Of course we knew immediately.
At 11:45 and we were pleasantly weary after far too much good company and more than a drop of wine.
The baby sitter left, almost scurried and there is was, right next to the three toothbrushes, right next to the coffee maker, obvious and white and large and unused and still folded. He legged it upstairs and I pouted at the pull-up. Another baby sitter crossed off the list, another load of laundry coming my way.
When he reappears I can hardly see my knight in his non-work attire, as he is a mobile laundry pile, covered in six feet of soggy duvet, sheet, mattress cover, pillow, pillow cover and duvet cover, a royal flush.
“Is he alright?”
“Ooo yes. Happy as a Lark, soggy as a………very soggy person.” It is late.
“I’ll put the first load on and go and wash him then.”
“Clean as a whistle.”
“Last visit to squeeze out the last drop?”
“Absolutely. ‘Two wets beds for one child in any one nightly period, not to exceed 12 hours is no longer permissible’ campaign! Done and dusted.”
“Oh well. In that case ……”
“Sleep,” we chorus.
The following morning I wake late and skitter down the stairs at 6:20. My youngest son sits on a cold plastic stool with a chrome stand. He shivers, nak.ed. I suspect that the metal conducts no heat in either direction. I grab a soft, fleecy dressing gown to wrap him up. “I am dah goosebump!” he announces.
“Yes, you do have goosebumps dear.” I rub hug him.
“At night I am bin dah ghostbump.”
“Really? Was it scary last night?”
“Why were you scared lovey?”
“Dah ghostbumps are like dah dark.”
“Why was it dark?” This is the child that sleeps with the main light on all night because we are determined to ruin the planet and warm the globe single handedly.
“No light.” I think. I am certain that I shared this fact with the baby sitter. We are all familiar with the cliché, ‘I was so scared I wet myself.’ It is not a comfortable thought. In this case is it probably too much of a leap. He might well have had an accident anyway. Why else would he wear a pull-up? My psyche is more comfortable with the latter. To think of my son, in the dark, in his familiar home, whilst we are out galevanting, makes me too uncomfortable. The cliché has to be balanced and weighed against the other cliché, ‘I laughed so hard I wet myself,’ but of course that one doesn’t apply. If bladder control is a known issue, it would be wrong to read too much into such an incident.
“Dat woz dah worst pull-up in dah world ever!”
“How do you mean? You weren’t wearing one anyway.”
“I am knowing dat! But dah pull-up can not be holding dah flood.”
“Yes I am bin wet all over. I am dah drown.”
“Were you drinking water from the bathroom?”
“Yes! She din say ‘no drinkin,’ she sayed ‘no light.’ So I bin drink dah water to make me brave…..in dah dark.”
“The water makes you brave?”
“Yes. I bin fill my body wiv dah brave water…....in dah dark.” Until now I was unaware of the magical powers of water. I remember that 4 years ago we had to turn off the stop cock under the sink, to stop people drinking water all night long. We also fitted a timer to the main light. 45 minutes to fall asleep and adjust. Every 45 minutes throughout the night, one of other of them would ‘awaken’ and reset it for another 45 minutes. The beds were always wet. Then the timer broke due to consumer misuse. I remember that we turned the water back on again over a year ago, when that ‘behaviour’ was extinguished.
It was probably the longest period of parental insanity that we endured. They didn’t have so many words then. We didn’t recognize the difference between the two competing sources of meltdowns. This was merely another cause of our bewilderment. It would appear that the laundry and light nightmare was entirely of our own making. Wet beds, wet boys, wet weary tears, mainly mine, the self pity variety. A long dark age. We became hermits, living a cloistered life.
Kindly friends would make suggestions – ‘take a break, go away for a week.’ Sure! Could you sleep in one room with your family with the lights on all night? What holiday establishment doesn’t charge for ruined mattresses? Could we buy fourteen pairs of pyjamas to get us through the week? Is it part of hotel policy to change the entire bedding on two beds daily? Camping would be cheaper and solve the light problem, but the laundry! Does any family have 14 sleeping bags? It’s an exaggeration of course, but only approximately.
No. No-one understood, least of all the parents.
Did they drink the water as a chance cure? They certainly weren't thirsty. When did it flip into on OCD kink? How did drinking water protect them from the dangers of the dark? Did one copy the other or did they both feel the same way? How does being full of water help? If you're hyper-vigilant about attack during your sleep, it is easier to remain awake if your tummy is sloshing around with gallons of liquid?
“I am dah big, I am dah round, I am dah brave…..in dah dark.” A little water balloon, fit to bust. Maybe I should write the baby sitter a 'thank you' note afterall. She helped us see the new light and maybe lighten the laundry.
16 hours ago