FARGO — You meet a lot of strange characters on the journey to Sleep City.
I've gotten smacked in the kidneys by the Kicking Clock and pinched on the arm by The Screamy Flopper. I've donned my Bedtime Armor to guard against blanket thieves and tussled with the Whirring Radon Fan.
It sounds like a dream but that, unfortunately, isn't the case: These are the looming, macabre shapes you meet in the yawning gulf that exists between the Land of Parenthood and the soothing ocean of A Good Night's Sleep.
All it takes to get there is sharing your bed with your children.
The Kicking Clock: Our oldest was good about the transition from a family bed setup to her crib. She responded well to a regular bedtime and when we let her cry it out, she legit cried it out.
But there. Were. Nights. She would lay between me and my wife and spin like a clock, kicking the whole way around. I've gotten kicked in the face, the leg, the gibblies. Everywhere.
Nowadays, the Kicking Clock is the least of our worries. Her biggest nighttime hang-up now is falling asleep on the couch watching "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." Sometimes we just leave her there because she's getting too heavy for us to carry up to her bed, and we have to save our energy for the appearance of...
The Screamy Flopper: Our second kid has added a whole new level of drama to our nights of sleep. Unlike his big sister, he never, ever, ever has been able to cry it out. He'll just wake up and scream. And scream some more. And then invade our bed, which is a welcome alternative to THE SCREAMING.
Here's the curious thing, though: he doesn't like blankets. Hates them. So when he hops into bed with us, he'll flop down on top of one us. We're his living electric blankets. And then he pinches with his little toddler fingers.
Because I get up for work at 4:30 a.m., this is the point when I'll usually go sleep in his bed or crash on the couch. Luckily, I'm usually wearing my...
Bedtime Armor: A couple years ago, I started wearing a heavy hoodie to bed. Why? So I wouldn't freeze to death when one of the following happens:
1) I get kicked out of bed and crash on a blanket-less couch.
2) I fall asleep in my son's bed while reading with him.
3) SOMEONE steals my share of the blanket.
A newer wrinkle in our lives comes from the...
Whirring Radon Fan: The radon fan on our new house is located just outside our bedroom. We asked for a new one when we moved in because the old one was LOUD.
The new one, though, makes this pulsing whirring sound. WOooo . WOooo ... WOooo. For the first few weeks, it drove us bonkers and typically drove one or both of us to different places to sleep. We've since found some relief from some white noise.
I bring all this up to make two simple points: You know how important it is to get a good night's sleep, and you shouldn't feel weird about doing what it takes to get there, including bugging out for a better bed.
A few years back, the public radio station WNYC did a fascinating project on people's sleeping habits and produced a video on family beds. At the time, I was feeling guilty about "sleeping around the house." It felt selfish and treasonous, like I was giving up on the loving embrace of my wife and our family.
But this video turned me around. Turns out other couples have these same feelings of lost intimacy. Other families grapple with the logistics of cramming three or four or five snoring, kicking, blanket-stealing people into a room whose environment might also be working against them.
Look, you love your partner. You love your kids. You love your family ... but, heck, sometimes you get in each others' way when you hop the train to Snoozeville, and it's OK to do what it takes to smooth out the journey.
It'll all pay off the next day when you're all at your best at work and school.