- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Best Defense is on summer hiatus. During this restful spell we offer re-runs from the past 12 months. This item originally ran on Mar. 21.
(Tom note: Army Maj. D.J. Skelton is a friend of mine. The “pirate eye” phrase refers to an eye he lost in Fallujah, Iraq, when an rocket-propelled grenade round grazed the side of his head, for which he now wears a fake eye. He posted this account on Facebook. I am running it here with his permission. I like this because of the joy he takes in the evening’s proceedings.)
So….let me tell you about last night…which will go down as the GREATEST NIGHT I’VE EXPERIENCED in a long time!
So Dakota (our 18-month-old son, for those just tuning in) has a wonderful dinner and we put him to bed around 7pm. We finish dinner with guests, who leave our house approx two hours after Dakota initially goes to bed.
Dakota is still up. He is contently playing on his bed in his lively make-believe world. At 11 pm he is still engaging in a chatty debate with himself, quite lively, I might add, making it impossible to fall asleep.
It’s my turn. I grab my woobie (Bad-a** Army lingo for blankie), put on some body armor (hoodie) and head to the front lines. I join him in bed and whisper, “Time to go to bed, Dakota. Goodnight!”
I guess this is what one would call, “A failure to communicate.” Dad’s “Going to bed” equates to Dakota’s “PLAY TIME!!!” From 11pm to midnight Dax proceeds to poke me in the eye or beat me on the head first using his own limbs, then those of EVERY stuffed animal in his room. At midnight, he acquires everything in his room he is physically capable of lifting and burying me with them.
At 1 am he proceeds to try to persuade me to read him…no not 1 book….or 2….but 23. Yes, he pulls 23 books from his shelf, climbs into bed, snuggles as close as he can to my chest in the sitting position, and starts turning the pages. Actually he only turns one page, gets mad that I am actually adhering to the original OPORD (plan) of sleeping, bops me over the head with the book, and then returns to the bookshelf to carefully select the next weapon…I mean book.
At 2am, he pokes me in my pirate eye. I am desperate. I ask, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?!?!?” And, I swear, he replies, “Moons Over My Hammy!”
I get up. I throw on a shirt. I throw him in the truck and drive him to Denny’s.
As we pull up, there are an ambulance and police cars (with lights on) outside the front door. We get out and now Dax is enamored with the flashing lights. He is making noises I’ve never heard before. I must be delirious at this point.
Wait, there is another Denny’s — in Seaside. So we drive across town. It is 2:30 am when we pull up in front of the other Denny’s. Dakota is now singing along to the radio station, originally SOFTLY playing and now BLASTING as we are fully engaged in a dance party while cruising the Seaside strip of Fremont.
As we approach the front door, a very rough-looking bald dude looks at me, holding Dakota (who is still waving his hands and air dancing) and says, “I don’t think you should go in tonight…it’s a rough crowd.” Both Dax and I are distracted by his arm sleeves of tattoos.
“Thanks for the head’s-up,” I say while turning around headed back to the truck.
“Hey….HEY!” yells the man. I turn around. “Nice eye, bro,” compliments the guy.
Dakota says, “Eye,” and points to his eye, and then pokes my pirate eye while engaging in what becomes a two-minute giggle fest.
I drive around until 3:30 am convinced he is asleep, since he has not made a sound in over 10 minutes. I pull up to the house, quickly open and shut my door. Walk around and open Dakota’s door to be greeted with one of the largest smiles I’ve ever seen planted on his face, “Dadda!!!”
I get him back into his bed, sing him a lullaby, give him a kiss goodnight, and silently return to my bed.
At 4 am I am approx 5 seconds away from entering a deep REM sleep. Dakota crawls into bed, maneuvers around the large obstacle (my butt), low crawls to mom, and bops her on the head. “Mamma!”
Maj. D.J. Skelton is a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He led an infantry platoon at Second Fallujah and later commanded an infantry company in Afghanistan.
Photo credit: D.J. Skelton