On the creepy scale this little known fact about me is probably off the charts if you were writing a list of things called “strange things that father’s do.” But reserve your judgment for a moment and consider this – there is a method to my madness and I will attempt to explain my ‘creepiness’ for the sake of my sons and to some extent, to somehow keep what’s left of my reputation as a father intact.
Here is the issue – I watch my kids sleep.
I always have and quite honestly, until they leave the house I know that I always will. Why? Yes, I know it is a bizarre habit but it is something that I have done since my oldest was a newborn and my rationale may not seem logical to you, but it makes a whole lot of sense to me in a whacky, peculiar, raving lunatic kind of way. Here are my reasons to explain my bizarre ritual:
1) It’s breathtaking – since the boys were babies I thought it was the most incredible thing to watch a newborn breathe. The tiny internal parts that make a little heart pump oxygen and blood to their tiny extremities is a thing of wonder. To watch the rise and fall of their chests with each breath was and still is a gift to a guy whose only claim to fame is winning the ‘Most Preferred Male’ award my senior year in high school. To have had a hand in bringing a young person into the world can only be (inadequately) explained in one, shallow breath – It’s breathtaking.
2) It’s heartbreaking – When they are sick, nothing breaks your heart faster and so completely than knowing that you can only sit back and wait for the hurt and discomfort to run its course. Any time my boys are sick no matter what age they are I can hardly sleep for fear that something might go horribly wrong. The most helpless feeling in the world is watching their fitful rest as their bodies fight infection, disease and pain. I never want to see them take their last breath so I enjoy the moments when I can watch them breathe freely.
3) It’s encouraging – I’ve watched them dream, walk in their sleep, talk in their sleep and I love it. It tells me that their minds are active, they are alive and there are things that puzzle, excite and intrigue them even when they are asleep. All of our boys slept with us as newborns and toddlers and eventually graduated to their own beds. During that time one of the most precious moments I shared with each of them was listening to their soft purring as they wandered in their dreams or followed the stuttering, broken pieces of ambition, desire and fantastical stories as they played out in their subconscious. It gives me hope that they have dreams for the future.
4) It’s intimate – Not in the sordid, repugnant way that today’s world uses the word ‘intimate‘ but in the cherished, profound way that a bond is created between a parent and a child from the moment they first hold them in their arms. Each of my sons had a habit in those tentative moments before crossing the threshold between sleep and consciousness, of taking my massive face in their tiny little hands and whispering the words every parent wants to hear as they are uttered through the innocent lips of a child – I love you daddy. That fond remembrance is relived in finite detail even today, every time I walk past an open bedroom doorway and hear their soft snores.
5) It’s tentative – They are older now. It was inevitable. They don’t stay cooing, loveable, dependent little babies forever. But they are yours forever and while they will not always be willing to cuddle in your arms and treat you like a safety blanket, it is imperative that they understand that they will always be yours and that you will always love them despite the challenges they may face in young adulthood and adulthood. Cherish the moments they are with you now because when they bid you farewell and head off on their own, your opportunities to listen to their carefree slumber become fewer and father in between.
You may think I’m weird and that’s okay, but for now I’m okay doing what I’ve always done and that is watching them while they sleep. In an odd, overly protective, sentimental sort of way, it is my unspoken way of saying, “Your soft, rhythmic breathing is synchronized to every beat of my heart. If ever you stop breathing, my heart will stop beating too.” For that reason, I’m okay with you calling me creepy for watching my kids sleep. It’s worth it.