Fitting In at Dad 2.0 Summit

It had been a warm day.

I had expected the temperature to be higher in New Orleans than at home in New York, but even I was surprised to feel uncomfortable in anything more than a t-shirt. I’d spent the afternoon by myself, making my way through the French Quarter to buy souvenirs for my wife and children before the conference started. I ended up with a fair-sized haul: Mardi Gras masks, a pair of t-shirts and a children’s book for my kids, plus a cookbook and beignet mix for my wife. I was sweating by the time I returned to the hotel because I had been walking quickly, weaving through the other passersby walking slower than me; an hour and a half in the Big Easy was hardly enough to shake my New York City impatience.

It was around two hours later when the tone was set for the rest of my time at my first Dad 2.0 Summit. I had traded my sneakers and t-shirt for loafers and a button-down and finally put some food in my stomach (I had barely eaten since putting down a cheap sandwich at the airport). I found myself standing in the hotel courtyard with what must have been over one hundred other conference attendees. I was exchanging pleasantries with one of the few people I had met face to face before when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

The man was a few inches shorter than me and looked to be a year or two older. His hands had been shoved into his pockets and he gave a sort of half-smirk as he looked me in the eye. I recognized him as one of the other dad bloggers with whom I’d had countless conversations online, between our shared contributions to Dads Round Table and more general interactions in the dad blogger Facebook group.

“Hi, I’m Aaron,” I said as I extended my hand.

He glanced quickly at my offer but his hands didn’t move from his pockets.

“Don’t try to introduce yourself and shake my hand like I don’t know who you are,” he said. The half-smirk spread to the rest of his face as if to say, What’s wrong with you?

“Er– okay,” I said nervously, bringing my hand back to my side. I had never been so thankful to be holding a drink in my other hand.

“Hi John. It’s nice to finally meet you in person,” I said, trying a different tack.

His smile became more genuine and the conversation took a more natural turn. We began speaking about our respective flights, our families at home and our latest online projects. He shared his insights from having attended previous conferences and gave me some suggestions about pacing myself and taking notes because there was going to be a lot to take in.

I had no idea how right he was.

A few days later, after returning home to my family, my job(s) and the rest of reality, I’ve finally been able to start processing my experiences over the last week. I’ve begun reviewing my notes from the different workshops, updating my social media profiles according to the suggestions I received and thinking about strategies for solidifying the connections I made with brand representatives at the conference. I’m doing my best to stick to a plan, rather than just throwing things at a wall and hoping something sticks, but it’s still been somewhat slow going.

Through it all, though, I keep coming back to that moment on Thursday night when John tapped me on the shoulder. I had similar interactions with dozens of other people during the course of the weekend. I would offer my hand and introduce myself, their eyes would light up with recognition and they would respond by either shaking my hand or wrapping me up in a bear hug.

The most jarring part was getting used to the idea that I could fit in with these other people,1 most of whom were much more experienced in this world than I. Some of them had turned their blogs into genuine revenue streams and were able to leverage their brand connections into amazing experiences for their families. Some of them had been professional writers, working as newspaper reporters and broadcast journalists; one was even the founder and managing editor of a magazine. These people had built social networks, parenting organizations and baby gear businesses and I… well, I consider it an accomplishment if I publish a new blog post each week.

None of the accolades seemed to matter, though. After my initial shock of meeting people whose names I had recognized online for five years, the conversations became more about writing, parenting and the brotherhood that we had all joined. We were all fathers and content creators who had joined together to compare notes, share insights and lift each other up to new opportunities. We were all at different stages of parenting and blogging but we all had the same goals: to become better at each.


1. I say “people” instead of “men” because there was a strong contingent of women there, both representing brands and their own blogs. I learned as much from them as I did from the other dads.

Not Quite Broadway

I took a personal day this week to be a parent chaperone on my son’s class field trip.

