What Wakes me From Sleep? It's Not What You'd Expect.
by Sarah del Rio of Est.1975
On most mornings, my husband tries to wake up before dawn. It almost never actually happens, but what *does* happen is that his phone’s alarms go off at 3 AM, 4 AM, 5 AM, and 6 AM. With plenty of snoozes in between.
I sleep through all of it.
My son used to get chronic bloody noses. We eventually had his nasal passages cauterized, but before that, there was a good long year of him waking up in the wee hours of the night, screaming, crying, with blood gushing out of his adorable face. He would call for us, frightened out of his little mind: “Papa! Mama!”
I would sleep through all of it.
Loud things happen at our house all the time, and a lot of them happen after lights-out. The cat will spend a half hour hacking up an enormous hairball. Our ancient furnace will shudder, thunk, and sometimes shut down altogether with a god-awful CLANK. A thunderstorm will rant and rage, causing the garbage can to blow over, hit the ground with a thud, and roll down the sidewalk.
I’ll let you guess whether I sleep through all of it. (I do.)
And just in case you’re wondering, I really am ASLEEP. Not “oh, the baby is crying, pretend you don’t hear it” asleep but “ZzzzzzzzzsdfjsdhSNRKzzzzzz” asleep. My deep sleep is the deep sleep of the gods. It takes me a long time to get there, but once I’m out, I’m OUT. Nothing can wake me.
Except for one thing.
But before I tell you what it is, let me back up for a second and give you a little bit of context.
My son, who is seven years old and an only child, complains a lot about being “cold and scared and lonely” in his bedroom at night. He makes these claims despite the following facts:
- We let him sleep with the bedroom door wide open;
- We keep the hallway light on, even though it is brighter than a thousand suns;
- His bedroom is less than two feet away from our bedroom;
- We keep the thermostat at 72 degrees;
- He has over one hundred thousand million blankets and stuffed animals to keep him warm; and
- We have provided him with (among other things): a night light, a radio, and a white noise machine.
Oh, and the cat likes to sleep with him. At the foot of his bed. A toasty and warm companion if ever there was one.
Cold and scared and lonely, my ass.
So. Because of my son’s totally “reasonable” and “legitimate” concern about freezing to death in his sleep, alone and petrified and unloved, his bedtime now heralds a nightly dramatic production of Why Can’t I Sleep In Your Bed With You? A Play in Three Hundred Acts. It usually starts at about 7 PM and wraps up around 9:30 PM, with many glasses of water, trips to the bathroom, goodnight kisses and hugs, and random complaints involved in between. He falls asleep eventually, of course.
For a little while.
But then, anywhere between 4 AM and 6 AM, my dear son will awake from slumber to “use the toilet.” And of course by “use the toilet,” I mean “stumble sleep-drunk into our bathroom for a pee, then forget to flush the john or wash his hands, then climb over us into our bed, while we’re dead asleep and too out of it to fight him off.”
At which point he crams himself between us and falls instantly asleep, with his head turned towards me and his mouth WIDE. OPEN. And that’s when it happens.
I wake up.
If you’ve never smelled the breath of a 7-year-old mouth-breather in the middle of the night, then you should consider yourself one lucky son of a B. Seriously. I mean it. Little-kid morning breath is a gnarly combination of odors that’s so awful it’s almost beyond description. There’s a fungal and tangy element, like overpowering foot stench, yet it’s also somehow rotten and disturbingly sweet, like a decomposing corpse in the bayou. If I were forced to define it in three words, I would use the words “overwhelming,” “putrid,” and “excuse me while I barf.”
My point is that my son’s 4 AM breath has GIRTH. It has HEFT. It has POWER.
It can wake me from a straight-up dead slumber, like nothing else can.
So I have been driven to take preemptive measures, people. I now sleep facing the wall at all times. I build a “head-fort” of pillows before bed, and I dive under it for relief if necessary. In dire situations, when the wretched stench is powerful enough to waft over my shoulders, I resort to emergency evacuation measures and just go sleep in my son’s bed. His pillows smell bad, but they don’t smell anywhere near as bad as his funky, nasty face abyss.
I mean mouth.
Sarah del Rio is a comedy writer whose award-winning humor blog est. 1975 brings snark, levity, and perspective to the ladies of Generation X. Despite being a corporate refugee with absolutely no formal training in English, journalism, or writing of any kind, Sarah somehow manages to find work as a freelance writer and editor.
Follow her on Facebook and laugh at her tweets on Twitter, which have been featured
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