Sheer Torture

My family recently completed an extended negotiation over exactly when bedtime should occur. The negotiated agreement was that the boys could stay up an hour later on school nights, but that bedtime meant lights out and in bed.

Last night, as I was flipping back and forth between The Player and the Giants/Redskins game, my spidey senses started tingling. Both boys were in bed, but I had a feeling that one of them wasn’t actually attempting to sleep.

I pondered the problem for a while, trying to find some path that didn’t end with me giving a lecture.

At last, inspiration struck. I went to the kitchen and cooked up a big hot buttery batch of popcorn. Holding the bowl in one hand and a salt shaker in the other, I pushed into my oldest’s bedroom.

Sure enough, he had his light on and was reading.

“Hey,” I said.

He jumped, reached for the light, then realized it was too late and settled for just closing the book. “Hey.”

I salted the popcorn and stuffed a large handful into my mouth.

“Is that popcorn?” he asked.

“Yep. Tastes really good. Hot and buttery. Can you smell it?”

“Um. . . Can I have some?”

“Nah. You were up past your bedtime.”


I wandered farther into the room, spreading the delicious hot smell of corn, salt, and melted butter.  “We had an agreement about when lights would be out.”

His eyes tracked the popcorn. “Da-ad.”

“Lights out.”

He clicked off the light. “Now can I have some?”

“Nope.” I went to the door. “Sweet dreams.”

“You can’t do that!”

“Yes I can. Tomorrow night, I want the lights out when they’re supposed to be out. You understand?”

He fell back on his bed. “Yes.”

“Sleep tight.”

I closed the door.

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