The trip was to a local theater to see a live performance of the children’s book, Click Clack Moo. I wouldn’t say it’s the most popular book ever, but Eitan has it and enjoys it very much. The basic premise is that Farmer Brown’s cows and chickens get very cold in the barn at night so they go on strike. They refuse to give Farmer Brown any milk or eggs unless he supplies them with electric blankets. The cows learn to use the old typewriter that Farmer Brown left in the barn to send him their demands; hence, the title for the book.

It’s a cute story; just trust me on this.

The show itself was cute, as well. The theater troupe turned the story into a musical and updated it a bit for the younger target audience. The most notable difference was the addition of Farmer Brown’s granddaughter, Jenny, who is visiting him. She has brought her laptop so she can check her email and keep in touch with her friends. Farmer Brown takes away the laptop (and the printer that Jenny also brought for some reason) because he feels like Jenny is never willing to help out on the farm and sticks it in the barn. I’m skipping parts, obviously, but the lesson of is about finding ways to compromise and work together toward a common goal, rather than sticking to one’s opinion at all costs.

My point, though, is less about the show or it’s message and more about taking the day to be with my son and his class. The time I have to spend with Eitan has continues to dwindle; my caseload at work was increased in the fall, I’m still teaching religious school twice per week and I’ve taken on some more private practice clients, as well. We’re all too familiar with this refrain by now; keeping busy means I’m making money to support my family but it’s a struggle to find time to actually be with my family. In fact, now that Shayna has begun expressing herself more clearly, I’m waiting for her to have her own “Daddy lives work!” moment. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

I try to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can to stay involved. I take days off to volunteer for field trips or go to work late so I can be at the school for early morning class programs. Also, if making these arrangements means that I have to finish assignments at home in the evenings once in a while to make sure I get my paperwork done, so be it. I want Eitan to know that I’m working a lot but that he and Shayna are my top priority, no matter what else is going on.

There is an additional benefit to going on a field trip with a kindergarten class, though: it’s fun. Let’s be clear: Click Clack Moo was hardly sophisticated theater. The show was enjoyable for what it was but we’re not likely to see cows chanting with picket signs at the Minskoff Theater anytime soon. There is something to be said, however, for spending an hour watching people in ridiculous costumes, hearing relatively clever songs and, most importantly, listening to children laugh through the whole show. There’s a reason J.M. Barrie put orphans in the theater1 at the premiere of Peter Pan; children’s laughter reminds adults how to relax and just enjoy themselves.

It wasn’t only the performance, either. Between the bus rides and the waiting periods before and afterward, Eitan’s classmates and I had conversations and played games together. We played I Spy, told jokes and made faces at each other. The kids asked about my age and then told me how old their parents were. They told me about their families, their interests and each other. I don’t mean to paint myself as the Pied Piper of kindergarten children; certainly, some of my experiences as a camp counselor and as a father are clear indicators that there are limits to my powers of influence over kids. But these children, in particular, engaged with me because they knew I was their friend’s father and because I was an adult willing to listen to what they had to say.

This is not a commentary on other parents, either the other chaperones on the trip or the parents who were not present. Certainly, I understand that everyone faces a different set of circumstances regarding their availability to participate in these types of events. I’m fully aware that most jobs do not offer the kind of scheduling flexibility that mine does and that supervision for a family’s other children is not always as straightforward. Far be it from me to make any judgments about the ways in which parents demonstrate their involvement in their children’s lives. I just know that I had the opportunity to spend extra time with my son and his friends and I wanted to take advantage.

Eitan’s smile when he saw me waiting in the school lobby was all the justification I needed to know I had made the right choice.


1. My apologies that the video clip doesn’t show the opening of the play, when the kids actually start laughing. The adults in the audience watch a man come onto the stage dressed as a dog and have no idea how to react. It’s the children’s laughter that helps them relax and accept the entertainment. Again, just trust me on this.

New Year’s Non-Resolutions

The end of the year tends to spur people into becoming reflective. I’d argue that I tend to be fairly reflective most of the time anyway but there is something about the end of a year and the start of the new one that makes me think on a slightly broader scale. I live much of my life focused on the present; what tasks need to be completed, why are the kids crying, how do I get from point A to point B, etc. There are so many small fires to be put out that I sometimes forget about finding ways to stop them from starting in the first place. That is what this time of year is for: taking stock of where we were and what we’ve done and making decisions and plans for the coming year.

