To the middle-of-the-night parent

17 June 2022

There is one detail about our family life that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about John as a father and, really, as a person, and here it is: when our kids cry out in the middle of the night, they call for Daddy.

Photo by Graham, from Annie’s newborn session

I know this is unusual, because every time it comes up in conversation the other person is staggered. Moms are simply the default middle-of-the-night parent, it seems. And this makes sense, to a certain extent: if you’re breastfeeding, you are the one that’s needed in the middle of the night. And then, as with many other patterns, it simply… continues.

That’s not what happened in our family. It turns out I am a very deep sleeper, and so when June was born, I would sometimes sleep through her baby cries (even though she was in the same room as us). John, though, would hear her. He would go to her in her bassinet, change her diaper by the dim light of the cracked bathroom door, re-swaddle her, and then deliver her to me to nurse. Every night, often multiple times a night, without fail.

Maybe it’s that imprint of him coming to each tiny baby’s aid from their earliest days, or maybe it’s the relentless gentleness, attention, and care he’s paid them every day since. For whatever reason, when it’s dark and our children are scared, or cry themselves awake from coughing, or vomit into their favorite stuffies and blankets, or bolt upright in bed, suddenly desperate for a sip of water, Daddy is the one they call for. They know he will always come, and they know he will always take care of them. He’ll turn on the nightlight, he’ll bring them water, he’ll change the sheets and pajamas and find new stuffies and tuck them back in. All, many times, without Mama even knowing anything is happening.

One day, our children will realize how extraordinary their father is, and how lucky they are to have him: a Daddy who loves deeply, and sacrifices deeply – a Daddy who loves them so deeply he’d never call it a sacrifice. But I know this now, and this weekend I’ll honor him and all of the other extraordinary dads loving and sacrificing quietly, gently, day in and day out. Happy Father’s Day. xo

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June 17, 2022 5:23 am

This is my husband too. And he is extraordinary. Our children are so very blessed.

June 17, 2022 10:05 am

Such a lovely tribute. Your children will be blessed to read these words one day!

June 17, 2022 11:40 am

Well, this made me cry. :) I am 2 months away from having our first baby and I can fully imagine my husband doing this because he’s been the one getting up with our elderly dog in the night for my whole pregnancy. Happy Father’s Day to all the extraordinary dads.

June 17, 2022 5:38 pm

I’m bawling my eyes out. You are all lucky to have each other ????????????????????

June 21, 2022 2:04 pm

This is so precious. I love it. Kyle is our default middle-of-the-night parent ever since our kids have been done night feeding and have been taught to self soothe, but more by our choice than the kids. I did all of that almost entirely myself, including the sleep training, so it seemed like an occasional wake-up Kyle could handle in those years of age 1+ in exchange for the many many many times I was up in that first year.
AND, the biggest reason we’ve chosen him as the default is because he can get up, take care of them (which he does better than me, IMO), come back to bed and be fast asleep 30 seconds later, whereas I am totally willing to get up in the middle of the night to tend to my 1 year old’s low blood sugar (he has type 1 diabetes) or give him some water, but then my brain is awake and it takes me often an hour plus to fall back asleep! I’m thankful Kyle’s willing to shoulder that responsibility on his own and I try not to feel guilty while I’m laying there in bed. (Usually I do have to wake him up, but if I don’t get out of bed, I usually fall back asleep once he’s back in bed!)