On Poltergeists and Scratching Etiquette

I’m not saying which son, because I very, very, very much (times one thousand) want my children to someday visit me in the Old Folks’ Home, but one of my boys regularly channels the spirit of a 104-year-old man.

I know this is true because my son awakens every night at midnight, approximately 4 hours after he goes to bed. He opens his creaky door, and he wanders into the hall. Fifteen minutes later, due to the nearly inert velocity at which he shuffles, he arrives three doors down, in my bedroom, mumbling, “Where am I? Where, oh where, am I?”

Except, of course, at midnight and when you’re a 104-year-old man, consonants are too, too hard to use, so he sounds like he’s performing a vocal exercise for theatre or choir, complete with scales and dramatic intonation.

“WHEH eh I?” he asks. “WHEH, oh, WHEH eh Iieeee?”

It’s sort of like being haunted by a benevolent but rather misguided thespian ghost who has lost his GPS and needs directions to his next gig. And who also mistakenly thinks that holding onto his front bits helps him with his balance.

“Son,” I say, “you’re confused. You’re sleeping. Go back to bed.”

And he says, “I’m confused?” in his confused voice which, of course, comes out, “Iieee unUSE?”

And I say, “Yes. And you’re still asleep. Go back to bed.”

And he says, “I’m still asleep?” in his sleepy voice. “Iieee EEL uhWEEP?”

And I say, “The important part is, go back to bed.”

And he says, “Oo mah bed?” in his confused, sleepy voice.

He starts to scratch using big, wide, sweeping scratches. His belly. His neck. His pits. His bits.

You know what? Sometimes things just need to be scratched, folks. I know it’s true. You know it’s true. We all know it’s true. But hear this: not everything that needs to be scratched needs to be scratched in the presence of others. This is a foundational concept in the parenting of children, and yet it appears in no parenting book. NOT ONE.  I challenge you, find the parenting book with a chapter on techniques for reliably teaching appropriate scratching and picking etiquette, and that is a parenting book I will actually buy.

And I say, “Mister, listen very carefully. Go back to bed, and scratch when you’re alone.

And, for reasons I do not understand, he finally reaches midnight conversation saturation, nods his head and shuffles out the door.

Fifteen minutes later, he arrives in his room and goes back to bed, peacefully and blissfully asleep. He’ll have no recollection of this in the morning because he slept through the entire exchange.

Sleep well, 104-year-old boy child. Sleep well. And I will try to do the same.

For tomorrow we do this again.



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20 responses to “On Poltergeists and Scratching Etiquette”

  1. My oldest gets out of bed a couple of hours after she falls asleep and will wander into the living room and just stand there staring at nothing. When you ask what she needs she doesn’t answer. I finally learned to just say, “go back to bed” and she turns around and goes back to bed.

    My youngest cries in her sleep when she has to go to the bathroom. She’s in the top bunk and apparently can’t sleep-climb down, so we have to get her out and put her on the john, but then she can put herself back to bed.

    I suppose I should not be surprised since I myself have sleepwalked and even talked on occasion as a teenager. I apparently once jumped out of bed, stomped across my bedroom, screamed, “I hate sleeping in the dark!”, smacked the light switch on and climbed back into bed. 😛

  2. Beth – soooo funny! Especially the doggy dish story.
    I have sleepwalkers. And misgided peeing. We have caught one of ours trying to go into the kitchen trash, behind the armchair in the living (living!!!) room and opposite of toilet in the bathroom. And “unused” voice asking where he is..
    I too wish we could have this entertainment during unbedtime hours… This too shall pass, my husband and I remind one another…

  3. Yeah, I still don’t get all that scratching business. My 7 year old is ALL about it right now. There seems to be scratching going on most of the time as well as holding on, moving around and just generally keeping his hands in that area at all times. It’s like he is scared it is just going to drop off and he is going to lose it somewhere. My husband assures me that this is normal and that if grown adults males could still do this, they would. Thank God for small favors!

  4. My daughter used to sleepwalk – in circles. We finally figured out that every time she did it she needed to go potty, so for a while we would guide her there (since she couldn’t remember where it was when she was sleeping) and help her, but as she got older we could just tell her what to do and even though she was sleeping she could wipe herself and flush and put herself back to bed. I had to turn the light off though – watching her hand make a swipe at the switch and miss was so funny. She did it a lot at 4 and 5 and maybe a few times at 6 or 7, but I don’t think she’s done it since she’s been 8.

  5. Oh my, life never is dull at your house, is it?! One of my boys has sleepwalking episodes as well, but his activity is to pee on his bedroom door! The first time in happened and we discovered the puddle of liquid seeping out from underneath his door in the morning, with the edges evaporated to a sticky film, we were so very confused. What was it? How in the world did it get there? The second or third time it happened, we finally figured it out.

    • Sharon, this story CRACKED ME UP.

      When I was 9 years old, I might have had a problem similar to your son’s, except I, um, squatted over the dog dish ’til my dad (yep – my DAD) caught me and yelled, “BETH, WHAT ARE YOU DOING??” at which point I apparently ceased my pottying and went back to bed. (I’d like to hereby officially apologize to Wilbur, the most long-suffering golden retriever in the history of the world.)


      It’s all fun and games ’til someone pees on a door. (Or in a dog dish. Whatever.)

      • I was a bad, bad, BAD sleepwalker as a child. I apparently did number two in the toy box. I’m surprised my mother didn’t tie me to the bed.

      • What you father *actually* did was chuckle in a soft voice, “Sweetheart we need to find you a “real” potty”, gently led you to the bathroom, and then guided you lovingly back to bed. Credibility must be granted to the only AWAKE adult present at the event.

  6. I’m laughing so hard right now, because BOTH of my boys have done this. The older one recovered from it, but the younger one still does it. And I giggle every time.

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