To that end, I thought of a few things I have in mind for the coming year. I’m not going to call them resolutions; I find that word has become too closely associated with fixing the pieces of ourselves that are “broken” and that’s not how I see myself. I have my share of flaws, to be sure, but there is a major difference between being imperfect and being broken. In that vein, I was looking for ways to build on the foundation that already exists, rather than making sweeping changes or starting from scratch. To use computing terminology, I want to upgrade the current software instead of repairing faulty wiring or installing an entirely new operating system.

One more thing: the tweaks I mention below vary in their degrees of importance. (There’s a reason I’m calling them tweaks.) It’s much easier to maintain slight adjustments over the long term than it is to keep up with large scale changes. I’d rather commit to smaller shifts that are more realistic than come up with loftier goals that set me up for disappointment.

And so, without further ado, I present my 2018 Non-Resolutions.

1. Stop the Hoarding

Let’s be clear: I’m not a hoarder. I don’t obsess with acquiring new things and I have no problem getting rid of garbage and junk mail that come into my apartment every day. Show me something I haven’t used in three years and I’ll throw it out without batting an eye (usually). What I do have a problem with is that I make piles. Piles of receipts, piles of electronics chargers, piles of papers that I may need but I’m not entirely sure. I make these piles because I don’t know where something should go immediately or because I’m just putting it down and intending to put it away later (which, of course, I never do).

2018 Non-Resolution: no more piles. If something is out, I’m going to put it away immediately. No more putting things down and “coming back to it.” I’ll have a specific spot for things I’m not ready for yet and make sure that it’s empty before I go to bed each evening.

2. Better Quality Family Time

A few nights ago, Trudy and I were watching television,1 which is not exactly a rare occurrence for us. Most of our evenings end up with the two of us sitting on the couch and watching a show while also scanning through social media feeds on our phones or doing work on the computer. This particular evening, though, ended differently. We had put away our phones and were actually sitting right next to each other, as opposed to near each other. We were both fully present in the moment2 and we were only focused on the show and each other. It was just… nice.

2018 Non-Resolution: focus on one thing at a time. Watch the show and nothing else. Be with Trudy and nowhere else. Play with my kids and be present with them. Leave the phone aside and keep my attention on the people I’m with so I can get more done and enjoy being with the people closest to me.

3. Keep on Writing

This is a harder one than it may seem. There are times when the words just flow out, when I have the entire post formulated in my head before I even start typing. Then there are other times, though, where I start and stop numerous times before finding an opening that seems to stick. I’ll be the first to admit that some posts are “better” than others – more creative, more heartfelt, more meaningful. It depends heavily on the subject matter of the post. But, no matter how the post turns out, I know that I feel better about myself when I can publish new posts consistently.

2018 Non-Resolution: keep the streak going. I’ve published a new blog post in nine of the last ten weeks (I took Thanksgiving week off) after having gone through a four-month dry spell. I’ve been feeling more confident about my work and my ability to find the words to describe my experiences. I need to make sure I continue my progress.

These are a few of my non-resolutions. Feel free to leave some of your own in the comments section, whether they’re significant life-altering moves or little adjustments to make your daily routines go more smoothly. Either way, I wish all of you a happy and healthy new year. May 2018 bring all of us more laughter than tears, more successes than setbacks and more love than heartbreak. Oh, and of course, plenty of writing material.

Happy new year.

 


1. For the record, we were watching The West Wing. We never watched the show when it was airing and we started binge-watching it around Christmas when our current shows were on winter break.

2. I mean, as much as one can be when watching television.

“Are You Ready?”

I woke up early that morning.

I don’t remember the exact time but it was probably around 5:00 AM. I shut off the alarm, blinked a few times as my eyes adjusted to the dark hotel room, and made my way to the bathroom to shave and take a shower. There was no stumbling or grogginess; my body knew what was coming and it woke up immediately to get ready.

