Emily Parnell — The dogs provide the winning hand

10/08/2013 1:57 PM

10/09/2013 11:41 PM

Our bed has one side that is greatly superior to the other. The good side is close to the bathroom for midnight runs. It’s near the bedroom door, handy for 1 a.m. kid nightmares, 2 a.m. glasses of water, 3 a.m. dogs wanting out, 4 a.m. insomnia episodes, and 5 a.m. rising early for work. From the preferred side, there is a straight path to the light switch. In the summer, the vent blows cool air over whoever has the luxury of sleeping on the good side.

To reach the inferior side of the bed, one must traverse a narrow path riddled with booby traps. An ottoman with an unsightly spill is the centerpiece of the ever-changing obstacle course. Laundry baskets and a sprinkling of shoes are rearranged in innumerable configurations. A marble dresser top attacks at will, challenging the groggy, nighttime adventurer making way to and from the dark side of the bed.

When we first moved into our house, I was eight months pregnant. Prone to frequent potty runs, general mobility difficulties and the ever-looming hormonal emotional meltdown, I readily won ownership of the good side of the bed.

This arrangement continued for a couple of years. It was all mine through the years of midnight baby feedings and wee hour visits from our toddler son, who exercised his freedom to leave his big-boy bed with an enormous grin, exclaiming, “Hi mom!”

One day, my husband was notified he had been switched to the 11 p.m. – 7 a.m. shift. For the next three years, we did not share the bed at all. He slept vampire-style during the day in a darkened basement room. I now had ownership of the entire bed and welcomed frequent overnight visits from my kids, traveling from rooms far down the hallway.

When he returned to working daytime hours, sharing the bed again was an adjustment. The kids had to be encouraged to sleep in their own rooms again. “My side” no longer included the middle — and sometimes the other side of the bed.

One night, he rallied his moxie and made a stand. He plopped himself on the good side of the bed to claim his ground — a squatter who refused to be evicted.

“I get up earlier,” he announced. “And I want to be closer to the vent. You’re moving.”

Although shocked at the territorial invasion, I tried to take this in stride. Compromise is what makes the world go ‘round, right? His reasons made sense, and I’d reigned over the good side for five years. My turn was up. I tripped and bumbled through the room now, squinting through the darkness at the carefree, happy, good side of the bed.

Meanwhile, our dogs had set up a new schedule of their own. They organized a nightly midnight opossum hunt, followed by a 2:30 a.m. perimeter patrol and sometimes added a sunrise calisthenics shift to their nighttime escapades. They trained me rigorously. If I ignored their requests to open the door, they punished me with a plop of poop on the floor. I soon bowed down to their schedule.

At first, my husband helped. I’d let them out, then he’d let them in. Then one night, he issued a decree.

“I will not get out of bed to let the dogs in or out again.” He meant it, too.

I huffed and puffed and bit my tongue, while tripping through the room, bumping the foot of the bed, ramming my toe into furniture. And then I realized: He’d made his error. I needed the good side more than he did.

I staged a quiet coup. I went to bed a few minutes before him and reclaimed the good side.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“It’s easier when the dogs want out,” I explained.

“Hmmph,” he replied.

Then he lay down on the bad side. Where I’m sure he conspires and plots his next move.


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