First Sleep Away

By: Ted Peterson

I decided to take Ian out for dinner and a movie for his birthday on a Friday, and I asked my brother Michael if he could watch our son Mikey. Mikey technically wasn’t named for Uncle Michael – our son already had that name when we took him into foster care at 20 months old — but they are definitely as close as any nephew and uncle. Michael’s wife, Mikey’s Aunt Kelly, and his daughter, Mikey’s cousin Natalie, are just as dear to him, so they were ideal babysitters for a couple hours. Instead of just agreeing to watch Mikey for a couple hours, Uncle Michael threw out the suggestion that Mikey spend the night at their house so we could have a real night out and a sleep-in the next morning.

This would be the first time for Mikey sleeping away from home and parents. A pretty big deal. We said okay, let’s give it a shot.

On Friday, after we dropped Mikey off at preschool, I drove Ian to work so we can have one car that evening. I got home at about ten in the morning, and began making my list of things that I need to try to squeeze into an overnight bag.

At 10:15, I got a phone call from the preschool.

“Mikey might have swallowed something he shouldn’t have,” his teacher explained.

Evidently, he was in the play kitchen with a two inch solid plastic bunch of grapes and popped them in his mouth. His teacher told him to spit them out, and when she got to him, they weren’t in his mouth anymore. Nor were they anywhere in the play kitchen to suggest he had obediently spat them out.

By 10:45, I was at the school, and my 10:50, we were at the hospital emergency room which is conveniently right across the street.

A set of x-rays later, it was determined that the obstruction had moved past his esophagus and would probably “pass on through” in a couple of days. Something to look forward to!

By 1 o’clock, Mikey was back at school, having lunch and getting ready for a nap, and I was at home, wondering if a kid who swallowed plastic grapes should really be sent off overnight without us.

While I debated with myself and then brought Ian up to date on the phone, I packed the overnight bag. Some snacks he might miss from home – roasted seaweed for one, and peanut butter and chocolate cereal (no, not together). Shark jammies. Multiple underpants, shirts, pants, socks. Buzz Lightyear blanket. Hop On Pop book. We only had room for two small stuffed animals, so I went with the pink tiger and the penguin “Pillow Pet.”

About 3 o’clock, I fired off an instructional email to Uncle Michael about Mikey and the potty. I explained that at night time, he’ll remember some time, and wake up sometime, but it can be iffy. If Uncle Mikey really wanted to be safe, I said he should pick him up two or three hours after he’s been sleeping (not two or three hours after he’s gone to bed, which is very different), carry him to the toilet, and make sure he pees before putting him back down into bed in a 90% unconscious stupor. To be doubly sure, I added one other item to the overnight bag – a big absorbent pee pad to put under him in bed.

I picked up Mikey at preschool a half an hour later, and by five o’clock, we were pulling up into the movie studio lot where my brother works. He met up with us in a golf cart, and in true Hollywood style, we drove us around for a sight-seeing tour. At his office, there were piles of snacks, and the indulgent uncle steered Mikey towards the donuts, while I pointed out the bananas and apples, but said he could have whatever he wanted. He went with the banana and a cutie orange.

Back in the parking lot, we exchanged bags and installed the child seat, and I said to Mikey as soon as I had him buckled down, “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow. Have fun!”

Mikey burst into tears. “No, Daddy! Stay with me!”

I guiltily ran back to my car, and got the text from Uncle Mikey less than five minutes later: “We’re fine. No tears. Having fun.”

Wish You Were Here

And so they did. They went out to dinner, to a playground, and then out for ice cream. While Ian and I were out for dinner and then to a movie, we got a stream of texts and photos of our boy having the time
of his life.

Late the next morning when we picked Mikey up, we got the rest of the story. Yes, there had been an accident in bed that night, but no big deal. Yes, he had cried for us for a few minutes that night and then
again that morning, but again, no big deal.

Everything was no big deal, which is a very big deal.

Uncle Mikey showed us that Mikey had found a photo of us at Uncle Mikey’s and Aunt Kelly’s he wanted to sleep with. That’s the only thing we didn’t think to include his overnight bag.

Next time, I’ll remember.

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