Monday, June 13, 2011

Role Reversal

The Teen is at the age where he’ll make the decision when to go to bed, but still wants me to tuck him in. He is, however, supremely embarrassed when I give him a kiss on the head and say to him as I have every night we’re together for the past thirteen years, “Goodnight, best friend. “ I’m holding on to this as long as I can, because I know the day is coming soon when bedtime rituals will be a thing of the past, and that soon the basic hygiene practices of the adolescent male…that is to say, none at all…will make bedtime more of a wave-from-the-door kind of thing.
I try to go to bed shortly after he does, in the hope that I can maximize my time with him by keeping our schedules somewhat parallel. But lately I’ve been working a lot of nights, so I’m having trouble shifting back and forth. The other night I woke up at 4 in the morning, having gone to bed at 10 the night before, and couldn’t get back to sleep no matter what. So I got up, paid a few bills, did some laundry and some dishes, worked on a few snippets for the blog, and still found myself unable to sleep two hours later.

So I started to play The Damn Game, otherwise known as Civilization IV. This is the same game that has been my blogging downfall the past two months, as noted in my piece “I Write the (Titles of) Songs” just a few days back. After a brief respite and a return to productivity, I’m back to The Game because the latest expansion pack arrived on Saturday, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least try out playing as the Portuguese.

It’s now about 6:30, and I hear the feet. These are the feet that, trained by years of knowing that on weekend mornings the father sleeps, know that this gives you several hours of computer and Wii time uninterrupted by parental requests to do things like “brush your teeth” and “eat breakfast at the table like a human being” and “let’s just have a meaningful conversation about what’s going on in your life because even though these moments bore you silly someday you’ll look back on it and value our time together.” The feet wake first, and as they hit the floor they send impulse to the hands to engage the power button, which then activates the eyes to open by the glow of the LCD screen.

(There has actually been some debate within our home regarding the actual timing of morning and when the feet can first hit the floor. My contention is that morning corresponds with the rising of the sun. His is that morning begins with the Rising of The Son. This dispute comes to head around those times when clocks spring forward and fall back. This leads to the invention of new time periods to describe the proximity to what I consider actually dawn, and thus delay his ability to engage the computer. Thus we have the Immediate Pre-Dawn, the Post-Immediate Pre-Dawn, the Pre-Imminent Dawn, The Imminent Dawn, The Post-Imminent Impending Dawn, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Dawn Wells as Mary Ann, and so until I run out of adjectives and yield the floor.)

On this particular morning, however, I’m at the computer first, my back turned towards his bedroom door. This causes the feet to hesitate, then shuffle. My unexpected level of consciousness is clearly a problem.

“Dad, why are you awake?”

“Couldn’t sleep. Got up at 4, couldn’t get back to bed.”

By the sound of his voice alone I can tell that the routine has been broken, and the spinning hamsters in his mind will need to come up with a new tactical plan. Like any strategy, adaptation needs with information.

“What are you doing?”

“Playing Civ IV.”

(Like he couldn’t tell by looking over my shoulder, which I know his doing by the smell of last night’s chicken curry and vegetable korma on his breath. I told him to brush last night, darn it, and when I checked his toothbrush was wet. He’s getting more clever by the day.)

He sighs and goes back into his room to read . Twenty minutes later, he’s back.

“Are you going to go back to bed?”

“Soon.” (I’m just about to send a few Portuguese knights in to knock off an Ethiopian catapult.)

My son knows me pretty well, so he knows that no matter how tired I may be I won’t vacate my game until I am assured of a win, know for sure I’m going to lose, or get a phone call from either Christie Brinkley or The Bride (not in that order). And thanks to the magic of DVD, he also knows The Big Bang Theory, which is our favorite show on TV. Sometimes he calls me Wolowitz, and sometimes I call him Sheldon. Because…well, we are.

So he decides he will solve the problem of the father being awake and potentially wanting to engage in conversation or other mutual activities that might interrupt his carefully planned morning of AdventureQuest, Neopets, and You Tube (he would direct you to “The Best Cat Video You’ll Ever See” or Parry Grip). So he adopts a strategy used by the character of Bernadette when she wants to get the socially awkward and quite literal Sheldon Cooper to get some rest after staying awake for three straight days.

“You really want to win at Civ?”

“Uh-huh.” (That’s one stubborn catapult.)

“You can’t do it unless you can think well. And what happens to our neuroreceptors when we stay awake to long?”

I look up at him, remembering the lines from the episode but not quite sure where he’s going.

“They don’t function well and they lose their sensitivity.”

“That’s right, Howard. So go to bed now, young man.”

I gazed at him, knowing that not only was he right but that this was the first step towards those days when he’ll be coaxing me to eat porridge from a spoon by making airplane noises. (Which, because I like airplanes, I will do.)

“Will you at least tuck me in and sing the “Soft Kitty” song?”

“I’ll give you Bob the Giraffe to sleep with and pat you on the head.”

Fair enough. So I did.

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