Hilary and I are in trouble. Our 12 year-old Max is not even a teenager yet — he actually seems quite far to me from being anywhere close to molting into a teenager. And yet, we fear him. Well, not all the time. Ninety percent of the day I’m not fearful, just as Nosferatu was pretty harmless unless you crossed his lanky path at the wrong time of night.
But in the mornings, in particular, it is fair to say that we fear our sub 5-foot eldest offspring. Maybe “fear” is too strong of a word. What is the word for “make you pretend you’re still asleep in your own bed so that your spouse might show mercy, spare you, and sacrifice herself to the morning wakeup ritual”? Maybe “cowardice”? “Self-preservation?” Let’s just say that I can fake-sleep with the best of them. And I’m OK with that. I reckon I have become such a masterful fake-sleeper that even though she will undoubtedly read this blog post and feel the wiser for it, my wife Hilary will not be able to ascertain — sleeping or awake? — when I pull the curtains on my next “Sleeping Beauty” act. I have worked on this for years, well before having kids, well before meeting Hilary, when I was still a kid myself. I have always equated fake-sleeping with invisibility. My own personal super power. It has come in handy more times than I can remember, and no doubt I’ve got a few more decades to continue to perfect my master craft.
A sense of humor helps, too. In the mornings, I mean. With Max. If I haven’t thrown myself into my fake-sleeping pose on time, and my wife has flipped around and caught my eyes before I could close them and thrown in a lips-slightly-parted mouth breather effect, let alone full-on fake breathing sounds (did I mention how good I am at this?), I resort to humor. I think I’d do the same in front of a firing squad, crinkled cigarette dangling from quivering lips — definitely something side-splitting to be said there to cut the tension. Fortunately, my wife shares my sense of humor (most of the time), and we’ve become accustomed to protecting ourselves with it during these morning terrors.
In cahoots, like Navy Seals storming a safe house, one of us pads up the stairs, squeaks open Max’s door, pulls up the riveted shade draws (it’s dark in there!), assesses the position of the beast, then deploys the most soothing voice and caring touch of the head: “Time to wake up, buddy.” Nothing. No response. If I’m doing the waking, at this point I’ve checked behind me to make sure I have a clear exit back out of the dungeon. I’ve bent my knees, poised to spring for my life. And I hold my breath. I don’t know what Hilary does, but this is what works for me. This is just my technique. Somewhere in here, the beast will arise, slowly, annoyed at these mortals and their silly soccer games and school buses, occasionally speaking in tongues that leave us wide-eyed and aghast. The advance scout flies back down the stairs, flames licking at his or her heels, to the relative safety of our bedroom. The other of us, still in bed (though as I’ve already pointed out, not fake-sleeping), shouts, “Release the Kraken!” Release the Kraken indeed. Speaking of which, the Kraken is now loose, being fed (eggs, not baby eagles) for an early soccer game. So I have to run. But I did manage to snap a photo of said Kraken in situ just before being released this very morning. Thanks for reading.