Mine is a house of whispered voices, writes Ben Keenan.
When the last book has been read, the last song sung and my miraculous dumpling of splendour starts giving us those tell-tale signs that sleep is required post-haste, Jen and I reduce the volume of the world around us to a hush.
Since Tom arrived, we have approached bedtimes as if we had installed a mute button inside us which activates itself at 7pm each night. When the hour arrives, a calm descends over our home and despite Tom’s valiant efforts to convince himself that sleep isn’t a necessity, the yawns and cuddles which follow us up the stairs to his bedroom are some of the sweetest of times we have together. This is when Jen takes over because I am not the parent associated with relaxed bedtimes. I can’t blame my son though, as I can confirm that I was the exact same when I was a baby. Bedtimes mean mama and a ritual which is blissfully hypnotic in its simplicity as my wife leads our son into the land of sweet dreams with a combination of breast and bottle which makes me love her more every day.
WhenTom is asleep and his bedroom door closed, Jen and I remain inaudible for quite some time. Subconsciously, I believe this is because there is something about being a Keenan that makes us crave the shared joy of family based socialising. My big brother, myself, my niece and my nephew all decided during our first years that if there was a chance we might be missing out on some extra fun, no amount of warm milk was going to keep us asleep. So to combat this, we whisper. These days, the boy sleeps for up to eight hours before his tummy starts to rumble and he is once again drawn towards his mama. In these moments, my ability to assist my family is low and it isn’t until I’ve roused myself out of a deep sleep that I think to ask that eternal question almost every new dad ohas asked his wife at some point: “What do you need me to do?”