Eric D. Snider

Uncle Morning Shift

Snide Remarks #590

"Uncle Morning Shift"

by Eric D. Snider

Published on August 11, 2008

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This weekend I took a quick trip back to the ancestral Snider homeland in California for the wedding of one of my many cousins. Much of my immediate family was able to convene for the occasion, which meant a great many more people than usual were crammed into my parents' house. It's a four-bedroom place, but there were 10 of us, so it took some particularly thorny calculus to figure out the sleeping arrangements.

I was lucky to get my own room. This does not always happen, particularly when I'm home at the same time as my fat brother Jeff and his wife, Beth. Married couples always get an actual bed in an actual bedroom when they return home, presumably so they can commit acts of marriage even while traveling. Parents will do anything to ensure that their married children have appropriate accommodations, even if it means spending the week prior to their arrival knocking out a wall and converting the garage.

Unmarried children, meanwhile, can sleep on a pile of rags in the driveway for all anyone cares.

But I got a room this time, albeit one with an air mattress rather than a bed, but hey, you take what you can get. Jeff and Beth had the adjacent room (with a bed), which they shared with their 1-year-old, Logan, who could not be more adorable if he were made of puppies. In the next room was Kelly, who is the girlfriend of my other brother, Lane, who slept on the couch in the living room. In the fourth room were my parents, and on a pair of futons in their master suite were Jeff and Beth's 3-year-old daughter Lindsay, and 8-year-old Emily, who is my other brother Christopher's daughter.

The girl cousins were having a slumber party, although when I passed by to say goodnight they were actually being dragons who could roar and scare off enemies, which apparently included me. Emily, who is so adorable she makes you want to poop your pants in sheer ecstasy, is notable for the fact that she is almost always playing a pretend game. She is usually a princess or an animal of some kind, and if you wish to interact with her you will need to adopt a fantasy persona that is appropriate for her situation. (That last part is key. If she is pretending to be a mermaid, it will not be helpful for you to pretend to be a character from a Chekhov play.) Someday a therapist may diagnose this as a dangerous mental condition, but for the time being it is merely adorable.

Friday night I went to bed at around midnight and was awakened six hours later by Lindsay, who was kneeling on the air mattress next to me and staring me in the face.

"I woke up and I'm not tired anymore," she said.

I was still coming to terms with the fact that it was 6 a.m., an hour that I am not normally called upon to face at all, much less with a 3-year-old.

"I don't want to wake up Mommy and Daddy or Emily or Grandma and Grandpa," she said. This was very considerate, but perhaps you are wondering, as was I, why she felt it was OK to wake up Uncle Eric. My best guess is that at various times in her life, she has been instructed not to wake up any of those other people. But no one's ever told her not to wake up Uncle Eric before.

I said, "You don't want to go back to sleep?"

"No."

"What do you want to do?"

"I want to go downstairs."

"OK," I said, mentally adding "Knock yourself out" and preparing to go back to sleep.

"But I don't want to go by myself. I need you to come with me."

So I had to get up. Surely if any other person woke me up at 6 a.m. for no better reason than that he or she had nothing else to do, I would murder that person where he or she stood. But this was Lindsay, who's as cute and sweet as a candy bar made out of kittens. I guess when you're a parent the adorableness of this kind of behavior probably wears thin after a while. But being an uncle, well, I was actually flattered that she chose me. I like the idea of being the uncle that you can go to in times of trouble or insomnia.

I got up, and we quietly crept down the hall to the staircase. She said I needed to hold her hand while we descended, which is silly, since she's perfectly capable of going up and down stairs by herself -- but, again, cute. In the living room we found Lane, as expected, as well as Jeff, whose snoring had evidently been sufficient cause for his eviction from his and Beth's temporary marital bed. Jeff and Lane each occupied a wing of the sectional couch. Lindsay climbed up into the recliner a few feet away. I crouched next to her and said, "What now?"

She thought for a moment and said, "I want to watch a movie." I considered putting on some TiVoed "Blue's Clues" or something and turning the sound down low, but I didn't want to wake up Lane. (I wasn't as concerned about waking up Jeff, since technically Lindsay was his responsibility anyway.) I said, "Well, that might wake up Uncle Laney, though."

