A typical naptime involves lying down with my youngest daughter, who will fall asleep within minutes of me pretending to be asleep. Once she's out cold, I switch beds to join my oldest daughter, who will spend an hour asking me why her baby doll's eyes won't close. After a 20-minute discussion about how dolls aren't actually people and why the Cincinnati Bearcats deserve a 5-seed in the upcoming NCAA March Madness tournament, she'll roll over and doze off without, for some reason, making a compelling argument as to why they shouldn't be a 5-seed.
This weekend was different, though. For weeks both girls had been pleading with me to let us all nap together in one bed, much like the "Whos" do in the cartoon version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." On paper this sounded like a nice idea: all cuddled up together; blanket on; some of us (the girls) drifting off to dream about princesses; others of us (me) drifting off to dream about Winnie Cooper. And like most parents who are dumb enough to think that this plan might actually work, I agreed to try it.
"Now, you're both going to go to sleep, right?" I asked, while handing both girls their baby dolls to hold and giving them kisses on the forehead.
"Yes, Daddy!" they said in unison.
"You're going to shut your eyes right now?"
"You guys aren't going to make any peeps?"
"No Daddy! We only do that in the toilet."
With that, I closed my eyes. I've found that if you can get the kids to be quiet for exactly 48.3 consecutive seconds, they will fall asleep. Anyone with kids will tell you that that is much, much harder than it sounds, because it's typically interrupted with chatter like But I'm not tired and I don't want to sleep and I think my baby doll is farting.
Internally, all parents start the naptime clock the second after the last word has been said, so I was counting. One, two, three ... 32, 33, 34 ... We were getting there. Then I heard a THUMP followed by two little, giggling voices. I opened my eyes. There were my girls, head-butting their baby dolls together. They did it again and giggled louder. So I uttered the six-word sentence I never imagined I'd have to say:
"No more baby-doll head-butting."
I re-tucked them in and closed my eyes. Once again, the silence cracked around second 42 by another round of giggles, though there was no accompanying THUMP. I tried to ignore it, but the giggling persisted. When I finally opened my eyes, I saw two little girls, with big smiles on their faces—and baby doll fingers up their noses. So I uttered the nine–word sentence I never imagined I'd have to say:
"Get your baby doll fingers our of your noses!"
They laughed awhile longer. This forced me to lay down the law. No more talking. No more laughing. No more baby doll fingers in your noses. No more doing anything other than closing your eyes and falling asleep. I tucked them in one final time—tightly—putting my arm over them for safe measure and, once again, closed my eyes.
Tick. Tick. Tick. The countdown clock was at full speed this time, inching up to the magic number. I counted each second in my head like a New Year's countdown crowd at Time's Square. I hit 46, 47, 48, 48.3, 49 … and all was still quiet. It finally worked. The nap had finally arrived. I don't know why I doubted it. I'm too awesome of a Dad for it not to work.
And then I felt it. Two tiny, little baby doll fingers quietly being shoved up each one of my nostrils.
They. Had. Won.
I opened my eyes to two giant smiling faces, ready to burst with laughter. I could have been mad. I could have yelled and screamed and hollered. I could have handed out punishments so menacing that they would have made Timeout seem like a birthday party. But I didn't. There aren't many moments in life where your children get the best of you, and yet my kids got me—good. The weird part is that I was actually proud of them. The even weirder part is that several minutes had passed and the dolls' hands were still up my nose. So I uttered the only five-word sentence that I could think of that fit this situation:
"I really love you guys."
From there the countdown clock started and never stopped. We drifted off to sleep, carrying images of princesses (them) and Winnie Cooper (me) in our heads. And while I'm not sure what the princesses told my girls, I did take to heart to the four-word sentence Winnie told me:
"They had it coming."
* Subscribe to The Life of Dad via email or RSS feed!
* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things.