I was practically alone as I ate breakfast in the hotel lobby. I watched as hotel staff and a few guests walked past sporadically, moving luggage and cleaning carts and trays of food for the breakfast buffet. The scrambled eggs and pancakes were standard hotel fare but I was so distracted that I barely tasted them. My mother walked over to me as I was finishing and asked me how I was doing.

“Fine,” I said with a smile. “A little nervous, but really fine. I’m ready.”

We spoke for another minute or two before I picked up my bag and clothes and made my way out to the car. I don’t remember what was on the radio; either way, it was nothing more than background noise. I made the turns on autopilot, preoccupied with speeches and dances and the fear of tripping. The sun had just started dimly backlighting the heavy, ominous clouds when I arrived.

The building was dark and quiet. “This would be a great place to play Manhunt,” twelve-year-old me thought. There were a couple of lights on at the end of the hallway to my right and I thought I heard voices – laughter, in particular – from behind the door I knew was there. I turned left, though, and walked through the large space, weaving between tables and chairs that had all been covered with white cloths. A single light bulb hung by the front door, casting a dim glow over the lobby. I turned the knob to the room that had been set aside for me and grimaced slightly when I realized it was locked.

The fluorescent lights in the men’s room were not as harsh as I had expected them to be. I hung the garment bag on the door of one of the stalls and placed the shiny black shoes on the sink counter. I began changing, doing my best to keep the clean suit off of the floor. I noticed my heart beginning to beat slightly stronger and faster as I dressed; I had to stop at one point to force my trembling fingers to relax so I could maneuver the cuff links. I threw my other clothes back in the bag when I had finished, gave myself one last once-over in the mirror and came outside.

The lobby was brighter now; someone had turned on the lights while I was getting dressed. The small tables around the room and the art on the walls were much easier to see. I also was no longer alone; two young women were sitting nearby in long, dark brown gowns getting their hair done. They greeted me as I came out and we spoke for a minute about how early they had arrived, everyone’s lack of sleep and the scarcity of electrical outlets for the stylists’ hair dryers and straightening irons. I joked about the symbolism of blowing a fuse in such a large building, today of all days. The young women laughed; the stylists did not.

I had just started to make my way back into the large room with the white tablecloths when I was stopped by a short, dark-skinned woman. She wore a plain black pantsuit and her curly hair had been pinned back behind her head. She was cradling a camera in one hand and directed me back into the lobby with the other.

“You clean up nice,” she said with a smile. “Do you want to see her?”

My heart started pounding again immediately.

“Now? Already?” I asked.

“You have someplace else to be?” she asked with a wink.

“What? No, of course not,” I stammered as she chuckled.

I inhaled deeply and held it for a second before letting it out. My heart was still beating heavily but it no longer felt like it was using a battering ram on my ribs. My fingers trembled for a second before I shook them out. I closed my eyes, took another breath, exhaled and looked her in the eye.

“I’m ready.”

She shooed the other women out of the room and positioned me with my back to the doorway where we had been standing. I closed my eyes again and tried to control my breathing. My heart had begun using its battering ram again and it was going to be too long a day for me to let that continue. I heard the photographer speaking behind me, followed by the swish of fabric and lace and the closing of a door. The photographer came around in front of me, snapped a few photos, told me to close my eyes and had me turn around.

“Whenever you’re ready,” she said.

I opened my eyes.

Trudy was standing in front of me. Her hair grazed her shoulders with a slight curl at the ends. Her eyes were gleaming with happiness and her diamond white dress was shining in the light of the moment. A smile crept across her face as she watched my reaction to seeing her.

I felt my breathing come back to normal and my heart put its battering ram back down. My fingers were no longer trembling and I was no longer aware of anyone or anything but the unbelievable woman standing in front of me. I took a deep breath and my smile widened.

I was ready.

Compassion For a Military Man

I was sitting at the dining room table with my father when I said it.

