When Mari was three years old, she slept in the bedroom across the hall. We had an open door policy, which meant if any of our kids got sick, had a bad dream, or needed a cuddle, they could crawl in with mom and dad. Our bed was king sized, and we kept our bedroom door open. Theirs were kept closed at night for reasons of fire safety and parental privacy. We should have kept ours closed too, but for some reason, I felt the need to hear EVERYTHING that went on in the house. Was somebody walking through our yard at night? I would know. Could the hamster escape from her cage? Yes. In fact, she ran under the dishwasher with two weeks worth of stolen dog food. It was the chewing that woke me up. My point is that I was tuned in to every creak, every cough, every single thing happening inside and outside our house. I was always on the job.
Except for one night. With the desperation of parents with three children and a busy life, we happened to wake at the same time, with the same idea. Let’s fool around. Happily preoccupied, we didn’t hear the door across the hall opening, or the small sound of a person breathing nearby.
We kept our bedroom dark. You could barely see a hand in front of your face, never mind a small child standing beside the bed, her head resting on her mother’s pillow. It was only when she started to play with my hair that I screamed in fright. Quickly snapping on the light, I don’t know who was more horrified; Mari, Clarence, or me. It was probably a tie.
The difficult conversation came next. “Did mommy and daddy scare you?” She nodded, climbing up on the bed and tucking herself between us. “Did you wonder what we were doing?” She nodded again, looking forlorn rather than traumatized. Clarence and I could barely make eye contact, both experiencing the shame of first world parents. Most of earth’s human population is crammed into one or two room dwellings, and often one bed. They tend to be prosaic about these things. Nevertheless, I quickly conjured up an alibi.
“We were wrestling,” I said, inspired by an idea that would perfectly fit the situation. “Practicing our ninja moves.” I did some ludicrous arm chopping and nunchuck wielding imitations, just to hammer home the point. She seemed to buy it, but I apologized anyway. “Mommy and daddy are sorry for scaring you.” This was true of mommy. Daddy had already gone back to sleep.
The lesson was learned. Since I wasn’t comfortable tying a bell around Mari’s leg every night, I figured it was better to close, and even lock, our bedroom door. Not always. Just when we felt like being Ninjas. As parents with three kids and a busy life style, we didn’t get as much practice as we wanted. But over time, we definitely earned our black belts.