It was 5:15 a.m. when the call came over the baby monitor.
I shot up, grabbed my glasses, checked the time and raced into Olivia’s bedroom. On the way my mind began running through the possible scenarios I was about to encounter: Was the air conditioner making it too cold in her room? Had she wet the bed? Did I need to open our front door to let in the next guest on her highly successful late-night podcast, I’m Not Tired?
“I need cold water,” she exclaimed under the dual humming of the AC unit and her white noise machine. Both were working hard to preserve her cocoon of sleep but were outmatched by her need for liquid refreshment.
It’s not the first time I’ve gotten this request, but I am thankful it’s nothing more serious. I grab her water bottle, head to the kitchen and ponder whether a mini-fridge would fit in her room. Perhaps, but then I’d have to check it every so often for random toys, loose change, rocks and marker scrawlings.
One of the pitfalls I face whenever my sleep gets broken, regardless of who or what makes that happen, is that my mind immediately wakes up and begins thinking about a million random things. No amount of concentration or willpower spent trying to keep me on the brink of the “sleep zone” will work. Against my wishes, I begin thinking about the work I have to do that day, both at home and in the office. The radio station in my head begins to play that song with the catchy hook that I’ve been unable to avoid lately. Then, to make matters worse, I start worrying about my direction in life and whether I’ll ever find the thing(s) I’m good at or meant to do with my time left.
All this happens within the first five minutes of my being awake, so of course, my chances of going back to sleep are about as good as the one I have of being cast as an extra in the cantina scene of the next Star Wars movie. Although, to be honest, I’d be an awesome space musician.
As I return with the water bottle, I’m reminded of how grateful I am to have my daughter in my life and that I’m able to provide for her, even with something so trivial as water at night. I’m filled with gratitude that, even though I’m not sure of what I’m doing with my life, I have some purpose in being her dad. With a heart filled with love and adoration, I go to hand my child the water bottle, certain that she loves me back and is appreciative of my early morning efforts for her.
She stirs for a second, takes one look at me and the bottle, then points toward the nightstand next to her and dismissively says, “It goes over there.”
There is no appreciation, no need for thirst quenching. I’ve just been played.
I set the water bottle down in its proper place, give her a gentle rub on the back and don’t let the door hit me on the way out. There’s no chance of me going back to sleep now, as I’m overcome by feelings of foolishness and minor frustration. As I hop in the shower to start my day, I decide that maybe all this wasn’t a wasted effort. Maybe I can use this experience as a life lesson and a means to an end. So, I’ve decided to start my own late-night/early-morning water delivery service to children in need. Rates and availability may differ depending on their location. Don’t forget to ask about our frequent rewards program and upgraded services such as late-night potty visits and checking under the bed for monsters.
Lemons into lemonade, my friends.
A version of this first appeared on Our Little Mixtape.