We were playing backgammon while Trudy and our relatives were sitting behind me in the living room, watching television. I could see the steam rising from the cup of tea he had just poured himself. My tongue was still tingling from the single-malt Scotch sitting in front of me. I smiled as I took my turn; I was about to beat my father handily for the second straight game. Then, while my father was getting ready to roll the dice, I blurted it out.

“Tell me some Grandpa stories.”

My father stopped shaking the dice and looked at me. The edges of his lips curved upwards in the slightest hint of a smile.

“I can tell you stories or I can focus on the game. I can’t do both.”

I chuckled and said we should finish playing first. In retrospect, I should have quit while I was ahead and had him tell the stories; he ended up winning the best-of-five series.1 When we had finished, he leaned back in his chair, clasped his fingers in front of him and asked, “What kinds of stories are you looking for?”

I thought for a minute before answering.

“I don’t really know who Grandpa was.”

img_2756

My grandfather holding my father, who apparently was a cute kid.

I knew a lot about my mother’s parents. I knew about their childhoods living in India, their immigration to the United States and their lives as parents and grandparents. I knew a fair amount about my father’s mother, from being born in Mexico and raised there and in Cuba to living in the United States after she got married. I knew that she and my father moved with my grandfather every two years with each new military station assignment. I knew these stories because my grandparents were all still alive and had been able to tell me themselves.

But it occurred to me recently that I knew very little about my father’s father, who passed away when I was very young. I knew he had been a radio andimg_2754communications operator in the Air Force and that he served in North Africa during World War II. I knew one or two stories about him joining the military and about his interactions with his relatives. I knew that anytime I saw Harry Caray on television when I was little, I pointed to the screen and said, “Grandpa!” because they both had white hair and glasses. (This picture of him and my grandmother was obviously taken long before his hair turned white.) And I knew that I had been named for him.2 But that was about it.

I decided that I wanted to know everything. What kind of a husband had he been? Had he been an involved father? How did he get along with other people? What did he do for fun?

“Maybe just start at the beginning?” I suggested.

My father shrugged and pursed his lips. His eyebrows raised slightly as his face took on the expression that I know I make all too often. It’s the face I make whenever I’m about to start a task and I’m not sure how things are going to turn out. It’s the expression that says, “Okay, here goes nothing.”

He began speaking about my grandfather’s life as a young man, from making a living as an ice delivery man to driving his brother from Philadelphia to Tucson. He told me how my grandfather joined the Air Force, made it through basic training and had begun his introductory flight lessons before someone realized he was wearing glasses. That’s why he ended up as a radio operator; military pilots can’t wear corrective lenses. He spoke about his relationship with my grandfather, his memories of the interactions between his parents and the ways my grandfather’s personality changed as he got older.

I was surprised by the conversation. The bits and pieces I had heard about my grandfather previously had been largely positive. My grandfather was, by most accounts, img_2757.jpgfairly well-liked and treated people well. He made decisions rationally and served his country both in times of war and peace. And yet, there were aspects of his personality that were decidedly less so, like his rigidity in terms of his expectations of others or his limitations as a father and husband. I suppose I should not have been shocked to hear that my grandfather had imperfections; he was human, after all. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed but I certainly found myself with some new perspectives about my father and his parents.

That being said, I also don’t regret asking about my grandfather. I asked the questions because I was looking for a stronger connection to my past and I found what I was looking for. Part of growing up is coming to the realization that our parents aren’t invincible beings who have all the answers.3 We all have to come to grips with the knowledge that our parents and grandparents have strengths and weaknesses and that some of their decisions turned out better than others. Our kids will go through the same process with us as they get older. We just have to try to have compassion for those who came before us so that we can understand where they came from. Hopefully, our children will try to find the same compassion when they think about us.


1. He killed me in those games. The second game was a double game; he got all of his pieces off the board before I got any, which means that his victory counted for two games. The tiebreaker was a single game but it really wasn’t close.

2. My grandfather’s name was Hyman, but my father said he never would have forced that on me. Instead, he and my mother named me Aaron, which, in Hebrew, is Aharon. The Hebrew word, har, means “mountain.” Hyman became “high man,” which became “mountain dweller,” which became Aaron.

