday, two days before Jane’s third birthday and three days before her party. Some of our friends assumed the party was cancelled. But, really, what is a mother to do? Tell her excited toddler that she doesn’t get to have her birthday party after all because of this little beast that she’s not sure she wants to accept into the household anyway? Take time away from cherishing my newest bundle of joy so I can try to remember who has been invited so I can call and tell them no?

Nah, party’s on! I even took him with me to Wal-Mart the day we got out of the hospital. I needed (wanted?) some things that, for whatever reason, I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) let anyone else get. And of course, I couldn’t leave Daryl at home. What if he got hungry?

The day of the party, he was passed around and around. Every adult and even some children took a turn holding him. It didn’t occur to me to ask anyone to wash their hands first. It just didn’t.

When Jane was in preschool, her teacher took me aside one day. “Jane keeps spilling her Cheerios on the floor and then crawling under the table to eat them! I keep telling her to stop but she won’t listen.”

I flashed back to all the times I had picked up Cheerios from the freshly vacuumed carpet and put them back in her bowl. Oh, shoot. Who am I kidding? The floor wasn’t vacuumed! When we got home, I had a very serious talk with Jane. “Jane, when you are at school, you need to not eat food that you’ve picked up off the floor. Okay?”

I come by my “germs’ll make ’em tougher” attitude honestly. For one thing, I’ve been an avid backpacker for many years. It’s a little hard to worry about germs and cleanliness when you are not showering for a week or two, conserving water, swallowing your toothpaste, picking up food from the ground and either eating it or packing it out, pooping while squatted against a moss-covered log. Some of that necessarily lax attitude is bound to seep into my front country life.

It’s not just the back country lifestyle, though. As I said, I come by it honestly. I seriously do not remember my mother being terribly concerned about germs. I can remember playing behind the backstop at her softball games. I would build intricate farms from whatever I could find on the ground. Sticks formed the fences that separated the animals. Rocks were the cows. Cigarette butts made excellent sheep, especially if the outer covering had come off. My mother always smiled and listened to my descriptions. She never yelled not to touch that stuff and go wash your hands right now, young lady!

She and I are outright germaphobes compared to my grandmother, however. I’ll never forget the day that I complimented her on this scrumptious gourmet bread being served at a family meal. “Where did you get it, Grandma?”

“Oh, that? I got it out of the dumpster behind the 501 Cafe.”

I spluttered, “You got it where? What were you doing in the 501 Cafe dumpster?”

“Well, I was checking the day old bread store’s dumpster next door and noticed that they had dumped some bread in this other one so checked it out. It’s perfectly good bread. It’s always wrapped in plastic. They just throw it away after it’s a couple of days old.”

I can assure you that I have never been dumpster diving and have no plans to try it out. But I’m also not going to fret over my child continuing to eat his ice cream after the dog licks it or finishing off that slice of pizza after it hits the floor. I do not expect everyone to be like me though, so I promise not to snicker (too much) if you exercise more caution with your own children.

Ella is Hot

Once upon a time there was a little boy who loved a little girl. He wanted to tell her that he loved her so one day during art time in Pre-K, he wrote her a card. He used pink construction paper, covered it in hearts, and bared his true feelings.

Here is a photocopy of that expression of puppy love:

It was very important to Daryl that Ella know:

1) He loved her
2) He thought she was “hot”
3) He considered her his girlfriend

This was all news to Ella. The teacher read it to her after thoughtfully copying it for me. Ella’s response was, “Well, I think Daryl might have a crush on me.”

I showed it to Daryl yesterday, three and a half years later. He doesn’t remember it. He doesn’t even remember Ella. Ahh, young love is so fickle.

I am sorry, Mommy

Dear Mother,

I’m sorry. I don’t know what I whas crying or gripping about. Sometimes I’m not sure how much you or daddy like me because you yell at me, but that because I’m spoiled rotten clear through.

Your Loving Daughter
P.S. I don’t know what I’d do without you or daddy.


As can be seen from the signature, this letter was not written by Jane. It was written by my mother to her mother on June 7th, 1962, when she was just slightly older than Jane is now. My grandmother wisely added the date to the paper before storing it away.

