I must have asked for assistance for a solid couple of hours. My screams were probably documented by homeland security. These weren't normal yells either. Only Christina Aguilera and I have ever reached those notes. During the evening (well, morning), my parents experienced a range of emotions that I call the 7 Stages of Night Grief.
1. Shock & Denial
It always starts the same way. "Did baby just cry or was that a nightmare?" Sorry Biggie, this is not a dream and you never read Word Up magazine. Real life.
"Maybe if we pretend we didn't hear it, it'll stop." LOL. Um, like a fire alarm? This is happening. The faster you acknowledge it, the sooner we can mount this crazy horse and let the games BEGIN.
2. Pain & Guilt
I can see their wheels turning.
"Maybe it's legit this time? Maybe the jewelry made from dried tree nectar isn't working the way Etsy promised." "Are you cold? Is this room haunted?"
Toddler, if you can, look to the ceiling and say, "They keep talking to me." I did that once and my dad nearly fainted. Not even kidding. He wobbled.
Remember: Your parents don't know what's going on with you and don't want to risk ignoring a potential real issue. Random barfing is always in the back of their minds, as is having to explain themselves on 20/20 to the nation.
Barbara Walters: So, you did hear your child crying. And you ignored your young. Why?
Mom (in prison garb): Well...uh...I just...I didn't...*tears* I'm so sorry...
Barbara Walters: Daddy. Did you not hear your precious angel?
Daddy (in a straitjacket): Rack city *mumbling something inaudible* hello kitty *twitching* sippy cup cheese.
3. Anger & Bargaining
These are actually two very separate stages. We'll start with Bargaining because it always happens first.
"Go to bed. We'll have popsicles in the morning." The second sentence is always said in a fleeting, off-hand manner while walking away because no one wants to admit they're in negotiations with a child.
It's important to pretend to agree to whatever terms have been offered. Let them walk to bed feeling like a winner. Then call them back.
That's when anger comes. You'll hear it. One parent will literally jump, fly, out of bed. They're not excited to hear your voice. It's rage. It's critical that you assume the cutest face you can muster up at this point. There will be furious whispering. Open your eyes wide and just nod. If they *help you* lay down, scream like you've been body slammed across the room.
4. Depression, Reflection, Loneliness
This is where you'll notice a longer length of time between your calls/cries and the appearance of a parent because they're in what I call a "My Chemical Romance Sea of Emo Sad." They're thinking about life before you, trying to calculate how much an au pair would cost, wondering WWGRD (What Would Gordon Ramsay Do) and if your grandparents would consider joint custody.
At this stage of night grief, your parents are drowning in the reality that they have not slept well or consistently in several months/years. They may or may not use a smartphone to post a Facebook status that simply reads, "FML."
Take this opportunity to empathize. Then throw everything out of your bed. Fitted sheets can be tricky to remove, but keep at it. Start at the corners, not the middle. Are you naked? You should be. Now jump. Jump up and down. Let some pee pee drip out.
5. The Upward Turn
Most parents reach this stage. It's where they stop taking shortcuts and start giving in. You'll get new socks. Possibly a fresh diaper. Hall light turned on. Maybe a cup of milk. Back tapping for sure.
If you hear the car starting and are still in your bed...sorry...these things happen...
6. Reconstruction & Working Through
This is where you'll get a little conversation in a normal tone. No Mel Gibson rants or Ursula voices. Calm & steady. Relax your body a bit. Lay down if you feel so inclined. Stop kicking the sheets off. It's almost over. Ask a few questions about what's on the agenda tomorrow. One of more parents might crack a smile at this stage. The kiss will feel genuine.
7. Acceptance & Hope
Your parents are fully awake. They have hope. Not hope that you'll actually go to sleep, but that their local 7-11 is stocked with all of the legal uppers (Five Hour Energy, Caffeine pills) that they'll need to make it through the day.
Congratulations! You've helped your loved ones navigate through the seven stages of night grief. Let the devil know that you've upheld your end of the bargain and that you expect to receive jelly beans in the mail shortly.