Disappointing Daddy

My routine at night goes something like this: around 7:15 I start to get things ready for the Little Man to go to bed. This is a process. I get his chocolate milk and bring it the small fridge we keep upstairs in our bedroom. I lay out his pajamas, stuff like that. Then I collect the Little Man himself. He says goodnight to Mommy and the Little Miss and we head upstairs together. I get him into his pajamas give him his chocolate milk, and let him pick a show on Disney’s ON DEMAND to watch. When the show is over, he lays down on the mattress on the floor in our bedroom right next to me. Why on the floor in our bedroom? Why with me? Long story1.

I usually spend the time reading while the Little Man will toss and turn anywhere from 30-60 minutes before finally succumbing to sleep. Sometimes he is playful, sometimes mischievous, sometimes just curious. I recall being told as a child to “go to sleep.” This always frustrated me because if I knew how to simply fall asleep at will, I’d do it. So as the Little Man tosses and turns and tries to engage in conversation, I repeatedly tell him: “Buddy, it’s bedtime. You don’t have to sleep if you don’t want to but you need to lay still and try to relax.”

Kelly came up earlier than usual last night with the Little Miss and the Little Miss had fallen asleep. The Little Man was his usual playful self and I’d reminded him a few times to lay still and relax. He has trouble with volume sometimes and was a little loud at one point, so I said to him, “Buddy, come on now, you need to lay down and keep quiet because the Little Miss is sleeping.”

He was on his knees at the time, and I watched his face collapse, his lip turn out, tears start flowing down his cheeks. “My Daddy!” he said. Kelly has observed that he says this when he thinks I’m mad at him. Of course, I wasn’t mad. My voice was the same as I usually use at night. But in that instant, I could see in his eyes that he felt I was disappointed¬†with him in some way.

I grabbed him pulled him next to me and said, “I’m not mad at you, pal. It’s just nighttime and I want to make sure we don’t wake up the Little Miss. Okay? I’m not mad.”

“Okay, Daddy,” he said. He rested his head in the crook of my arm, and I held him there as I read. Every few minutes I’d say, “Are you okay, pal?”

“Yeah, Daddy,” he’d reply.

Eventually he fell asleep. But the idea that he felt he had somehow disappointed me–and the fact that it made him cry–haunted me for the remainder of the night.

  1. I’ll write a post on this soon, I promise.