Lindsay said, "I want some milk." That seemed easy enough, so I fetched a glass of milk. She said, "Thank you," because she is very polite, but then she inspected it and said, "This is the wrong cup. I want my princess cup." I pointed out that the cup I'd chosen had Scooby-Doo on it, and wasn't that awesome? She examined the scene, which had Scooby and Shaggy cowering in fear at some unseen terror, and she said delightedly, "They're afraid of something!"

Aha! I'd convinced her!

"But I want my princess cup."

Oy. All right. So we went looking around for her princess cup, and we found it on the floor next to the couch. It's one of those cups with the tight lid and the bendy straw that kids use. It's also bigger than the Scooby-Doo cup, and it has sparkling images of Disney princesses all over it. Honestly, once I saw it, I agreed with Lindsay that it was far superior. We transferred the milk to the proper vessel and she said thank you again.

But still the question remained: How was she going to occupy herself? I said, "Do you want to read some books?" She liked that idea. However, she told me her books were in a red bag back up in my parents' room, next to the futons she and Emily had slept on. That meant we had to embark on a stealth mission, back up the stairs and quietly into Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom. We had a path laid out for us, a simple objective, get in, get out, no heroes. I was Jack Bauer: Babysitter.

The mission was immediately compromised when I opened my parents' bedroom door and it squeaked, awakening my mom. She sat up and looked at us with an expression more confused and befuddled than it usually is. I shrugged and gestured at Lindsay, which I realize now probably didn't really explain anything. We got the book bag, and I whispered to Mom, "She woke up and didn't want to go back to sleep, so she's going to read books."

Grandma was having none of this. "You need to go back to bed," she told Lindsay.

"No, I'm not tired," Lindsay replied.

"Do you want to climb up here and sleep with Grandma and Grandpa?"

"No."

If you're a grandma, that's about as far as you can go with disciplining your 3-year-old granddaughter: you make her a counteroffer, and if she still says no, then you let her do what she wants.

Now armed with books, Lindsay and I went back downstairs. I settled her in the recliner, turned on the lamp next to it, and asked if she was all set for an early morning of literature. She was. I said I was going back to bed, and she said that was OK. She was all smiles as I gave her a hug and honked her nose. As I tiptoed away, she said, "Good night!"

It was now 6:10 a.m. As I got back into bed, I congratulated myself for successfully handling the situation. Lindsay was set up with plenty of books to look at quietly until the house's other occupants began to stir, and I figured she'd probably fall asleep in the recliner anyway. Later that morning, after I'd gotten up for real, I told Jeff the story and asked if Lindsay had eventually woken him up. He said she had -- at 6:20. The books had entertained her for all of 10 minutes. But hey, she's 3, what do you want from her? At least she didn't use her dragon breath to start a fire.

Stumble It!

Notes:

Previous columns detailing avuncular duties are "Uncle What's-His-Name" and "Uncle Shrek."

The wedding mentioned in passing in the first paragraph was going have an entire column devoted to it later, but that didn't pan it. (The column, I mean. The wedding went fine.) The five paragraphs I squeezed out before the topic ran dry are included in this blog entry, however.

SnideCast intro & outro: "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," from the original Broadway cast recording of "Oklahoma!"

This item has 30 comments

  1. Jeff J. Snider says:

    For the record (why do these family columns always need some sort of setting the record straight?), I was on the couch because Logan was having a rough night, and the only way he was gonna sleep well enough for Beth to get any sleep was if he was on the bed with her, and with Mom only providing a queen bed for our marital activities, it was either Logan or me, and Beth (understandably) chose Logan.

  2. Lowdogg says:

    That's my life every morning. Son wakes up at 6 like clockwork. Eats his banana and milk. Watches tivo'd Backyardigans.

    This was funnier than that.

  3. Linda says:

    Those air matresses are not at all uncomfortable. I slept on one when we travelled to Bakersfield for my niece's wedding. The only thing wrong with them is that they're rather close to the floor and hard to get out of, for an old person. Old people don't have much trouble getting down. It's getting up that causes problems.

    I also did not have the advantage of a cute 3 yr old. I got woke up by a 6 mo. old yellow lab. A very snuffly experience.

