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Since long before Lev arrived, one of my gravest concerns was the issue of sleep. I was worried that I would not be able to maintain the construct of my personality — which let’s be honest, is a fairly high-energy consumption device — unless I were still able to sleep on the reg.
I steeled myself for 6 weeks, 2 months maybe, at the very outside, worst case scenario, 3 months. I mean, this is my own flesh and blood we’re talking about here. How could Junior not enjoy a nice up close silent confrontation with a mattress for 8 hours at a pop just like his pop? No worries.
It’s now been 7 months without a solid night of sleep. I have been having the following conversation with Michelle several times a week:
Me: Hey, I was thinking. What do you say, just for a larf, tonight we ignore Lev and let him cry for maybe — I don’t know — 30 seconds before we go to him and serve him sandwiches with the crust off, just like he likes it, at 3:00 AM?
Michelle: I will rip your arms and legs off and beat you to death with your severed limbs if you come between me and my crying baby.
Michelle: Sorry. Wait. That came out wrong. I mean to say, I read an article online that says if you sleep train your baby by letting him cry it out, he will grow up to be insane and or work for the post office and or hate you forever, so, no. We should just keep going with the current system.
Me: But I can’t feel my face. One of my toenails fell off. I forgot my middle name. Also, is this really good for Lev — that he wakes up and eats 3 more dinners in the middle of the night? He’ll grow up to be some obese court stenographer, living in Queens with a thyroid disorder.
We have this exact same conversation, right down to the punctuation, at least every 48 hours. It was making us all insane. But the other night we finally came up with a compromise that we both agreed on. You know how everyone says that when it comes to getting a baby to sleep through the night, there is no one right way — you just kind of try everything and ultimately nothing really works, until one day the kid is leaving for college and you’re basically just one giant puffy sack of baggy eyes, and that’s it, who told you to have a kid in the first place, dummy, and get your eye off my shoe.
But they’re wrong. There is a way. It’s simple. Reverse psychology 101.
We decided to just do the opposite of what everyone says.
This combination of sleep deprivation and sarcasm has been working great.
As soon as Lev has fallen asleep, Michelle and I both start crying. This of course, wakes Lev and the moment he finally gets back to sleep, we both start crying at the top of our lungs for no apparent reason. Then, we take turns suckling at his nipples, and since we have teeth, that leaves him sore all day. Then in the morning we just casually drop some overdue credit cards bills into his crib to wake him up. And we mutter stuff to him all day like, “Oh what? No, daddy’s fine. I can just go sell some more blood at the blood bank, so you can lay around eating organic bananas. I’m good. And hello? Upside: mosquitoes no longer bite me. And by the way, nice 2 front teeth. Adorable, and razor sharp. P.S. Thanks, mommy used to have nipples.”
This combination of sleep deprivation and sarcasm has been working great. We put him to bed tonight and he slept almost 18 minutes before I had to carry him around the living room, swimming through the night kitchen in loops like those sad polar bears who committed suicide at the Central Park Zoo. I sang him all the songs I remembered from Hebrew School, which — in combination with the sheer force of my Hebrew magnetism, seems to be making him more Jewish-ish. He recently told me he wants to become a CPA. I mean. What nachas.
But being a proud father hasn’t made me a masochist. I refuse to die from lack of sleep like that family in Italy that has that horrifying ultra rare genetic disorder where they all get fatal incurable insomnia and die slowly from being unable to sleep. No, I plan to go out the more noble way.
Weeping softly, in the fetal position.
This chapter brought to you by Aleve PM.
Just like Tylenol PM, but slightly cheaper at Target.
Dimitri Ehrlich is a multi-platinum selling songwriter and the author of 2 books. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Interview Magazine, where he served as music editor for many years.