I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE. But first, I need all parents of young children to cover their ears. Everyone else, listen up: My children are really good sleepers. Not because I’m a great parent, but because (like me), my kids are lazy and derive genuine, soul-expanding pleasure from hours of unconsciousness. Just how good are they at sleeping? Sam (now 4), started sleeping through the night after one month. Which is especially impressive since at the time – due to an unfortunate real estate situation – his crib was in the dining room.* My children sleep through parties, sirens, fireworks and hailstorms. Estelle has been known to fall asleep in a puddle of her own vomit. I’m not sure why I’m proud of that.
But the one thing that wakes them up is the bright morning sun. This being June in the northern hemisphere, the sun is up before 5:00 a.m., bringing my kids with it. A few times we’ve groggily ordered them to get dressed, which may result in some little boy getting tangled up in his underwear (both legs in the same hole again?). We might tell them to go make their own breakfast, which means that they start the day with a heaping bowl of peanut butter, jelly, raisins and chocolate chips. Or worse: My neighbors Liz and David, who have their own early-rising little boy, recently procured a alarm clock that turns green when it’s OK for him to leave his room in the morning. Early results have been mixed, proving that even the cutest and most high-tech solutions may not be powerful enough to persuade a Two-Year-Old Morning Person.
There has to be a better way to get these kids to sleep longer! Deep down I knew the solution would involve 1) a trip to the hardware store, and 2) a can of spray paint.
STEP ONE – BUY STUFF: Measure your window and make the hardware store cut you a custom-sized roller shade – the really thick “blackout” kind. They ain’t pretty, but they block light far better than blinds or curtains. Here’s the kids’ window with the plain old vanilla blackout shade installed: Such a passive, cowering shade. Nothing we can’t fix with a couple cans of fabric & vinyl spray paint: Long-time Projectophile readers may remember this paint from the chevron roller shades I made for our last apartment. This time I had to order the paint online – I couldn’t find any fabric spray paint in a recent trip to the suburbs, though you might have better luck at an Auto Parts Store (just not in Chicago where spray paint is outlawed). As you can see from the label, this stuff was invented so people could spray paint car seats, for some reason. Or maybe that’s a dentist chair. If so, you could look for some at your local Dentist’s Supply Store. And before you leave the hardware store, grab a roll of any color contact paper.
STEP TWO – LETTERS: Lay the contact paper flat on a piece of cardboard or some other surface you don’t mind scratching (so, not on your vintage dining table or on your lap). Measure out some “boxes” so your letters are roughly the same size. Think hard about what you want to say in your shades. Be concise and direct. If there is an “S” in your message, you may want to rethink your message, cause S’s* are impossible to draw. The best I could come up with was “GO TO SLEEP.” I briefly considered “REMAIN UNCONSCIOUS” but that phrase has 2 S’s, and if one of the kids ever fell into a coma I would feel really bad about having those shades up. If you must use the letter S, grab your preschooler’s writing homework for guidance. If your message includes two or more of the same letter, draw them next to each other to maximize uniformity. Your message won’t be taken seriously if one “O” has a fat bottom and the other a fat top.
Use a scissors to cut out the square-ish letters, and an X-Acto knife for the more squiggly ones. If you plan to write your message in, say, Arabic, or Malayalam, definitely use the X-Acto knife.STEP THREE – STENCIL AND PAINT: Arrange the letters on your shade. I suggest sticking them as low as possible, so the message is still visible even at half-mast. Lay your shade down over a tarp, strap on your face mask, and start spraying. Spray in continuous, thin, even coats. Imagine that your shade is a parched landscape thirsty for rain. A misty drizzle will quench the thirst, but a torrential downpour will cause erosion, flooding, and also gooey, rubbery paint blobs that will never dry. Here we are after about five minutes of gentle, patient spraying: ….After another five minutes. Note the empty can tossed to the side. Time to crack open another one: Another half can of paint and we’re done! STEP FOUR – THE BIG REVEAL: Wait for 30 minutes, then carefully peel off the letters and squeal with delight at your accomplishment. Leave the shade to off-gas overnight. Discreetly hang it in the window while your children are away or distracted, then casually pull it down for their next nap. The know-it-all kindergartener will suggest that you add an exclamation point. Or at least SOME kind of punctuation, like a real sentence. See, the message still works at half-mast: It’s difficult to capture how dark it gets in their room with my crummy camera, but this may give you an idea: Yawn. Is anyone else feeling really drowsy right now? ———————————————————————
* Parenting tip: Try not to have multiple babies in the middle of a worldwide financial and housing crisis.
** Normally I frown on using possessive apostrophes to indicate a plural. But when expressing multiples of the letter S, it’s important not to confuse your reader, who may think that you are talking about the armed wing of the Nazi Party, or the sound of snakes, neither of which are endorsed by Projectophile, its subsidiaries or affiliates.