She found it recently and handed over the yellowed lined paper to my mother, who shared it with me. The letter fascinates me. For one, it reminds me of the reality that is so hard for a child to wrap her mind around, which is that my mother was once a child. I mean, really a child. This note brings it home, makes it real.

I am also drawn to her lovely handwriting, very clear and pretty and not too different from how it looks now. I chuckle at the misspellings and the “spoiled rotten clear through.” I can hear those words in my grandmother’s mouth and I know they must have been spoken often enough for my mother to decide it adequately accounted for the particular failing she felt compelled to apologize for.

The letter reminded me that I have saved letters of apology from my children. The most recent was from Jane in August of this year. She had not gotten up to feed the dog despite me asking her twice. The dog saw my breakfast waiting for me on the table and helped herself. This was after some other frustrating events. It was not a good morning. When I came home, I found the following note, written in sloppy cursive:


Inside the folded letter,


A king sized Mr. Goodbar was taped to the opposite side.

I hadn’t actually blamed her for my breakfast being consumed by the canine. I was the one that left it within reach of her snout, after all. I didn’t call her lazy either. But it was obvious to her that I was having a bad morning and her actions (or inaction) had contributed.

Late last year, I received the following. The front of the bifold sheet of paper was addressed to me and signed by Daryl and Jane, done in careful green and blue calligraphy. This was the inside:


Then there’s the note that wasn’t even to me but was about me. It was addressed to The middle child in the Hill family. Inside, it said:

Daryl, it’s not that hard to be nice to mommy so please be nice to mommy.


I can’t help but wonder if she felt an apology note was in order and when one wasn’t forthcoming from “the middle child”, she wrote her own, telling him how to behave.

While looking for the above letters, I came across this gem:


I have not been as assiduous as my grandmother at dating the notes I have received. Based on the papers near it and the writing, I’m going to guess this was written during his last year of preschool when he was five years old. The translation, best I can guess, is:

I am sorry for hitting you at church. I love you, Daryl

I have a lot of experience with my children writing me apologies. What my mother’s note illustrates to me is that my children are not unique in this regard. Either that, or it’s a strong family trait. Children misbehave. Parents express their disapproval, perhaps calmly, perhaps not so much. Children (hopefully) express remorse. Parents forgive. Love continues.

And that is why what I cherish most about my mother’s note is the slightly uncomfortable line that says her parents yell at her. It’s not because I’m happy that she was yelled at nor that it caused her to doubt whether they even liked her. It’s because I yell at my kids too. And feel terrible when I do it. And they probably wonder if I like them. Sometimes I get it right and handle the situation as calmly as June Cleaver. Sometimes. Other times… well, other times I don’t.

It is a small comfort to know that my grandmother yelled at her children just like my mother yelled at me and I yell at mine. Sometimes. It is a comfort because it means that my children can still love me just like I still love my mother and she loves hers. Humans raising humans.

{Updated with scans of some of the original letters on 12/09/2012}

Big Dreams

Jane: “When I grow up and become a famous movie maker, I’m going to make a movie called The Mysterious Benedict Society and it’s going to be the most awesome movie ever.”

Me: “You’ll have to get Mr. Trenton’s permission to make that movie.”

Jane: “Oh, no problem. I’ll get permission.”

Daryl: “When I grow up, I’m going to be a multi-billionaire and then I’m going to buy Disney.”

Jane: “Disney already bought Star Wars.”

Daryl: “No, they bought Lucas Films, which means they bought Star Wars and all the other movies too.”

Jane: “That’s right. Being a billionaire is so last year though. I’m going to be a multi-trillionaire and then I’m going to buy Disney from you.”

Daryl: “Well, then I’ll just get multi more multi billions and multi more trillions and then I’ll be richer than you.”

Jane: “So? I’ll still have Disney.”

Daryl: “Well, I’m going to make something. I’m going to come up with something that will allow me to have an unlimited bank account.”

Jane: “You can’t do that. You know why? Because our money is tied to the gold at Fort Knox so there can’t be any such thing as an unlimited bank account.”

Daryl: “I know. But I’m going to be the King of England.”

Jane: “You can’t be the King of England. You weren’t born in that blood line so you can’t be the King of England.”