  4. ClobberGirl says:

    Mine pretty regularly gets up at 6 AM too. In theory my husband and I take turns getting up with her. In reality, he gets up with her almost every day, and I sleep. I'm just not a morning person.

  5. Jessie says:

    "could not be more adorable if he were made of puppies" is my favorite line for sure, however; Now I'm imagining a child made of puppies and it's kind of creeping me out.

  6. Reeder says:

    Here I've been an uncle since April 2000, and I'd never known the meaning of the word "avuncular." Now I do, thanks to this column. Thanks Eric!

  7. Savvy Veteran says:

    What a fun story! I especially enjoyed the puppy/kitten related cuteness analogies.

  8. Pedobear says:

    "Emily, who is so adorable she makes you want to poop your pants in sheer ecstasy..."

    PEDOBEAR APPROVES

  9. Chris F says:

    Eric: "It's a four-bedroom place, but there were 10 of us, so it took some particularly thorny calculus to figure out the sleeping arrangements."

    I just got back from a family-in-law reunion in Midway, Utah. We stayed in a two-bedroom condo -- all 18 of us (11 adults, 2 teenagers, and 5 kids). And this is a condo! A one-floor, 3-room, 2-bathroom condo! Yeesh.

    And, instead of my niece waking me up at 6:00 AM, it was my 4-year old daughter waking my wife up at 5:00 AM! I just laid still and pretended to be in a deep sleep.

    That's okay; the comparatively blissful work-week is upon me now.

  10. Markk says:

    I love crowded family reunions. Such as last Christmas, when I stayed in my parents' two bedroom townhouse with my parents, my girlfriend, my sister, her boyfriend, my brother, his fiance and a second brother. The logistics of this were ... interesting.

    Unfortunately, my third brother and his girlfriend were overseas at the time. I would have loved to see how we'd have squeezed 11 people into that house.

    But I think Chris F wins!

  11. Joy says:

    For the record again, I am the official owner of that particular princess cup.

  12. Christopher says:

    Eric, since my daughter is so adorable it makes you want to poop your pants in ecstasy, do you think that is the reason for my recent adventures? (You know of which I speak.)

  13. Momma Snider says:

    Yup, our house was full of cute over the weekend.

    And one more "for the record": Normally Lindsay watches the clock until it's at least 7:00, but we had thoughtlessly not provided her with a clock that she could see from her bed. The next night I told her that when she woke up she should come get in my bed where she could see a clock and watch it until it turned to 7, which she very obediently did. You should have seen her delight when she saw that it was already 7:01 when she got there!

  14. momma snider says:

    Oh, and your air mattress also has a feather bed on it, and is a queen-sized mattress, so you were better off than Kelly, on a single size with no feather bed.

  15. tia juanna says:

    There was no mention of being a piano man at the wedding of one of your numerous cousins. I will presume that will be addressed later.

  16. Andrew D says:

    I will sleep better knowing that Pedobear approves of this column.

  17. Lisa Clark says:

    My parents won't let us sleep over at their house. EVER.

    Uncle Eric, I'm so impressed at how patient and kind you were to a 3 year-old at 6 a.m! That sort of behavior over the last 10 years or so has "worn thin" on me. It's nice to be reminded how I should act. Hypothetically.

  18. Jenn says:

    Eric, you definitely are in the running for Uncle of the Year........I have 7 of the most adorable nephews & neices (although none of them have really made me want to poop.....puke is another story altogether), & I only have about half that patience at 6 am!! My conversation usually goes like this

    NEPHEW/NEICE: "Aunt Jenn, I need you!"
    ME: Pretends I didn't hear them & add a fake snore for emphasis.
    N/N: "I need you Aunt Jenn & I know you're not asleep!"
    ME: "Go ask Grandma. She's going to get up in 5 minutes anyway."

    I usually get a pillow to the head as they're leaving the room. I just got a new nephew this weekend though, & he is about the cutest thing in the whole world, mainly because he can't talk back to me yet.

  19. Clumpy says:

    I like these kinds of columns. I especially like this one, with the review of "Bop!" http://www.ericdsnider.com/snide/the-simple-life/

  20. normal mormon wife says:

    I thought you were losing your touch, Eric. Your last several posts have only aroused slight courtesy laughs from between my teeth. But you pulled through with this one. A whole slew of belly laughs! Thanks.

