I took a vacation with the kids for a week this summer and it was wonderful but…touch-and-go.

Not because of the sibling squabbling or the lack of personal space (I might have accidentally stepped on Babygirl three times in one day when she was following me around looking for some ATTENTION!).  Certainly not because of the ice cream afternoons and the beach battles and the fact that I actually let them spray me with the water guns for once.  Not because of the Hot Wheels bonus on every visit to the grocery store or Mommy’s F—it burgers-every-day approach to meals.

Seriously, for all of us, for at least 13 hours out of the day, vacation was awesome.

But then: the nights. The quiet, peaceful nights.

I am learning that my children and I hate the quiet.  This is the problem with vacations a trois: after 8:00 p.m. it’s just me in the upstairs and I’m trying so hard not to disturb them that it disturbs them.

They sit up in bed, screaming, MOM!!!  Where are you???  And I come running to comfort them that I am here, I am here, I am not going anywhere.  They are used to our tiny home: even with lights out, there is the soundtrack of my husband and I making dinner and listening to Cat Stevens, the ambient noise of life around them.   On vacation as a family, perhaps with my parents along, they are used to the sounds of The Party, the grown-ups laughing and letting loose, the music, the whispered gossip.

So when we’re away, just the three of us, the dark and the quiet aren’t soothing – they’re creepy.

Creepy like when LittleMan started sleepwalking.

Maybe you are a parent who has also experienced sleepwalking but (pardon my language) that shit is CREEPY.

From the living room, where I was watching a movie on impossibly low volume and desperately trying to be silent, I heard LittleMan disembark from the top bunk of the kids’ room.  I heard his footsteps patter through the downstairs hallway, and after a moment, I tiptoed down the stairs to find him face-down on my bed.  I scolded quietly: “LittleMan, we’ve talked about this.  Bedtime is bedtime.  If you must wake up at 5:45,  then you must go to sleep at a reasonable hour or we will all go insane.”  (Something like that, is what I said.)

I escorted a droopy LittleMan for a stop at the potty on the way back to bed, and this is when I realized he was dead asleep.  Tipping over off the potty, scratching his belly and furling and unfurling his eyebrows the way he does when he is sleeping.  (Always has, in all the years I’ve been studying him sleeping.)  But THEN — and this is the creepy part — he would randomly shoot his eyes wide open and laugh hysterically for a few seconds before collapsing back into sleep.  This happened three times.

In the glow of the bathroom nightlight this all played out as my own tiny parenting horror film.  A pyscho-laughing-walking-around-in-the-night child and no other adult to assure me that I was totally overreacting.  I shivveringly put LittleMan back into bed and spent the ensuing seven hours or so sleeping lightly and listening obsessively, waiting for him to a) sleepwalk out of bed and get hurt in the dark, or b) sleepwalk out of bed and kill us all.

It’s funny how just when you think you know your kids, they throw you.

I am back in the city now, and my husband is working late.  LittleMan will turn seven (SEVEN!?! Remember this?) tomorrow and I have just settled him down to sleep despite the promise of new Jurassic World Legos in the morning and ice cream cake at dinner.  He may sleep in.  (He will not sleep in.)

He may sleepwalk.

But I keep the windows open and the city buzzes beneath me.  The phone bings occasionally with reminders from the PTA and requests for playdates after school.  My neighbors thunk around in the apartment next door.  Their cat roams the hallway in the after-hours quiet.  It isn’t creepy.  It’s close.

I love vacation.  I love the mountains and the wet and the beach sand everywhere.  I love the sun-sapped kids and the movies after dinner and the family Uno.

But alone in the night, I recall that we are urban people.  Maybe not forever, but certainly for now.

Sing on, San Francisco.

Leave a Comment