Daryl: “I know, but if all the people that were born of the blood died then I could be.”

Jane: “How are you going to pull that off?”

Daryl: “I’m just good like that.”

Jane: “How are you going to get all this money anyway?”

Me: “How are you going to get all that money?”

Jane: “I’m not.”

Me: “No, that money you said you were going to have when you said you were going to be a multi trillionaire and buy Disney.”

Jane: “I’m not.”

Me: “So you were lying?”

Jane: “No, I was pretending. Where are you going to get all that money, Daryl?”

Daryl: “I’m just pretending too. And while I’m pretending to have all this money, I’m going to have a big mansion.”

Jane: “You realize if you buy a big mansion, you’ll have a mortgage note on it.”

Daryl: “I know.”

Jane: “And that means you’ll have to pay it.”

Me: “I think if he’s a billionaire, he can afford the mortgage. If he even has to take one out at all.”

Daryl: “I’m going to have 10 mansions. And a light blue limousine. That would be cool.”

I’m Bad and that’s Good

Today, I met the family at the movie theater when I got off work. Or, as Hal refers to it, “the popcorn place”. We watched Wreck It Ralph, which I highly recommend. I had the honor of transporting the kids with me afterwards and thoroughly enjoyed the conversation.

“Which bad guy would you choose to be, Mommy?” Daryl asked shortly after we got in the car.

“Oh, I think I’d have to be Wreck It Ralph. Because he wasn’t really a bad guy, was he? He was more of a good guy.”

“Yeah, that’s true.”

“Can you think of any other bad guys that have turned into good guys?”

Jane jumped in, “Darth Vader!”

We talked about Darth Vader’s transformation. Then we added Gru from Despicable Me and after some brain stretching, Megamind. We talked about what makes Bad Guys bad and Good Guys good.

We were having trouble coming up with more bad-turned-good guys. They tried the monsters in Monsters, Inc. but I insisted that they weren’t “bad”, just from a different culture.

I also rejected Draco Malfoy, when he was suggested. We discussed the difference between stopping being bad and actually becoming good. Did the Malfoys actually become agents of good or just step aside? Jane insisted Draco did good in the Room of Requirement during the final battle at Hogwarts.

“How?” I asked.

“Well. He saved his friends.”

“Bad guys save their friends. That doesn’t necessarily make them good guys.”

“He nodded at Harry at the train station later.”

“Nodding makes you a good guy?”

She thought some more. “Oh, I know! How about the guy in Tangled?”

That got us to talking about bad guys versus Bad Guys. Thieves versus villains. Did the love interest in Tangled count as a “bad guy” when he wasn’t the evil force in the movie? Or was he just a guy that was making some poor decisions?

“Ok, so maybe we shouldn’t talk about bad guys and good guys. Can you name any characters that went from being evil guys to being heroes?”

“That’s too hard, Mommy.”

“It’s usually the other way around,” Jane finally said. “I mean, usually it turns out that the good guy is actually bad.”

“That’s true, but it usually turns out that they were always bad and we just didn’t know, so they didn’t really change,” I claimed.

The conversation lasted for the drive to Sonic and while we waited for our hamburgers. And then the whole drive home.

Once I feared we had exhausted our knowledge of good bad guys, Daryl remembered Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender. We all agreed that he was perhaps the best example of someone going from truly bad to hero. Daryl was pleased with himself.

As we pulled into the driveway, Jane suggested Hades from Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. “But was he really bad turned good?” I asked.

“Sure. He wasn’t going to help the other gods and he was going to hurt Percy but then he ended up helping him.”

“But isn’t that just how those crazy Roman gods always acted? Pouted and did their own thing and picked on people and then sometimes decided to help them? I mean was he really “evil” before and then “good”?”

“Mom, Hades wasn’t a Roman god.”

“Ok, whatever. Isn’t that what the Greek gods were like? Amazingly enough, it seems they were an awful lot like the Roman gods.”

Hal hadn’t had much input in the discussion of cinematic portrayals of good and evil. His repeated interjection was regarding his favorite scene in the movie:

“My favorite part was when the bad guy smashed the little girl’s car all up and she cried.” Speaking of bad guys… I think I need to help one get unbuckled from his car seat.