It started innocently enough.
None of the places we rented before owning our own home had central air. Being a big fat guy at the time, sleeping at night during the dog days of summer – especially on evenings where the humidity is actually visible and oppressing – was darn near impossible. Fans did nothing more than push the hot air around. So we bought a small window unit and installed it in our bedroom, making our love nest the most comfortable spot in the house.
And on really stifling nights, the kids ended up sleeping in our room. They were all so cute, snuggled in their blankies and hugging their teddies and not sweating. Those were the days of jumping-on-the-bed parties and reading aloud or singing along to the radio until they all passed out. It wasn’t an every night deal, so these campouts were special.
Now we have wonderful, chilly air circulating around the confines. No more kicking off the blankets or flipping the pillow a hundred times before the cool side does its job and ushers us away to dreamland. And the kiddos are older. And bigger. The bed can’t handle too many more jumping parties. And they actually like hanging in their own rooms, surrounded by their stuff, and sleeping through the night.
Except for Aryn.
She’s almost eleven and still likes sleeping on the floor on dad’s side of the bed, buried in her comforter and reading a book as she drifts off to sleep with a smile on her face. She comes to me if she’s having trouble sleeping and gives me that look – and a hug, which doesn’t hurt – and asks ever-so-sweetly, “Can I sleep in your room?” Not every night, but more than may seem normal, and She Who Must Be Obeyed has started giving me that look, the one that says, “You are such a pushover!”
Maybe it’s guilt. I work the evening shift, so I’m not around to tuck the kids in anymore. Gone are the days of the Squeeze Smoosh. Simply finding the time to connect with them is a minute-by-precious-minute effort that often falls short of my own elevated expectations. I want to talk to them and play games like we used to and read with them and just hang with them in my vicinity.
So I say yes.
Just to have her close. Within arm’s reach. Where I can tell her I love her a zillion times and hear her mumble it back to me as she slips into pleasant dreamy sleep.
I’m no psychologist, can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m sure I’m doing something wrong. Am I messing her up? Scarring her for life? Am I an enabler? Will she grow to be overly dependent on the men in her life?
Or will she look back on all this one day, in an instant of sober-minded clarity, and realize that daddy just loved her too much to say no? Will she hate me for being such a pushover?