Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I'll Sleep When You're Dead

Last year, when I was 8 months pregnant and filled with new parent anticipation, my New Year’s resolution was to be The Best Mom That I Can Be TM. And to read one book every month. This year, with a toddler hellbent on crawling into our fireplace and eating the dog’s tail like a cob of corn, my approach is more pragmatic: take at least two showers per week, find a respectable replacement for my maternity underpants, and listen to less Top 40 radio while the kid is in the car. Because I know exactly what rhymes with "hug me," and my son isn't ready for the slant rhyme conversation. More than a few friends and family members, however, have declared that, in 2014, they resolve to get more sleep. I remember getting sleep, but at some point in the last year, sleep dug a hole under the fence, caught a whiff of squirrels and freedom, and made a run for it. In short, sleep got away, and despite numerous sightings in the area, it has yet to come home. As parents, we are the boo-boo kissers, the chefs and the busboys, the toxic waste cleanup crew, the heavy lifters, the teachers, the taxis, the human burp cloths, the referees, and, ironically, the nap enforcers. After the brimming diapers have been changed and the tater tots fished from between the sofa cushions, nothing seems more heart-wrenchingly luxurious than an uninterrupted span of 8 hours curled in bed. But our kids don’t give a crap. Life is new to them and the days are only so long. Why nap, let alone sleep through the night, when they could be karate chopping a stuffed dinosaur or not latching properly at 3 a.m. or having a meltdown while you're trying to write and thus crushing your dream of becoming blog famous? My own son recently started waking at night to let me know that his BFF (a drool-soaked plush elephant) is just outside of his reach. He lets me know by screaming. Not crying. Just plain old run-quick-because-I'm-probably-being-exsanguinated screaming. This happens only once or twice per night, but coupled with his firm stance against naps, I'm clocking 4 hours or less of snooze time at a clip. And I'm one of the lucky ones. Because I planned to breastfeed, in the months leading up to my son’s birth, I grew increasingly terrified at the prospect of long boozeless nights stretching into grim decaffeinated mornings. My oldest friend, a mom of two, told me that my body would naturally adjust to the new sleep schedule. This same friend enjoys soy milk and backpacking, so I discounted her advice because she’s obviously into some deeply masochistic shit. Then my sister, who is 6 years younger but 3 kids wiser than me, also tried to quell my fears. "You'll do fine. My kids are great sleepers," she said, quickly adding, "I mean, Ben gets up at 5 every morning, but we're used to it now. And Ellen, my god, she keeps climbing into bed with us in the middle of the night. I've been sleeping on her floor just to make sure she stays in her own room. Eugene is a good sleeper too, but he gets up earlier than Ben." Like I said, I'm one of the lucky ones. Yet, at dawn on a Saturday morning, when I'm stumbling around the kitchen, putting kibble on the highchair tray and Cheerios in the dog’s bowl, I feel less lucky than exhausted. And while my husband, a great partner and an awesome dad, snoozes until a sumptuous 7:30, I sometimes think, "I am so blessed," but more often I think, "divorce." And in the afternoon, when my son rails against a nap, screaming, turning purple, kicking the slats of his crib, I remind myself that these precious childhood days will pass so quickly. Or, at least, that’s what everyone keeps promising. So maybe I do "get" sleep. I get that anyone who uses the phrase "sleep like a baby" has actually never met a real live baby. I get that, after 20 hours without sleep, I sometimes cry while watching Antiques Roadshow. I get that the military uses sleep deprivation training to toughen up Navy SEALs. I get it. Now come home, sleep. I've got a warm bed waiting for you.


  1. Came to say hi via Kate Coveny Hood. Welcome to the blogosphere. It's a lot of fun. More than you can imagine, and waaay more addicting than you'd ever thought.

  2. I'm so glad you are writing this blog...I know you probably don't want to hear another person say it, but it does pass, and eventually seem fleeting, and then you look at your kid who is almost taller than you and has bigger feet, and you remember the woman who panicked at the gallon of breast-milk vomit down her bra during that first week home with him, who didn't know how she could possibly handle this mothering thing for which there is no accurate instruction manual, and it will feel like both yesterday and a different lifetime. Sweet dreams. :)

    1. When my son was first born, a dear friend sent me an article entitled "It Gets Better," which she suggested I read every day until it did, in fact, get better. And here I am, a year later, gallons of puke and 2 hours of daily sleep behind me. Of course, this morning, my kid tried to lick a toilet brush (for the 100th time). It's a glamorous life!

  3. I should be sleeping, but nope, I'm up reading this cool new blog.

  4. You make me snort while reading this in a coffee shop.