3. With all due respect to Dennis Green, they might not be who we thought they were.

Coming Back to a Changing Reality

We’re back.

My family and I went on vacation for nine days to Boulder, Colorado and we came home this week. The flights were fairly easy and our car service trips to and from the airports went off with only minor hitches. When we got home, we flew through the unpacking process in record time; we were in the door around 7:00 PM and were fully unpacked by 8:45. After baths, dinner and one major tantrum involving silverware being thrown by one of our children (I won’t say which), both kids were asleep around 9:15. It was obviously later than their usual bedtime but that’s how things go when you’re dealing with airline flights and changing time zones.

I should say, before I go any further: I’m not going to write about the trip itself. I’m not going to go into detail about the party with the cats, dogs, goats and chickens where we somehow met someone who knew us (the second time that happened while we were away). I’m not going to write about the car trip through the winding Rocky Mountains, praying that Eitan would be able to hold his bowels until we reached a clean bathroom. I’m not going to write about the pool or the zoo or the hiking or the sunsets; you can follow me on Instagram for all that. I will write about family, but I have a specific angle in mind which deserves its own post, rather than being forced in here. Oh, and I also won’t write about Eitan shooing me off the ice rink so he could skate by himself (although I may at a later date).

I will, however, write about the fact that there was something about this trip that really seemed to affect Eitan and Shayna.

It’s often difficult for me to put my finger on the exact changes I see in my kids over time. Some of these were pretty obvious, though. Shayna has been walking and running for months already but she really took off while we were away. I saw her climbing into chairs, onto ledges and, of course, up many flights of stairs. Our walks through the zoo and around the lake took a bit longer because we had to wait for Shayna but there is nothing like watching her laugh while she’s running, especially if she thinks she is being chased.

Shayna was talking more, as well. She could already say the names of objects like shoes, fork, spoon, Mimi (her pacifier) and almost all of the Sesame Street characters. Then, on the trip, she began using the word “no.” Trudy and I laughed at first because it was cute to watch her little mouth sound out the word; it was much less cute by the end of the trip when Shayna would scream, “No! No! No!” any time she didn’t get her way. But even if Shayna didn’t add any other specific words to her repertoire on the trip, she still seemed to be communicating more directly and purposefully than she had before.

Eitan also seemed to go through a change, though his was a bit more subtle than Shayna’s. His speech patterns were already well established since he’s older and we were hardly shocked when he was able to jet off on the bicycle we borrowed from our relatives’ neighbors . The shift we saw with Eitan was more closely related to his mannerisms and the way he carried himself. He seemed more self-aware, more confident and… older. He described the concepts he has been learning in school matter-of-factly and was eager to demonstrate his reading, writing and math abilities. He engaged in real conversations and was able to laugh at jokes. Even his posture seemed straighter.

Eitan’s kindergarten teacher told Trudy and me at Meet the Teacher Night that kindergarten brings about the most significant changes in children. She said that kids coming into kindergarten are usually insecure and need considerable guidance as they figure out their next steps. By the end of the year, though, they have developed so many skills, both academically and socially, that they are practically different children. There have been countless times since September when Eitan has done or said things that have stopped us in our tracks. Shayna has had plenty of her own stop-short moments, too, although the situations are obviously different. Each time, Trudy and I just look at each other and ask, “Where did these kids come from?”

I’m not sure if the shifts I saw in our kids during our trip actually happened during the nine days we were in Colorado or if they just seemed starker to me because I finally had enough uninterrupted time to actually be with my family. Trudy seems to be slightly less shocked by our children’s ongoing emotional growth, although I’m not sure if that is really the case or if that’s just what I tell myself since she is around our kids more often than I am. Either way, I’m actually able to spend more time with my family on an ongoing basis than many other working parents with more rigid schedules and less accommodating employers. The problem is that, even if that’s the case, it feels sometimes like my interactions with Eitan and Shayna are happening with different kids from one weekend to the next.

