My back is pressed up against one of the mesh railings affixed to Mikey’s twin bed. Baby Yoda is propped up on my hip, Chompy the Dinosaur is resting against my head, Mr. Snake is somewhere by my legs, and Mikey is clutching Baby Bear as he tosses and turns next to me.
“So then, SpongeBob came down the beanstalk and back into our yard before going home for bedtime—”
“What’s a beanstalk?”
I swear we aim for a 7 p.m. bedtime for Mikey. We really do. But every night after watching a show, having a cup of milk, having a snack, having another snack, reading a book – or four, brushing his teeth and going potty, it’s somehow 8:30, 8:35, 8:40 p.m. before we get close to shut-eye.
“A beanstalk is like a really tall tree that grows up into the clouds to a secret world.”
Mikey twists and rolls, landing a heel in my thigh and a fist in my jugular, and getting tangled in his Spiderman sheets. There is approximately 1 inch of space between our faces. “Why is there a secret world in the clouds?”
“I’ll tell you during tomorrow night’s story. Now go to sleep.”
There’s rustling, tugging of the sheet, and I get an elbow to my rib.
There’s a pause, then, “Why do frogs have tongues?”
Another pause. “I guess so they can zap flies.”
“But why do frogs eat flies?”
“I don’t know, bud. Just go to sleep.”
More rustling. “Momma?”
“Mikey, I’m serious. I’ll rub your back for one minute and then I’m leaving and you have to go to sleep like a big boy. No more talking.”
The mattress dips and shifts. I’m not even sure how such a small human can make the bed shake so much. “Momma?” And we are face-to-face again, sharing the same breath.
A pause. “Is tomorrow a school day?”
“Yes. Now go… To… Sleep.”
I rub his side while he is quiet for about 10 seconds.
Don’t beat him… Don’t beat him… Don’t beat him…
“Mikey, you’re driving me bananas! It’s time to go to sleep.”
“Why you say you are bananas?”
“But Momma, why you say you are bananas?”
“It’s just a saying.”
“Mikey, I mean it. Go to sleep!”
More rustling, followed by a head-butt and either a knee or an elbow in my stomach.
I’m going to kill him.
“Why is your stomach squishy?”
“Well, about four years ago I grew a human, for starters. I’m pushing 40. I like carbs…”
Deep breath. “What?”
“What are carbs?”
“That’s it!” I push up off the bed, causing Baby Yoda, Chompy and Mr. Snake to go tumbling as I awkwardly scoot down to the end of the bed past the railings and roll off. I turn around and tuck Mikey back in – with all his stuffies – tell him I love him, and storm out the door.
I grab the monitor and find my husband in the living room. “I’m tapping you in,” I tell him. “I’m done. If I go back in there I’m going to end up in jail.”
A moment later we hear a faint “Momma?” coming through the monitor. We let him go for a few minutes but after several beckons of “Momma?” my husband — Mr. Cool, Calm and Collected — enters the hot zone.
“Buddy, it’s very late and you need to go to sleep,” I can hear him through the monitor. “Mikey, lay still. I’ll rub your back for one minute and then you need to go to sleep.”
“Is tomorrow a school day?”
“Yes. Go to sleep.”
A pause. More rustling. “Dada?”
“Mikey, you need to go to sleep.”
“But Dada, let me tell you something…. Dada?”
“No. You’re not having a drink. I’m leaving now. Go to sleep.”
“Mikey, do you need a tissue?”
“Then get your finger out of your nose.”
A few seconds of quiet. “Dada?”
“Mikey! It’s time for bed. If you say one more word we’re throwing away all your toys and telling Santa not to bring any more. Go. To. Sleep!”
I hear some rustling and an “I love you” and the click of the door before my husband re-emerges. “How does he have so many questions?”
“I dunno,” I reply as I lay on the couch and power up the Xbox.
“Where do they all come from?”
“Is our kid eccentric, or is this all 4-year-olds?”
“I don’t know, hun.”
The threat to rid the house of all Mikey’s toys must have worked because at some point the rustling stops and neither of us is summoned again. We high-five and start an episode of Ozark on Netflix.
And we both fall asleep half-way through it.
Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and mother of a 4-year-old. She can be reached at email@example.com.