, September 2000

    In the Trenches With Bruce Kluger
    Memories of a Lost Snuggle

    By Bruce Kluger

    Getting the kids to bed tonight
    was a back-breaker.

    Bridgette had already been
    quite the handful this evening
    —that special combination of
    antsy and whiny that comes
    from too much stimulation, too
    little sleep and a too-healthy
    dose of jellybeans at her
    godfather Guy’s house, where
    she’d spent the afternoon.

    Her 11-month-old sister, Audrey, meanwhile, had been wailing all day. Was she
    teething? Was it another cold? Is she actually the spawned seed of an evil alien
    race bent on taking over the earth?

    It all boiled over during a perfectly hellish pizza dinner, with Bridgey’s whines
    escalating, Audrey’s cries crescendoing, and The King and I on the VCR, which
    had been playing backbeat to the hysteria, suddenly becoming as grating as a
    bagpipe in the lobby of the New York Public Library.

    In one swift move, Alene snapped off the TV, took Bridgette’s hand and announced,
    “All right, everybody to bed”—and then to me: “You’ve got Audrey.”

    For the next hour, Alene and I did the usual routine, getting the kids washed and in
    their pajamas, then me carrying the baby around a darkened room, feeding her a
    bottle and trying to sing her to sleep, while, in the other room, Alene read Bridgey a
    few books.

    When the clock passed eight, however, it became clear that neither my wife nor I
    was having any luck with our assigned child, so we moved to phase two—as is our
    habit when the going gets tough—and switched kids. Meeting in the hallway
    between rooms, I handed the wide-eyed little one off to Alene (with a few choice
    words about selling her on eBay), then walked into Bridgette’s room, and hunkered
    down next to her bed for what I hoped would be one last tuck-in-and-goodnight.

    “But no one’s snuggling with me tonight,” Bridgette complained, a ploy she fully
    understands cuts to the gut.

    “But we can’t snuggle tonight, Bridgette,” I responded, not without a measure of
    guilt. “Audrey’s being very difficult and Mommy’s trying to get her to sleep; the
    kitchen and the living room are still a mess from dinner and I have to clean up.
    Everyone’s a little irritable, and we need you to help us by going to sleep.”

    Bridgette was silent. Finally, with her perfectly honed harumph, she popped her
    pacifier into her mouth, rolled onto her side and closed her eyes.

    I headed back to the kitchen, catching a glimpse of a light from beneath my
    bedroom door. Not a good sign. If the light was on, Audrey was showing no signs of
    sleep. Well, that’s Alene’s problem.

    I had just begun to unearth the pile of dishes in the sink when I sensed the
    presence of a 40-pounder behind me. Turning around, I saw Bridgette.

    “I’m moving out of this house to Brooklyn,” she managed to squeak out, before I
    took her hand and escorted her back to her bed—whereupon I reminded her that
    one more surprise visit from her meant no TV tomorrow.

    “But I’m not tired and no one snuggled with me,” she protested.

    “You’ll live,” I said, tucking her in once more, kissing her forehead and disappearing
    out the door.

    I successfully managed to get the dishes into the dishwasher, and just started
    sweeping up the pizza detritus from beneath Audrey’s high chair, when I heard that
    familiar little bellow:


    In one fluid motion I was down the hall, into her room and kneeling beside her
    again. “Now what,” I said, not making the slightest effort to mask my irritation.

    “Nobody snuggled with me, and I’m not sleepy,” she repeated, her eyes barely able
    to stay open.

    “I know, Bridgette,” I said, “but you’re just going to have to try to sleep, and stop
    calling me. You’re driving me crazy.”

    “Then hold your ears and don’t listen to me,” she reasoned.

    Resisting a smile, I gave her back a taste of her own grown-up logic.

    “I can’t not hear you,” I said. “Besides, whenever I hear you cry it breaks my heart.
    Now will you please be quiet and go to sleep?”

    And as easy as that she said yes. She was out in less than five minutes.

    As I finished my chores in the kitchen I wondered what had made the difference. Did
    I guilt her back with the broken-heart bit? Did I just outlast her? Who knows? If
    parents tried to figure out every minor victory—or defeat—we’d never have time to

    At last the kitchen was clean, the floors were spotless, the lights were low and, from
    the silence our room, it appeared that Alene was having success with the tiny
    tornado, too.

    I picked up an errant sock in the hallway and tiptoed back into Bridgette’s room to
    toss it in her hamper. Linda Ronstadt was on the CD player, gently singing the
    Lennon/McCartney lullaby Goodnight. Looking over at Bridgette, I couldn’t help but
    notice how small and pretty she is. I sat on the edge of her bed and touched her
    hair. I leaned over to give her a goodnight kiss. Then I found myself lying down next
    to her, and giving her a gentle hug.

    “Hey, little one,” I whispered into her ear, hoping to rouse her. “It’s Daddy. I’ve come
    to snuggle.”

    She didn’t hear me, of course, then shifted in her sleep, her breathing low, the
    stillness of her long lashes showing all the signs of deep slumber.

    That snuggle is lost for good, I thought to myself. And for what? The price of a
    loaded dishwasher? The kind of peace and quiet of which I’ll have more than
    enough one day?

    Suddenly the sad reality of parenting became clear to me in the warm, dark safety
    of Bridgette’s room—namely, that our time with our children is as precious as
    moonlight, and just as fleeting.

    Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t realize there will be a million snuggles down
    the road; and that, sometimes, parenting requires sacrifices.

    But I can’t help but think of the day when Bridgette and Audrey live in other houses,
    perhaps with daughters of their own, and all those tangibles of being their daddy—
    the feel and smell and sound of it—will just be a memory.

    And I’ll be one snuggle short.

Sleepless in Manhattan: Audrey (left) and Bridgette...awake.