Leta has recently entered another phase of Let’s Kill Mom and Dad Through Sleep Deprivation, a behavior she perfected in the first six months of her life. Now it’s less about crying because she’s hungry or mean (don’t let anyone tell you they’re crying for any other reason, those babies, those mean, mean babies), and more about fearing some unknown entity in her room, sneaking stealthily into our room, and crawling into bed beside me without me knowing. Okay, maybe it’s not an unknown entity. Maybe it’s that giant rubber tarantula I tried to scare Jon with, the one I put under his pillow thinking he’d discover it as he crawled into bed, except he didn’t notice it and slept with it next to his face all night, and when Leta came into our room the next morning she saw it sitting there next to his forehead, and wouldn’t you know, my alarm clock that AM was a four-year-old screaming about Daddy being dead. OOPS!
For the rest of the morning she brought up the subject of that rubber spider, professed that she did not like it, not at all, could I please throw it away. And the whole time she rambled on and on about the spider she made a recoiling motion with her whole body and covered her eyes as if confronted once again with the gory image of a tarantula eating Jon’s face. And I didn’t think much of this because she has the same reaction to banana peels. You cannot peel a banana with her in the room, don’t even think about it, not if you would like to have a civilized breakfast free of a preschooler clawing at her own face. On mornings when we don’t mind Jon will eat a banana and set the peel next to Leta’s bowl of Cheerios. To get her back for being such a mean, mean baby.
Turns out that this preschooler, although obviously not afraid of monster banana peels hiding in her closet, is now very afraid of spiders. And she thinks they are in her room at night ready to eat her face. I’m sympathetic to this phobia, I don’t care for spiders myself, but I cannot sleep if she is sleeping next to me. Maybe it’s the way both her arms and legs seem to detach from her body and relocate themselves onto my head, or the way she wakes up every ten minutes to ask for water or an episode of Spongebob. I just cannot do it, and if we catch her coming into our room in the middle of the night we’ll walk her back to her bed and calm her down. Let her know that spiders only eat faces in daylight.
She has this figured out now, and even though I’m normally a light sleeper she has snuck into our room for the past three nights without us knowing. I’ll just turn over and be face to face with her sleeping butt not knowing when or how she got in there. The logical thing to do would be to carry her back to her own bed, except she is more of a light sleeper than I am and has been known to wake up because someone next door dropped a cotton ball on the floor. It will eventually come to that, probably tonight when I go four nights in a row without sleeping and, shit, I’m already awake, might as well be useful and walk her back to her bed 12 times. The last time she went through this phase we had to do just that, keep walking her back to her bed until she finally realized that we weren’t giving in, but like all recurring parental battles, there are those moments or days of hesitation where you go, oh God, not this again, do I have the stamina? Maybe if we ignore it? It will just go away? And then BOOM. PRESCHOOLER BUTT IN FACE. AGAIN.
This afternoon Leta and I were playing with the toy doctor set we got her for Christmas one year, taking turns being the doctor, and when she was the patient she claimed to have a stomach ache from eating too many snowballs. And I was all, dude, you’ve got to lay off the snowballs, haven’t we talked about this already? So I took her blood pressure, listened to her heartbeat and then pretended to remove the snowballs with some tweezers. When it was her turn to be the doctor she asked me what was wrong, and I said, doctor, it’s urgent. I haven’t slept in three days because my daughter refuses to sleep in her own bed. What do you prescribe?
“What’s your daughter’s name?” she asked.
“Leta. Her name is LETA,” I shot back.
“Hmm…” she said. “… I don’t think it’s Leta. I think it’s all those stop signs you’ve been eating.”