I've never been a teacher by title, but I spent many years working with youth and I was expected to provide them an education, albeit often unrelated to reading, writing or arithmetic. One of the lessons I learned in that role was that kids don't always respond as quickly to guidance as I would like. The type of response that would give a teacher immediate gratification. But the absence of that response didn't necessarily mean the lesson had not been learned; it's possible it was stored away for another day or another unexpected opportunity to reveal itself.
I'm finding that lesson will encourage me as a father. If you've been reading these updates for any period of time, you know that Elliott has a sleeping problem. Or, looking at it from Elliott's perspective, I blame him for my sleeping problem. Either way you interpret the motivation, we've been relentless in our efforts to resolve this issue; to teach him a better way to sleep.
Katie is big on establishing routines that, quite often, initiate habits far more pleasing than life before them. Now, we've experimented with many bed-time routines. But recently, Katie came up with a new one, or plucked somebody else's old one from the internet, and it seemed reasonable so we decided to give it a try. The ingredients for the plan: A Thomas the Train night light, a timer, and a little boy who considers a train his best friend. The concept of the plan is simple, when Thomas is asleep, Elliott is asleep. When Thomas wakes up and becomes an illuminated locomotive in a corner light socket at some pre-determined hour of the morning, Elliott wakes up. Simple. "Good-night Elliott, and remember, when Thomas gets up, Elliott gets up."
I wasn't sure if Elliott understood the concept of this particular intervention. But when he immediately began to sleep in, defined in our house as any sleep past the hour of 4 AM, I no longer cared. Some mornings he beat Thomas out of bed, others, Thomas had been shining for nearly an hour before Elliott rose. But he was sleeping in. One morning last week Elliott woke after the Thomas light had come on at the pre-set time of 5:45 AM. He had his milk and juice and morning fix of Sesame Street and decided he wanted some time with mama. When he found her still asleep, he was taken aback. "Mama, Thomas is up, mama needs to be up," he said. I guess he understood the concept.
Elliott keeps us well stocked in funny one liners these days. He came home from daycare the other night with enough surplus energy to turn a nursing home into a disco. We love his enthusiasm, but it sometimes conflicts with our efforts to wind down the day. Even little Ian squints in desire for his evening nap. Finally Katie asked him, as if conducting a survey, "Elliott, do you have an off button?" Elliott answered, as if responding to a survey, "No, Elliott have a little button," as he lifted his shirt and pointed at his belly button. We couldn't help ourselves; we pushed the button to see if it might by chance be an off button. No. If anything, it was a volume control with one direction - up.
When I took Ian to grandma and grandpa's house today decked out in his bright red outfit, grandma thought he was dressed in Christmas attire. I told her not by plan, but our house is indeed having some Christmas separation issues. When I left the house this morning Elliott was dancing in the kitchen singing Jingle Bells, a daily affair. He still wants Christmas stories read to him at bedtime and many nights insists on wearing his Christmas themed pajamas. I've never longed more for Peter Cottontail, a hopping diversion.
I own part of the blame. Our Christmas lights continue to droop from the roof of our porch and the lighted candy canes parade along the sidewalk. I've intended to remove them the last two weekends, but circumstances, whether they pardoned my lack of effort or not, prevented me. I'm sure my wonderful wife thinks it is a poke at her. I recall with fondness the first time I took her to Ohio. It was the spring or summer or a season when she expected all signs of the yule to be gone. As we traveled from south to north through Ohio, she heckled this Yankee as only a southern girl can about the countless number of houses still dressed in Christmas. She said it was an "Ohio thing." I had never paid attention to it before, but I have since and for the most part, she's right. But in another month or two, at our house, it will also be a Virginia thing.