Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Baby Speaks Canine?

Our four year old child is an invaluable baby translator. Na-na-na-na bah-bah-bah-bah da-da-da-da. What did he say, girl? He said he wants some more blueberries, Mom. Most of the time, her suggestions keep the smaller child happy, and since said baby can't be bothered with sign language any more than with the pesky gutteral talking business, she's our best bet. Lately, though? I've been wondering if both children speak canine. Where is Temple Grandin when I need her?

On a rotating basis for the last, oh, fifteen months, my children and pet have succeeded in cracking open the depths of my slumber and testing my mettle in the wee hours. Let me note up front, this is no CIO debate. I have no desire to wake the sleep demons in the universe. I'm just noting the uncanny frequency with which the children and animule seem to be able to tag-team the adults in our household.

For example, last week, the baby woke up in agony about 2-3 times a night for the first couple days. Extra bottles and snuggling for him, agony and sand in the eyelids for me. What did I find when staggering down the stairs at 6am with selfsame chirpy child? Dog vomit. Nothing like a slimy pool of hurl between the toes in the morning. I swear, I saw the baby try to high-five the animal.

Then, mid-week? Our girl began waking. Bad dream? Check. In the morning? Shredded diaper fished out of the trash and harvested of pungent, potential snacks (talk about reuse). Aaaaigh! Later in the week? Sore throat, coughing, general need to snuggle and test-drive the adult pillows in the Parent Bed in the pre-dawn. In the am? Homemade honey-wheat bread crumbs marking the spot where critical fodder for lunchbox PB&J's once sat. Aaaaigh.

Again, is this animal receiving midnight messages? Do he and the children have this worked out in advance? Is it a non-verbal, pre-human language? Are both camps simply smelling the weakness of the adults in response to sleep deprivation? Maybe it's my imagination that they seem to have an elaborate baton-passing system to determine who's going to torture me next.

This is, after all, the dog who got couvade when I had morning sickness with my first child, the dog who triggered waves of competitive vomiting between the two of us when I was, horrifyingly, working from home and trapped in his proximity during my daughter's pregnancy. This is also the dog who, if the children are blissfully both in good health and sleeping soundly without disruption through the night, inevitably begins to either whine frantically or dry-heave at the back door.

He's always been much more than a dog; he sits in our glider upright with his muzzle tossed back to one side like a grandfather dozing in his rocker. And our daughter certainly considers herself kin to the animal; when she was about two she memorably announced: "I'm a little bit Baby, a little bit Big Girl, and a little bit Lab." In the end, I think, that's the piece that matters. They're closer than most. Whatever it is they speak--whatever the common currency for my torture--it's a shared language, a sibling-like mind-meld of loyalty and love. And that, of course, speaks volumes about the importance of the furry one in our family life, vomit or no.

Originally posted at DC Metro Moms. Photo courtesy of SXC.


Sojourner said...

OH Mamabird! You have my deepest sympathy. But I couldn't help guffawing through much of this post. Yes- I think the dog and kids are in cahouts! Now I don't have kids- but I know dogs and kids do communicate privately- I just know this in my heart of hearts. Maybe we did it as kids (we had little dogs, though, not as capable of the major destruction of a lab- which I have now 11 months old and full of p & v.)

I linked on over to the cio post you had- I was astonished to see the venomous debate there. Why in the world would you harangue a sleep deprived mother?! WHEW!

MamaBird said...

Sojourner - how great that you have a lab puppy! Ours was full of p & v until, oh, age 4. And yes, the cio debates are utter and complete madness. And it happens every time some naive soul broaches the topic. Dynamite! Hard to tell why...

Sarita said...

Ha! This is partially why we don't have pets. I've always had animals so I am used to those "fun" surprises but my husband has never had pets and when I bring it up he reminds me of all the downsides of pet ownership. He hasn't even thought of the kids and the pets working together! (I won't mention that one to him.) Hopefully someday I can work him up slowly to a dog...perhaps after the baby phase is over and everyone is sleeping through the night! :)

I totally feel for you though and hope that the Sandman lets you get some much needed rest soon!

Minnesota Matron said...

Your dog should meet mine. Scruffy the pest routinely wakes us about an hour after the kids go to bed - as part of his rotating 'wake the parent' schedule.

Jen said...

I can empathize with your lack of sleep, although the cause for me is just another child, not a dog. :)

But Sam just told me the other day as he was recounting some conversations that happened in the classroom (or recess? Lunchroom?) that your Egirl always tells the truth. So maybe "part Lab" could be something?!