A mere month before my daughter, Sarah, turned two we reluctantly put her in a toddler bed after one frustrating night of repeatedly hurling her little body out of the crib like a pole-vaulter crossing the bar. I would’ve preferred to keep her in the crib until she turned three, but she had other plans. From that night on, we have yet to keep Sarah in bed. She’s now getting close to turning five. It’s been a long time.
Since then, most nights follow this pattern. Every night at 8 p.m., Sarah (age four), Sean (age seven) and Brady (age two) are told it’s time for bed. At this point they either run and hide, or slump down onto the floor like a heavy sack of potatoes. One by one they are cornered and given their marching orders up to bed once again. Books are read, stories are told, water is given, hall lights are turned on, bedroom lights are turned off, and heads are on the pillows. All is quiet. My husband and I go downstairs to try to eek out a few hours together.
It’s not long before we hear the shuffle of little feet along the upstairs hallway. “Go. To. Bed. Sarah!” There’s no need to even make sure it is Sarah, it’s always Sarah. Even when you think she is beyond tired, that there is no way she’ll be up to her usual shenanigan’s tonight, somehow she gets a second wind. If I could have just a pinch of that energy, I might actually be able to give up drinking 20 ounces of coffee every day.
There are times that Sarah is so stealthy it’s not until we go up to bed at 10 p.m. that we find the result of her work. Like the one night she took great care to quietly pilfer all of her older brother’s stuffed animals, games, puzzles, books, and Legos out of his room and place them in piles in her room, leaving his room completely empty and hers a mess, all the while we never heard a sound and he never woke up.
More often she is in the middle of mischief when she is caught. I could take a lesson from Sarah in the art of the poker face. When caught, she never looks guilty. It’s always a look that says, Of course I’m out of bed. This is what I do, move along, I’m working here. Just like every night, on my way to bed I check on each kid. First stop is Brady’s room where I find him as usual, all snug in his crib with binky dangling from his mouth. Peeking in Sean’s room, I see his head hanging off the side of the bed with his mouth wide open, to which I gently nudge him back onto the bed without disturbing his deep sleep. The last stop on the way to my room is Sarah’s. I wasn’t expecting to see her standing there stark naked amidst a tornado of every piece of her clothing: jammies, shirts, shorts, pants, sweatpants, sweaters, socks and underwear strewn about her floor. Piles and piles of clothing. She had emptied all nine-dresser drawers in no particular order. She looked right at me with my mouth undoubtedly gaping, and with her usual unflinching calmness, casually reaches down for a nightgown, slowly puts it on and then slides into bed (underwear less, of course, that’s another issue). Never once appearing startled that I had just caught her in the middle of one of her escapades.
One particularly memorable night my older son enjoys recanting with so much nostalgia that you’d think it was folklore legend. It’s your average night in the Kelly house; you know the drill. My husband and I are up in our room getting ready for bed. It’s 10 p.m., so obviously Sarah is out patrolling the halls. She is told to get back to bed twice. Thirty minutes go by before she is caught again. She is summoned very sternly to our room. She doesn’t miss a step, and runs directly to our room as if that was her plan all along. We question her vigorously about what she was doing out of bed. She moves the conversation forward by ignoring the questions, and proceeds to exclaim with great emphasis, that she saw a RAT. I am horrified. For the past month we have literally run five mice out of our house and later trapped and killed ten mice. These mice were great entertainment for the kids whether they were trying to catch them in mousetraps, or in Sarah’s case, build houses for them. In fact, it was Sarah who first told us of her friend the mouse. For weeks she had been talking about this mouse friend, of which I never took her seriously until I started to find little bits of evidence (mouse droppings) in our pantry. I shudder to think how she and this mouse were so friendly. Now after weeks of dealing with mice, there were no more sightings, so we felt relieved that the battle was over. Sarah’s friends were gone, or so we thought.
With bulging eyes, Sarah goes on to tell us, “I saw a rat, and the rat SISSED at me.” She meant hissed. For effect, she showed us exactly how this rat “sissed.”
“Like this ssssssssssss,” she imitates.
Picture Elvis, with one side of his top lip gyrating upward and making a hissing sound. Oh, good grief, I thought, not only are rats disgusting, but they also hiss too? I am immediately sickened by the thought that the mice are gone, and have been replaced by angry, hissing rats. At this time my older son hearing the commotion from his room runs into our room. Sarah quickly gets him up to speed on the situation and now they are both eager to go on a mission to find the rat. My instructions to my husband are simple, find that rat, and get it out of the house. Even though I know all to well how hard that is to do, I am dead serious. And although it’s now close to 11 p.m., if the kids can help get the rat out, fine by me, however long it takes, just do it. With a smile on her face, Sarah enthusiastically leads the charge. I sit on my bed cowering under the covers; there is no way I’m going downstairs until that thing is gone.
Sarah shows my husband where she saw the rat. She points to underneath the bookcase in the family room. He bends down to look while she continues to talk about the sissing rat. Feeling pleased with her discovery, she offers more information.
“It was a granddaddy rat.”
My husband, with measured restraint, asks Sarah calmly, “How do you know it was a granddaddy rat?”
To which she replies matter of factly, “It had glasses on.”
And then she adds for further clarification:
“And when he sissed, his glasses BROKE!”
“Go. To. Bed. Sarah!”
And off she ran, feeling completely triumphant. My husband stood there dumbfounded with his head shaking while my son Sean couldn’t stop laughing. We were all duped! How did she create that story in the few steps it takes from where she was caught in the hallway to being summoned to our room? I have to admit though; I was more relieved than angry to hear that she made up the whole tale. I don’t think I would’ve slept at all knowing that a rat was loose in the house even if it was a nice, glasses wearing, granddaddy rat.