Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Time To Push This Night Owl Out Of the Nest

I have never been so terrified in my life.

That includes seeing "Watcher in the Woods" as a second grader and "The Changeling" at a church youth Sunday School Halloween party.  (Sunday School parties should not include ghost movies, unless it is the Holy Ghost.  I'm kind of against church Halloween parties altogether, but I'm probably in the minority on that.)

This story, however, occurred in my adult life.  Yesterday.

As my oldest children have advanced in their teenage years, they have—not surprisingly—found a liking for staying out late. What is perhaps a little unusual is that I’ve not become one of those parents who waits up until they are home. I do worry about my children and pray for them to return safely each night, but with my screwy circadian rhythm, I value my sleep way too much to let their nighttime escapades cut into whatever dormant hours I manage to collect each night.

That said, if (which is almost always a when) I wake in the middle of the night and I see my bedroom door rimmed with light coming from downstairs, then I know they still aren’t home. On those nights, my parent conscience continues to wake me until all is dark, which is the girls' signal to me that they are home.

As I learned last night, though, a dark house does not necessarily mean that teenagers aren’t still awake and prowling through the halls…or up the stairs.

When I conked out at 10:20 last night, #1 was visiting in the front room with her friends. They were keeping each other company until #2 got off work at 11:30, and they would pick her up. (It’s a good thing my non-driving daughters are cute. I’m not willing to bring home a teenager from work at
midnight, but there are plenty of teenage boys who jump at that opportunity.) When I woke at 1:30 a.m., the light was still on in the front room. I figured the kids had gone out for sodas or something after #2’s shift, so I dozed back to sleep.

At 4:30, when my brain incorrectly concluded that I’d had enough sleep to fuel me for a new day, I knew there was no point in resisting. I opened my bedroom door and was happy to see that the lights were now all off downstairs. Only the faint, gray light from the moon drifted halfway up the stairs between my room and #1’s across the landing. I quietly washed up and went in my closet to dress in my workout clothes. I went back in my room to grab my socks and leaned against a wall near my door to pull on my footwear. From where I leaned, my peripheral vision caught a shadow on the stairs.  At first I didn't register the dark shape; but half a second later, I glanced directly at it, and then back at my shoe before comprehending that the shadow was in the shape of a person.

Everything in this next paragraph processed in under two seconds. Literally. Is that silhouette a person? I asked myself. I turned and faced the black shape standing just below the top landing and concluded that there was indeed a person there. My heart started pounding. I recognized that the silhouette looked like #1. But if it’s [#1], why is she not making a sound or moving a muscle?

Two seconds.

I have never felt such terror.

On the third second, I walked toward the shadow, telling myself that if #1 didn’t identify herself, I would push this creep down the stairs. I reached out my hands, pressing my fingers into her shoulders, then her head. My voice, uncontrollably, came out in a loud, husky, half sob, “What are you doing?!”

#1 quietly replied.  “I had to put the cat out. He was in the house.”

As I told this story to the family
tonight, #1 helped out by reenacting
her part.  Imagine her standing quietly
 in the dark, backlit by only dim
moonlight from below.  Creepy!
“Why aren’t you moving?!”

“I didn’t want to scare you.”

Mission NOT accomplished! I thought to myself as I clambered into bed to cuddle with Kent, who was now dully awake. “Just go to bed,” I called back to the stairs.

“Okayee. Sorry.” #1 sneaked into her room while I tried to figure out why she was feeding me this story about a cat, and more importantly, wondering with whom she had been all these hours. It took a good 20 minutes for my adrenaline to wear off before I could scamper to the office (and the refuge of its lightbulbs) to start my daily routine.

In the security of daylight, I asked #1 what she had really been doing at 4:30 a.m.  Apparently, she and her friends brought #2 home around midnight. #2 went right to bed, but #1 stayed up visiting with friends on the front porch. When she finally came in and locked up around 2:00, the cat lurked in with her. #1 fell asleep on a family room couch, but kitty got bored after a few hours of exploring the house and woke #1 at 4:30ish to be let out. #1 heard me moving about upstairs. As she came up to her room, she saw me putting on my shoe and froze in place so she wouldn’t startle me.  Her consideration backfired grandly!

Addendum to the original post:
When I told this story to someone recently, #s 2 and 4 filled us in on what had been happening in their room.  As I said, #2 went to bed at about midnight, right after getting home from work.  When #1 finally said goodbye to her friends two hours later and came in from the porch, the sound of the front door closing woke #4, who is a very nervous sleeper.  She climbed into #2's twin-sized bed, and her older sister tried to comfort her before they both dozed off.  At 4:30 a.m., when #1 got up to put the cat out, the sound of footsteps in the house startled #4 awake, and she again woke #2.  They both listened to the front door open and close, and then footsteps padding across the tile floor and up the stairs, which are the ceiling to their closet.  Straining their ears, they heard my alarmed cry, which set off their fearful imaginations.  They were worried about what had happened on the staircase, but too scared to get out of bed to check.  They told each other that it was probably #1, but the factor of the unknown kept them awake until the comfort of morning light around 6:00 a.m. finally let them rest.

Despite her good intentions, it is clear that my #1 night owl needs to leave the nest so we can all get some sleep!  Only 38 alarming days to go...