  21. Ampersand says:

    Aren't young children delightfully/annoyingly precise about their choice of glasses? When I stayed with my sister last month, my two-year-old niece insisted on having a sippy cup for her stuffed bear (because heaven forbid an inanimate object should go thirsty). One day during nap time, it took me three trips downstairs before I got the right cup for Bear--it wasn't the pink one, or the purple one with sparkles, but the plain purple one. Good thing these kids are so stinking cute that they make up for their annoying tendencies.

  22. mommyof3boys says:

    Great column! I was the fun, single aunt until I was 31! Now I'm the still-fun-but-far away aunt who has kids of ther own. I used to stress out about our boys (now 3, 4 and 6) sleeping with us, but I've given up. We live in a 3 bedroom house, 2 of which no one occupies unless we have guests. Some nights I enjoy the (not going to last forever?!) opportunity to snuggle with my boys, and sometimes I retire to the couch just for peace. I figure they will either outgrow wanting to sleep with us soon or I will have to threaten to "out" them to their deacon's quorum! Again, great job on the column! Thanks.

  23. Q says:

    @ #3--When you said, "Old people don't have much trouble getting down...." I immediately pictured a bunch of geezers grooving on a dance floor and I laughed out loud here at work. Stares ensued.

    I was once staying with some friends in Spain who had a 6-year-old boy. I took over his room for the night and slept blissfully until the morning, when I opened my eyes to see his spectacled face about six inches from my own. As soon as my eyes opened, he greeted me with a resounding (and very high-pitched) "HOLA," which startled me so much that I gave him a firm open-handed smack across his face.

    This wasn't on purpose, mind you, but a reflex from a jet-lagged American who was maybe 10% awake at the time. You should have seen the look of hurt and betrayal on his face. I quickly sprung into action with major damage control, trying to convince him that we silly Americans often greeted each other with a firm morning slap just to be friendly/silly and that he shouldn't worry about telling his parents about it. I still don't believe it actually worked.

    It reminded me of a time when I was a missionary and we were so incredibly annoyed by a boy we called "the kid from hell" that we called him a "penis." Unfortunately, our guess that he was too young to hear, understand, and then loudly repeat a foreign word was wrong and we feverishly tried to explain to him that he had "misheard" us and that we had actually called him a "peanut," as in, "as cute as a peanut." It didn't work.

  24. Laremy says:

    24th.

  25. Em says:

    My favorite line was "Parents will do anything to ensure that their married children have appropriate accommodations, even if it means spending the week prior to their arrival knocking out a wall and converting the garage.

    Unmarried children, meanwhile, can sleep on a pile of rags in the driveway for all anyone cares."

    It's SO TRUE! I was single for many years and was always designated to sleep with whatever single girl happened to be along, such as my future sister in law who grits her teeth and snores. I must say that a nice benefit of being married now is the respectable sleeping conditions I get as a result.

  26. lilcis says:

    My husband was very offended when we visited my parents in April and we had to sleep on two twin beds. That was all they had, though, they'd given their bigger bed to one of my siblings. He actually considered staying at my sister's house instead because then at least we'd be able to share a queen size air mattress.

    At least we got to sleep in the same room!

  27. Suzanne says:

    I think Pedobear needs to find a new screen name. Especially when commenting about a column about children.

    Creepy.

  28. momma snider says:

    It's actually not so much my married kid that I cater to as it is his wife. And the girlfriend of the other son gets good treatment, too. I feel the need to make them as comfortable as possible so they'll come back. As far as my sons are concerned, I know that as long as there's a Santa Claus, they'll be back now and then.


    Another cute thing about the gathering was when Lindsay and Emily had open mic night as comedians. They were sitting on the couch, and they took turns standing up and telling a joke. We'd all laugh uproariously, and they'd sit down and the other one would stand up. Lindsay's jokes weren't as deep and insightful as Emily's, because she's three. Example: "Knock knock." "Who's there?" "You can't come in! Hahahahahahaha!!"

  29. Joy says:

    I, for one, find that knock-knock joke hilarious. I'm going to tell it to everyone at work tomorrow.

  30. Jacob says:

    "She said, 'Thank you,' because she is very polite."

    Thanks, Eric, for reminding me again how wonderful kids are.

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