4 a.m. Compassion

All right. I’ll admit it. I was a bed-wetter. I figure I’d better get that out of the way right now.

Most children are potty-trained in their second year or by their third. My parents say I fell somewhere in that range and was certainly potty-trained by three. But the bed-wetting lasted for years. At four I held the record for wetting three beds all in one night – both of the twin beds in my room and then my parent’s bed!

I am sure they tried to be patient and understanding, but 4 a.m. compassion is hard to come by when you are struggling to rub the sleep crusts from your eyes and stay upright long enough to strip a bed, sponge off or even bathe a child and then (hopefully) get them and you back to sleep.

It was a shameful experience, etched into my memory dozens of times in those early years.

This morning at 4:30 a.m. I snapped awake. I am an early riser, but typically I get up at around 6 am. I also have a rule with myself, I’m not allowed to get up earlier than 5 am. Not having a full 7-8 hours means I will not be at my best. I forced myself to lay there and tried to go back to sleep.

I could hear my little Emily down the hall, talking and crying in her sleep. It was probably her who woke me up in the first place. This in itself was not unusual, she has had vivid dreams for the past year or more and often calls out in her sleep. From the sound of it, she’s usually fully in the throes of a conflict dream. Typically they pass and her sleep quiets again, but this morning no such luck.

Sleepy as I was, I knew something was wrong. I got out of bed, walked down the hall and pushed her door open. Her blankets were pushed aside and she was huddled on the bed, crying.

“Mama, I’m all wet.”

“Oh sweetie, did you wet the bed?”

“Yeah, I wet the bed,” and with that she really began to wail.

I petted her back. “It’s okay sweetie, these things happen.”

She stopped wailing, although she was still upset, and asked me to carry her into the bathroom. I did and I ran a warm bath while I peeled off the wet pajamas from her shivering little body. As soon as she felt the bath water against her skin she relaxed and lay back floating in the water with her long hair spread out around her like a cloud. A warm, wet washcloth warmed her stomach.

I stripped the bed and started the washer and then re-made the bed with soft and warm blankets. I thought about my parents and how tired they must have been at 4 am and those other wee hours of the night. I am the odd duck in the family, everyone else seems to be night owls. But at 4 a.m. nobody is at their best.

I returned to the bathroom and smiled down at Emily, still floating calmly in the warm, soothing water. She looked so peaceful and thoughtful at that moment. I drained the tub and wrapped her in a large towel and dried her off.

“I want pajamas.”

“Okay sweetie. Look, here’s Sponge Bob.”

She smiled because Sponge Bob is her favorite character right now and I helped her into them and tucked her into bed. “Sweetheart, please don’t feel bad about wetting your bed. These things happen, they are part of growing up.” She nodded sadly.

“I used to wet the bed, did you know that?” Her eyes got big. “One time I wet three different beds in one night!” She looked a little shocked at the last revelation.

I pressed play on her cd player, kissed and hugged her, and told her how much I loved her. As I closed the door to her room and entered my office, tired but too awake not to sleep I thought about my reaction. I would like to think that I helped her feel better. She didn’t want to wet the bed and she certainly needed a little compassion at 4 a.m. when she was wet and cold and miserable.

Who wouldn’t feel the same way?


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