Scene Two

Barnaby usually goes to sleep around 7:45. When I was growing up, our bed time was a rough estimate, and the time we went to sleep was basically unrelated to a bedtime, we spent (sometimes) HOURS staring at the ceiling and talking and telling jokes, much to my father’s endless fury. So, if we were meant to be in bed by 8, we would probably get into bed before 8:20, and might not go to sleep until 10.

This has led to a lifetime of ridiculous insomnia. There’s no point in going to bed if you’re not tired, you’ll just learn to resent the pressure of the bed, snarling at you, daring you to try to rest when you’ve spent countless cycles of thought and daydream memorizing the ceiling or, in my case, the underside of your brother’s top-bunk-mattress, as if you were *training* yourself to resist one of our most natural and joyful daytime rituals. I wasn’t gonna do this to Barnaby.

So, we developed a ritual, and we are simply never off by more than about fifteen minutes if we can help it. Sometimes he falls asleep at 7:30, sometimes it’s closer to 8, but it is almost ALWAYS within fifteen minutes of his aimed-for 7:45.

On the few rare occasions, we’ve had to stray from this formula, and it has almost always sucked. My mom is a wizard with Barnaby, so if we can’t be here to put him down at the right time, she will often sub in for us and he still gets the exact thing he was expecting. The thing is, yesterday was not like a normal day, and it would require some flexibility from all of us. And, it’s possible that, in trying to make sure everyone felt accommodated, we ended up not quite “doing right”.

I left the hospital and came home for a few hours with Barnaby, but I wanted to get BACK to the hospital as quickly as possible. Scene one, from yesterday’s blog, happened while I was home with the boy, and I was so grateful to be able to be here for that. It was a hell of a thing, and I felt like I had done right by him, that I had talked him down, and that maybe, just maybe, I had stopped his natural impulse to be an axe murderer.

But I wanted to get back, so we started our night-time routine early, and my mom took over for me, with him already in bed at 7:15. Why did we do this a half hour early? Because I’m an idiot. Because I thought if I left a half hour early to go back to the hospital, it would somehow work out that I had helped Marlena, Jordana and Barnaby, all at the same time. Even though I would have to leave the hospital around 10. The whole thing was just epically stupid.

My mom sang to him for a bit, and then he said he would go to bed. She went upstairs to her apartment (my mom has the upstairs apartment and we have the bottom two floors and, seriously, God BLESS both my wife and my mom for navigating what has historically been the most awful relationship in most families with extraordinary grace. It could be that in most families, the mother-in-law and the wife feel proprietary over the husband, and in my case, they both see me as an amusing annoyance…) and turned on the monitor. She heard nothing on the monitor for about ten minutes, but then heard a smiling voice saying “Grandma Linda? Grandma LINDA?”

It was Barnaby, standing at my mom’s door upstairs.

So, she collected him and told him that he didn’t need to come up and get her, that she would come down if there was a problem. He seemed to agree with that. She said she could hear him when he was in his room, and that also made sense. She asked him what the problem was, and he said he just wanted to know where she was, so he was checking. That made sense to Grandma Linda, but also broke her heart a bit.

She sang a couple of songs to him, and he said he was gonna sleep. She went back upstairs and switched on the monitor. This time, after fifteen minutes, she just felt like something wasn’t quite right. It was getting really late for Barnaby, at this point, but she thought she should check. So she opened the door to her apartment and looked downstairs.

Barnaby was sitting on the bottom step, naked from the waist down.

She came down and asked him what was wrong. He said, “I had to poop and pee, so I went in the bathroom and used the toilet.” She asked him why he was at the bottom of the stairs and he said, “I was too sleepy to climb all the way upstairs.” She asked him if he wanted to go back to bed and he said, “OH! I forgot to flush!”

She got his pajamas back on and sat in my desk chair in our studio, next to Steinway and all the recording equipment. By the blue light of the back up hard drives, she curled him up on her lap and let him talk.

Now, he’s three, and he doesn’t speak all that clearly, but he began a rhapsody that lasted a half hour. He spoke about the baby. He spoke about cars. He spoke about trombones and drums and school and more about the baby, and Uncle Steve and Hildy Dog, and about boots and hats and shoes, and my mom rocked him in my office chair and nodded and said “mmm-hmm” for the majority of stuff she couldn’t understand.

He talked, because he learned that he needs to talk when he feels something. And a big part of that is because he was taught to do that in school. I mean, look, the blog is called “Seanrants” because that was what my family mockingly called my tirades as a kid, so, of COURSE my kid likes to talk, but at his school, the teachers spend a lot of time talking about how to express yourself, and Barnaby’s good at it.

And my sweet mom, who started her journey as a mother when she got pregnant in NINE TEEN FIFTY SIX, she sat with him and listened and made him understand that he was safe. And that’s all a child ever needs to know – that’s all any of us ever *really* need to know, that we’re safe. How this old Welsh Rose can reach down from some point in the middle of the depression, when she remembered what it was like to be three and need a grandmother to talk to, and she put her arms around him and made him understand that all he needed to do was close his eyes, and first thing in the morning, his mom and dad would be back.

And when she finally said to him, “we can go lie down in your bed and still talk to me…” and he said, “OH! We can? Let’s go lie down!” About two minutes later, lying in bed, Gramma said, “Do you think it’s time to go to bed?” and Barnaby said, “Well… I *am* yawning a lot…”

It’s a hell of a time for him, but I can’t believe how lucky we are to have all the help we do. It’s really, really beyond description, and to say I’m grateful is just a pathetic understatement. I wouldn’t have the life I have if I didn’t have the help, and the shoulders of the giants I am standing on, no matter how elderly or weary, are making my life possible.