When it’s time for bed, I ask my seven-year-old son if he wants “to go sleepies.” I pose the question without even doing an accompanying hand motion. Despite the fact that he is non-verbal, he understands the word “sleepies” and trots off to his room to get ready for a night of slumber.
Truth be told, I ask my daughter if she is ready to go sleepies too. She stares at me a bit when I do, since she’s ten and not non-verbal. She too knows what sleepies means though and, despite some protesting, trots off to dreamland as well.
It’s not just my kids who know. It’s my cats and my wife and whoever else I accidentally say it to. It’s because, at some point, a baby in my house responded to that word instead of “sleep” and we just ran with it. I’m not sure when it happened or which kid it was. All I know is that we all take nappies and go sleepies around here. Although I am starting to realize Daddy is usually alone in saying it.
Words like that spring up when you are a parent and literally stay in your vocabulary forever. Call pancakes “cakies” or breakfast “brekkies” more than a handful of times and you’re pretty much locked in for life. You wake up from sleepies and eat some cakies for brekkies. Then you drivey to work-shmirky and come home to take nappies. Ugh.
It’s not easy to transition from this Sesame Street dialogue to real life, but that’s what’s expected of parents as they shuffle themselves in and out of the real world. Sometimes it doesn’t work out so well.
A few years back, I learned this lesson while I was doing website work for a local power tool supplier. We were shoved into a small make-shift office in the back of the garage and, from 9 until 6, we listened to Justin Bieber on the radio, complained about the toxic fumes, and did our part to make the tools of the world a little more powerful. They know who they are.
The biggest annoyance about this job? Going to the restroom. In order to get there, I had to get up in this tiny room and do the bathroom walk of shame around the other desks, through the door, and into the warehouse. The exit from our work area was right where Ross, the head tool picker, worked.
Ross was a man’s man in the 1970s sense of the word. He loved training dogs, talking tools, and creepily telling all the women in the office that they were hot. Most people endured him. After all, he belonged there. If you were making a movie about a power tool supply company, he would be the first role you would fill – mustache and all.
Ross was working right outside our office when I got up to use the bathroom that day. When I exited the door, I saw that his giant drawer of drill bits and other assorted tool parts was pulled wide open, blocking the pathway to the bathroom. Having already done the walk past the other desks, the last thing I wanted to do was turn around and walk back. So I stood there for a minute until I saw him in the distance. Then I called over.
Ross! Yo, Ross. Can you close this drawer? I need to get by.
Knee deep in Festool air filters, he rolled his eyes and seemed annoyed, but if the truth is told, he always seemed annoyed. He was one of those guys. I wasn’t offended, but as he came over to close the drawer, I felt the need to offer an explanation.
Sorry, man. I just had to get by to use the pahhhhht-t-t-t-y-yyyyyyy…..
As the potty tumbled from my mouth, I immediately regretted it. I trailed off at the end just as it’s written above and, in many ways, was exactly like how Ralphie said “Fudge” in a Christmas Story. In that moment, if I had a red rider BB gun of my own, I’d have shot my eye out just to escape this mortifying situation.
Making matters worse was that Ross had no children. So, he must have thought I was, well, I don’t even know. There are many choices. None of them are good. The expression on his face as he closed the drawer spoke volumes. I hung my head and, by the time I made it to the potty, I didn’t even have go anymore.
The irony of it all? We, as parents, will be using these words long after our kids grow up and stop. Before you know it, you’re asking your ten-year-old if she brushed her “teethies” and she’s the one rolling her eyes. It’s like, “Hey! I started talking this way because of you! Say it! Say “brush my teethies!” Say it now or I’m throwing out all the toothbrushes in this house!”
Honestly, though, it’s part of being a parent. I say potty and sleepies. Yeah. I also know all the characters on Teen Titan Go, entire Raffi concerts by heart, and have an irrational hatred for Zoey on Sesame Street. I spent years in the trenches of babyhood. I have the scars, baby words, and formula stains to prove it.
One day, my growing kids will be grown adults. These adorable faces will be gone and all the brightly colored toys that have engulfed my home will be gone too. The only reminders of these good ol’ days will be the baby talk that rattles in my brain forever.
I’ll say those words forever. I know this and accept it. I said them when my kids were babies. I say them now. And I will say them until the day they lower me into the ground for my final sleepies.