ADAM ARMOUR: A sleeping child brings about a Sophie's Choice

Adam Armour, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
·3 min read

Feb. 28—Mandy hit me with an apology almost as soon as I stepped through the door.

"I tried," she told me. "She was just so tired."

The word "Who?" slipped from my lips, but I knew the answer before I'd even asked. It wasn't so much rhetorical as it was foolishly hopeful.

Mandy turned her head slightly, drawing my eye to just over her shoulder.

Even knowing what I would see, my heart sank. On the far end of the couch, head on a cushion and half-covered with a crocheted blanket, was my 4-year-old daughter, fast asleep. Her mouth dangled open slightly, occasionally puckering as she dream-sucked on an invisible pacifier. In her slumber, she'd contorted her limbs into improbable Escher-esque angles.

She looked absolutely precious. I was horrified.

"What did you do to her today?" I said to Mandy, who just shrugged. She told me Arlie hadn't been engaged in any particularly strenuous activities since being picked up from school, that she hadn't spent hours in the backyard or taken part in any decathlons. One minute she'd been awake, the next she hadn't.

My eyes darted to the clock on the wall. It was another useless gesture; I knew the time.

"It's only 6:45," I said, a panicked statement of fact.

"I know."

"How long has she been asleep?"

Mandy shrugged again. Maybe 15 minutes, she told me.

The processor in my math-deficient brain churned through some calculations. If Arlie's traditional bedtime was 9 p.m. and it was currently 6:45 p.m. ...

"That means she fell asleep three hours early," I exclaimed in horror.

"Close," Mandy said. "Two-fifteen."

"Right," I said. "Two-fifteen." The calculations continued: Because Mother Nature loathes those brazen or foolish enough to become parents more than anything else that treads upon her planet, I knew Arlie's obvious exhaustion couldn't be relied upon to keep her asleep until the time she typically arose in the morning. If anything, it was a bellwether of something almost unfathomable to an exhausted father ...

If my calculations were correct, Arlie would certainly awake exactly two hours and 15 minutes earlier than usual. And because she is a child and therefore completely oblivious to the world around her, she would no doubt fail to recognize the complete lack of sunlight and wander into our bedroom, fully rested and eager to begin her day at precisely 4:10 a.m.

I ran through my options, none of which were good. Waking her up now wasn't really feasible. Should we have attempted it, the remaining two hours and 15 minutes until her bedtime would have been filled with constant whining and belligerence, followed possibly by a complete refusal to fall asleep when the time arrived.

No, the only actual choice was to transport Arlie to her bed and pray against the inevitable.

With all the care Indiana Jones uses to pilfer Chachapoyan fertility idols, I lifted my child into my arms. Her body instinctively sprang to life in a fit of limb-thrashing, torso-twisting, half-sleep rage. I held her tightly against me.

"Leave me alone, Daddy," she squalled. "I'm sleeping."

"I know you are, sweetie," I whispered as I carried her into her darkened room. "I know you are."

ADAM ARMOUR is the news editor for the Daily Journal and former general manager of The Itawamba County Times. You may reach him via his Twitter handle, @admarmr.