Michael woke me up at 3:47 again.
I have a long standing relationship with 3:47 a.m., so this isn’t exactly a new experience for me. I’ve been unfortunate enough to see lots of 3:47s over the last couple of years. 3:47 is smack dab in the middle of The Witching Hour, that magical time when the light starts to change, the first birds think about chirping, and Michael wakes up the cul-de-sac by demanding his firetruck, or helping Buzz Lightyear defend the galaxy, or singing some Cake song with synthesizer accompaniment, or some other crap that would be cute under other circumstances but it’s 3:47 in the morning for chrissakes and why can’t my kid sleep until seven like everyone else?
On this particular 3:47am, I wake up to the screams of “Water! I want water!”
Michael’s not thirsty. “Water” is one of his catch phrases. He says it when he’s upset or when he wants something and doesn’t have the words to ask for it. Or sometimes he says it just to screw with me – he does that a lot too. We do this all the time: he screams for water, I assume he’s thirsty, I give him water, he dumps the water out all over everything, and he continues to scream for water as he sits in a puddle. He didn’t want the water, he just can’t stop screaming “water!” That’s when I know he’s not thirsty, he’s just latching on to the only word his brain can supply at that moment.
When Michael pulls the water trick in public, people look at me like I’m Devil Mommy, slowly killing my kid with dehydration. Some well meaning ol’ biddy once offered to buy Michael a bottle of water because I wouldn’t. I tried to explain to her that “water” was really a rough translation for “I know there are popsicles in this cart, Mom, and if you don’t open the box and let me consume at least three before we reach the check out then I am going to freakin’ LOSE IT right here in the middle of Costco!” but she just didn’t seem to appreciate the delicate Rosetta Stone I use to understand my son and what he really means by the word water…because he isn’t really thirsty!
So at 3:47 I lay there half awake and wonder what the real problem is and debate with myself. Do I go in? I never know when I should go in. On the one hand, if I go in I’m screwed. He will never go back to sleep again. The moment he sees me he’ll jump out of bed and demand waffles or some nonsense. If I open his bedroom door, that’s his cue to begin the day. He’ll want to sing and play and jump all over the place and be obscenely loud and he’ll wake up Eric who’ll be in a crap mood from lack of sleep and then I’m doubly screwed…so I really shouldn’t go in.
On the other hand, if I don’t go in, I’m screwed. Michael awake and unsupervised in the middle of the night is a bad combination. 3:47 is when the majority of the poo gets smeared on the walls, most of the toys get broken into pieces small enough to swallow, and his clothing gets cut into a million tiny ribbons with scissors that I swear were locked up when he went to bed the night before. And even if he’s not plotting evil, chances are good that he’s wet the bed or he might be cold or sick or a thousand other reasons I should be a good mom and go and check on him and just accept that I’m screwed.
So I lie there in agonizing quandary, humming The Clash. Should I stay or should I go? (Because if I go there will be trouble, but if I stay it will be double.) Do I go in and resign myself to an entire day wasted because we’re all too tired to function, or do I stay and pray that he goes back to sleep and live with the consequences if he doesn’t? And the whole time he’s bellowing, “I want water! I want water!” and God only knows what he really means by “water” this time.
Eventually the guilt gets to me. What if he had a nightmare? What if he has a fever? What if he’s about to climb out of his window? So I stumble out of bed and into his room to check on him, and he looks up at me and croaks, “water”.
He’s not wet, he’s not sick, he’s not visibly traumatized, so what does he mean by “water”? … Oh, what the hell.
I go and get him a glass of water.
He takes it, drinks it down, and goes back to sleep.
I guess the kid was just thirsty. I never in a million years would have expected that.