Home » parenting » Oh (not so) precious is the flow…

Oh (not so) precious is the flow…

I haven’t talked a lot about my kids on my blog lately, mostly because they are getting older, and their stories and lives are for them to tell, not me. I have to be careful what I say so the lifelines of trust between us are not broken. So I try not to disclose what a big, hot mess they all are—in the most precious way, of course.

But then there’s Nathan. He is eight years old, so I still have a thin, fuzzy line of disclosure to walk—for now. Plus, he’s a little too preoccupied with making the rounds along his own orbit to notice if I say something to embarrass him.

Nathan’s mind runs on hyperdrive from 6:00 am to 8:30 pm. It doesn’t stop. When he’s not working out quadratic equations, he’s imagining a battle between Ninjago and Percy Jackson in such detail that he doesn’t notice he is wearing his shirt inside out and backwards. (Actually, I think sometimes he does that on purpose. Just because.)

Because of Nathan’s overactive brainwaves, by the time his head hits the pillow, he enters instant recovery mode—and his exhausted brain, having run a full-day marathon, shuts down and falls into a deep, dark sleep. So deep that nothing will wake him during the next ten hours. Not a loud television, not voices in the hall. Not a smoke alarm, thunder, hail on the metal roof outside his window.

Not even nature’s call to relieve his very full bladder.

You see where I’m going with this.

Whereas most four year old children can wear cotton underwear to bed, Nathan wears a Pull Up. More specifically, Pampers Underjams, because  his bladder has outgrown the capacity of the Pull Up. One night, we realized we were out of Underjams, so we sent him to bed in underwear. I kissed him goodnight, then made a quick run to Target, came home, undressed him, put the Underjam on, redressed him, tucked him in, kissed him goodnight.

And never once did he wake.

This is what we’re dealing with.

After his eighth birthday, Michael thought we should do something about this. I kept thinking SURELY he wouldn’t leave for college with a box of Underjams, but I was beginning to wonder. So, upon the advice of a seasoned mom and our pediatrician, I ordered this:


Which isn’t that far off from this:


(which followed this infamous moment)

After reading reviews of the various models and features, I decided to go with the “Ultimate Gold” (read: expensive) model that has eight distinct, randomly selected tones (so that marvelous brain of his doesn’t get accustomed to one tone and ignore it), and it vibrates. If we’re going to do this, we’re going all in. No messing around. We clipped the sensor on his underwear and the alarm on his pajamas, on his shoulder, as close to his ear as possible. No way he could sleep through this sucker.


Our house is…um, large. Our children’s bedrooms are (very purposefully) as far away from our room as we could get them. We had plenty of years when they shared our room or were across the hall, and that season is done, thankyouverymuch. If they are throwing up, they may wake us up. Otherwise, see you in the morning.

So we fastened the alarm onto Nathan’s cotton underwear, gave him specific instructions about what to do when the alarm went off, put him to bed, and crossed our fingers. In the morning, the sheets, blanket, mattress pad, and pajamas all went into the washing machine. He didn’t awaken once.

We decided to move him into the downstairs guest room—not on my pretty guest bed, but on an air mattress on the floor. Same deal: clip, instructions, night-night, fingers crossed. We opened the door to the guest room and to our room, thinking we would hear the alarm and could make sure he got up.

Nope. More laundry.

I really hate the smell of pee.

Desperate for progress, we moved the air mattress into our bedroom. Sure enough, we heard the alarm at 2:00 am, which led to a great deal of whining and complaining and grumbling about getting out of bed to go to the bathroom.

Nathan wasn’t too happy about it, either.

When our babies were babies, Michael and I agreed on a nighttime feeding compromise. Baby would cry, he would get up, change the diaper, bring baby to me. I would feed baby, burp baby, feed baby, while Michael took a twenty minute nap. Then I would kick gently poke him, and he would put baby back to bed. Our system worked quite well. When Griffin was born during Michael’s residency, I played the martyr wife/mom for about a week. “Oh no, sweetie. I’ll get up with him. You have to go to work in the morning. Let me take care of him.”

But seething resentment is not healthy for a marriage, so we returned to the compromise. Afterward I only resented Michael when he snored while the baby sucked the very life from my exhausted body. My leg would involuntarily twitch and accidentally strike him in the thigh, which is God’s method to stop snoring.

So here we are, eight years later, and somehow we have a child in our room again who wakes up in the middle of the night. Or, rather, who does not wake up, but needs to be awakened and attended to. Conveniently, I wear earplugs at night—because nasal surgery did not correct the windtunnel sleeping next to me. Michael, out of career necessity, long ago developed the uncanny ability to wake up in the middle of the night, be completely alert, take care of whatever emergency has awakened him, and return immediately to a deep slumber. Me, notsomuch. Also, thirty-one months of a child attached to my bosom, sucking out my soul. So Michael earned the privilege of getting Nathan out of bed and to the bathroom while I pretended to be asleep.

At first, Nathan would require a change in underwear and pajama bottoms since even a blaring alarm would not, could not stop the flow. Eventually, he would pee just enough to set off the alarm, but he would stop himself and finish his business in the God-ordained luxury of indoor plumbing. After a few weeks of this, he would stay completely dry for a couple of nights in a row. Definite progress.

Last week, my 7 ladies were still at my house during bedtime, so Nathan went to sleep in his own bed again. We debated moving him back downstairs, but decided to give it a shot. Part the heavens and hear the angel chorus while knocking on a very large plank of wood: he has been dry for a week. He still wears the alarm every night, and will continue wearing it for another two weeks, per the alarm instructions, written by the Saints of Dry Underwear.

As I have said many times, so often parents encounter situations that never, ever occurred to them when they said, “Let’s have a baby!” You think you know what you’re doing, you think you will have all the answers and raise perfect kids. You think you will never be One Of Those Parents with One Of Those Kids. But you are so, so, so wrong. And that’s just how it is.

This message will self-destruct in approximately four years, when Nathan will be mortified and hate me forever.


5 thoughts on “Oh (not so) precious is the flow…

  1. Oh honey – always you give me just what I need, when I need it! Just bought our first package of underjams this week for my munchkin who will be 7 this month. Frustrating since we had been over this for so long, but the more stressful his life gets during the day, the harder he sleeps at night. I was so tired of washing sheets every day we finally succumbed. And I, too, hate the smell of pee. Love ya!

  2. You have no idea how much my friend will be blessed by this. It’s not just about the suggestions, but (as with all of your other posts I LIVE to read) the reassurance that we’re not alone on this wild and wacky journey as mommies. Thank you sweet friend! I can’t wait for her to read it.

  3. I love it! You ARE an awesome writer! I understand why the agent thinks you are fabulous. Oh yeah, you know me, I’m not just blowing smoke.

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