I have three kids ages 8, 5, and 1. Each one of them has woken me up in a million different ways. But as I reflect on those many long, weary nights, and early, early, mornings, I've noticed a few trends. Here is a list.
1. The Gag
I've been a parent for eight years, and in that time I have devolved the ability to hear my children puking from great distances. It's not something that I brag about. I'm not even that proud of it. I just post it here, because in the night, even when I'm deep asleep, I can wake in a moment to the sound of my child spilling his beans (or in most cases hot dog). I don't fully understand what is so hard for a child to make it to the bathroom before puking. But what I can say is that I have cleaned up a lot of puke in the night. Chunky nasty puke that causes me to be up doing laundry at 4:00 a.m. while listening to a child cry big bucket tears. And all I can think in these moments is: why are you crying? I'm the one scraping puke soaked food chunks off your Frozen nightgown.
2. The Drink of Water
This wake up call usually starts with a slow, agonizing moan, that seems to say, "I've been in the desert and I'm dying of thirst." I will admit, I think some of this comes to comfort in the night. When I was a kid, I'd ask for a drink of water because I didn't want to admit that I was scared. But at 3:00 a.m., I don't think in compassionate thoughts. I think in grumbles and curses, and wonder why the hell my 8-year-old can't walk down the hall and get his own cup of stupid water.
3. The "let's party at 4:00 a.m. because I hate you."
This is a toddler problem. My 1-year-old will randomly wake up in the middle of the night and start babbling. Then she will cry, and when I go in to get her, she looks up at me with big blue eyes, and a gapped, two tooth smile, and I know that she is ready to party. She isn't fussy. But she isn't going back to sleep, either. She just wants to spend an hour or so touching my face and giggling. And the whole time all I can think about is a drunken college roommate I had while doing a semester in London. He'd come stumbling in at around 4:00 a.m. (after last call) and wake me up just to chat. So what am I trying to say? Toddlers are like inconsiderate drunken roommates.
4. The Nightmare
This is when my 8-year-old taps on my shoulder at 2:00 a.m. and asks if he can sleep in my bed because he had a "really scary dream." I'm too tired to ask what happened, or to try and talk some sense into him, so I just let him crawl in. And at first, this seems like a fine idea. I go right to sleep snuggling with the little guy. But then he starts to kick me in the crotch, or steal my blanket or pillow, or breathe on me with his nasty morning breath. I feel guilty for kicking him out, but I'm not sleeping, and eventually, after a couple hours, I get up and lug him back into his bed.
5. The Lost Bun-Bun
Sometimes kids lose a blanket in the night. Sometimes it's a sock. But with my kids, it's Bun-Bun. It's a stuffed bunny, with a stupid hat that reads "Buttercup." My son loved it. Now my daughter loves it. And I am confident that my youngest daughter will love it, too. Why? I don't know. But what I do know is that stupid ass bunny is always getting lost in the night, and I end up searching through blankets and behind beds with a flashlight to find it because someone woke up and just can't sleep without it. And you know what, when I do find it, I have to try real hard not to take the damn thing into the back yard and light it on fire.
6. The Wet Bed
Kids wet the bed. No shit. It's been going on since the dawn of humankind. But that doesn't make it any less irritating to the parent. I will admit, though. I've gotten to the point that I simply just change the kid, wipe them down with wet wipes, place a towel over the wet spot, and put the little stinker back to bed. Then I deal with it in the morning.
7. The "I slept through the night so you'd think I was dead."
This is the trickiest one. This happens when all of your children sleep through the night and you wake up with a sick feeling. You are so used to them getting you up, that no one crying for water or Bun-Bun scares the hell out of you. So you get up, and go from room to room checking for breath, because the only way this could happen is if there was a tragedy. And while you do this, you reflect on how much you love your children.
Clint Edwards is the author of No Idea What I'm Doing: A Daddy Blog. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.