The changes keep on coming; I just have to try to keep up.

Things That Go Bump In The Night

I don’t remember being afraid of the dark.

I’m sure I was; I think all kids are afraid of the dark when they’re young. I know I had a night light in my room when I was little but I don’t remember when I stopped using it. I also don’t remember if the night light was for me or for my younger brother, with whom I shared a room (I’m going with my brother, since I was eight years old at that point). I do, however, remember being creeped out when my family spent a holiday at my aunt’s house and I slept by myself in the study. It wasn’t the dark that scared me; it was the print on the wall of the Mona Lisa with a monkey’s face instead of a woman’s. I was able to laugh at it the next morning when I saw it in the light but first seeing it in the dark had me feeling like it was watching me sleep. Not only that, I almost felt like the monkey was making fun of me with that goofy smile because I was scared of it.

Everything becomes different in the dark. Shadows twist common objects into fearsome creatures and threatening spirits. Kids hear the mundane clinks and whistles of a heater turning on or the creaks of a settling house and think burglars are breaking in. The darkest spaces of the room – under the bed and behind closet doors, for instance – suddenly become entry portals for monsters of all kinds.1 Disney even made a movie about this concept:

The fear of the unknown – even if it is actually “known” during the day – sends kids’ imaginations racing to conjure the scariest and most threatening images possible. We are so reliant on our sense of sight to show us what is real that, when that sense is taken away, our grip on reality is distorted.

I bring all this up because last night I ended up sleeping on the couch again. It’s not because we’re still trying to re-sleep-train Shayna; we stopped bothering with that because we’ll be out of town on vacation for Thanksgiving and Shayna’s sleep patterns are surely going to get thrown out of whack all over again. No, last night I started the night sleeping in my bed and had every intention of staying there until I had to get up for work in the morning.

I was interrupted around 1:30 AM, when Eitan came into our bedroom. He said he had heard a noise and he was “terrified.” He was clearly worked up and Trudy and I know that when Eitan has made up his mind about something, any hint at contradiction triggers a negative reaction. We didn’t want to take the chance that forcing him to go back to bed would result in him waking his sister so we let him stay in our bed. (It should also be noted that this was the third consecutive night he had come in because something had scared him.)

After dozing on and off for about an hour, I finally told Eitan he had to leave. We have a queen-size bed; it’s fine when Trudy and I are the only two people in the bed. It wasn’t even terrible for all three of us when Eitan was little. At some point, though, Eitan turned into a real person who takes up real space, so the three of us together in bed is no longer feasible.2 Eitan protested against going back to bed – he was apparently still “terrified” – but he agreed to my proposal that he and I would spend the rest of the night sleeping on the couch. I gave him a couch cushion for a pillow and took out two extra blankets from our closet. Then I brought my pillow and blanket over and we lay down with our heads near each other in the “L” of our sectional.

As comfortable as our couch is – as I mentioned in the other post about sleep training Shayna – last night’s on-the-spot solution is unsustainable. I’m hoping that the answer to Eitan staying in his room all night will be something simple. Maybe we will need to inspect Eitan’s bedroom with him to identify the shadows before the lights go off or spray his room with “Monster Spray” before he goes to sleep. It may involve teaching him some deep breathing techniques for him to use if he wakes up at night. We’re hesitant to put a night light back in the room because there is light from outside that comes through the window; plus, Shayna sleeps so much better when it’s darker and we definitely do not want to disrupt her sleep. We may have to try a number of different methods and just hope for the best.

Then again, Eitan asked me this morning if I remembered being at his school yesterday and punching a zombie in front of his kindergarten teacher. After assuring him that I had done no such thing, I realized that perhaps the reason for Eitan waking up is not actually because he has been hearing noises in his room or seeing shadows on his walls. It’s possible that our problems may be solved by a simple conversation about weird dreams.


1. Let’s also not forget the bedtime message, “Good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

2. I thought that the name I chose for this blog would eventually become obsolete; clearly, that is not yet the case.