Yesterday, like many days, I was driving home with Noah in the backseat and time got away from me like it usually does. I looked at the clock four miles from home and realized that we were more than 90 minutes past Noah’s usual nap time. I looked at him in the rear-view mirror and he seemed plenty awake with no signs of slowing down. This was good. Only a mile later (three miles from home) I looked at him again and noticed that his eyelids were starting to droop. This was bad.
Like any parent would understand, you never want your kid to fall asleep when you’re getting super close to home, because, well, you then have to wake him up when you get home. And it’s then that all hell breaks loose. And it’s then that your chance at him getting a real nap drops to single digits. And it’s then that you can kiss that awesome day you were just having goodbye and replace it with a black cloud of insanity and unrest.
“Noah, don’t go to sleep yet”. I said. I won’t dad, I’m not tired. “Okay,” I said, “let’s sing a song.” Yeah. And we started singing Down by the Bay, a good choice to keep him awake, I thought, because we got to yell at the end of every verse.
Two miles from home. “Noah, are you singing?” Nothing. “Noah!” What dad? “Don’t go to sleep, we’re almost home.” I won’t. “okay, sing with me, I can’t hear you singing”. Okay, he said barely audibly. And I started to sing. HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A BEAR, COMBING HIS HAIR, DOWN BY THE BAY?!
One mile from home. I look in my rear-view and watch his eyes fight closing as if lead marbles are sewn into each lid, struggling against his attempts to keep them open on Dad’s demand. “Noah” Grumble. “Noah!” Nothing. “Noah, wake up!” Nothing. This time I scream. “Noah, wake up buddy! We’re almost home, just 30 more seconds.”Nothing. I see his head start to drop. “Noah, NO! WAKE UP! WAKE UP NOAH! WAKE UP BUDDY!” Nothing. His limp head falls forward. “AAAARGH! NOAH!!! Wake up! We’re almost home”.
Zero miles from home. We pull into the drive and I put it in park. I groan audibly as I look at his limp little body in the back seat. Maybe, I think to myself, just maybe he’s asleep enough that I can scoop him up and carry him up and put him into bed and he’ll be none the wiser. I very quietly hopped down out of the truck and opened his door.
One touch to his car seat buckle and two little bloodshot eyes flashed open. He started to whimper. “No,” I blurted, panicked beyond all panicked. “It’s okay, just go back to sleep”. The whimpering quickly turned to crying and got progressively worse. “Shhhhhh… you’re super tired, just go to sleep, pal”. With every millisecond that passed, I kept trying to keep the sleep in place and he kept getting more and more frustrated. And then it happened. I swore under my breath words that most prison inmates have never learned, because I knew we had just passed the point of no return.
There is a certain point that you know you’re past this really bad point, and every parent who’s a parent at all knows when they’ve passed it. You know because the kid stops crying. That’s right. When the crying stops, that’s when you know the trouble is really just beginning. And stop Noah did. I don’t want to take a nap, he said, as cheerful as a freakin’ lark. I looked down at him and grimaced. “I know you’re very tired buddy, let’s go take a nap.” I’m not tired, dad. I wanna go fly my helicopter. Can I go fly my helicopter, Dad? “Grrrrrrr….”
And he stuck to his I’m not tired guns. My eyebrow twitched out of control. “Noah, you were just so tired you couldn’t even stay awake through my yelling and screaming! You are doing this on purpose! You are tired! Sleep! Now!” But, I knew it was a lost cause. I learned long ago that it’s impossible to force a kid to sleep and so I switched to the parenting method that actually works and just rocked back and forth in a lonely corner as I mourned the loss of our daily routine. It took another 90 minutes to get him to finally let go of his determination to remain bright-eyed and actually lay down long enough to fall asleep, and by then, the day was shot and so was dad’s entire will to survive it.
And that is why you don’t let your kids fall asleep when you’re almost home, or at least why I don’t. Seriously, anybody else feel my pain in this?!
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing