When I was a kid, my mother gave me lots of room for trial and error. As long as I worked hard in school and did my chores, she let me to my own devices. She wouldn’t hound me about the music I listened to or about staying up late. She understood that I needed the occasional break by staying up to watch my favorite television show or Monday Night Football.
Before she went to bed herself, she would tell me that I could stay up past my bedtime if I wanted to, but I would need to be ready to get up by 5:30 in the morning and she didn’t want to have to tell me twice to wake me.
All this is a nice way of saying, God forbid if I gave her any trouble.
I would hug her good night and tell her that I would be fine in the morning. Of course, I would get caught up in whatever was on, get very little sleep, and be a mess in the morning. I would offer a fake cough or two and complain about coming down with a cold. My mom would be as sympathetic as a hardened drill sergeant on a six-mile hike with a slew of new recruits. She would hear none of it. I had made my bed and would have to deal with the repercussions.
Oh the joys of growing up.
Time for bed
I haven’t needed my mother’s bedtime warning in years. I’ve become an early-riser over the years and have gotten used to waking on a few hours sleep. My wife and I, though, have a different kind of bedtime warning now.
Beginning at 8:30 p.m. each night our dog Nittany starts whining for us to go to bed. We thought at first that Nittany, a Lhasa-Apsa, Bichon Frise mix, needed to go to the bathroom or wanted a treat. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Oh, she loves her treats, but that’s a story for another day. No, Nittany whines for us to go to bed and for her to take her spot at our feet.
The routine starts like this. She’ll pitter-pater into the living room where we’re sitting and, rather than jump up on the couch and sit with us, she’ll lie on the floor right in front of the sofa and look up with sad puppy dog eyes. She’ll then start purring slowly to get our attention.
If we ignore her, she’ll march back and forth across the room. If we still give her no heed, she’ll try a new trick. She’ll take a few steps up our stairs looking over our living room and watch us. I’m the sure the move is an attempt by her to guilt us into going to bed.
It’s really high drama. If you ask anyone about the best actors or actresses of our day, they’ll list off names like Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino, or maybe Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Kate Winslet, or Charlize Theron. They’ve got nothin’ on one of Nittany’s performances. They’re a site to behold. Move over Lassie, Toto, Scooby-Doo and host of other movie-set dogs, Nittany is center stage.
Who will be the first to give-in: Nittany or my wife and I?
It’s all about the routine
It’s the strangest thing. I’ve never had a dog so observant about my night time routine. If my wife or I leave to go to bed early, you would think that would be enough to appease her. She’s got one, that’s all she needs, right? You would be wrong. She holds fast until the other heads off to bed as well. I guess in her eyes, we’re a pair.
I look up from writing this and see Nittany. Yup, it’s nearing the bewitching hour and the warden is ready to take charge: lights out, time to go to bed!
My wife and I both have a long weekend and no alarm clock coming up, we get to stay up as long as we want, but it doesn’t matter, the warden wants us in bed. My wife jokes that maybe we should head upstairs and watch the rest of our movie from the comfort of our bed. I respond that I’m not ready for sleep. In the end though it doesn’t matter what I want: the warden is in charge.