I realized recently that my kidlings no longer wake me up throughout the night — most of the time. I figure I now have a couple years of peaceful nights until they’re teenagers, when I’ll stay up to all hours watching their GPS cell transmissions until they’re home. (Wow, have times changed).
This doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten the days of baby-induced sleep deprivation. In fact, I recently found this open letter I wrote three years ago, when I could still blame my mental state on lack of shuteye.
You are so damn cute. I love you. And it’s time for us to have a little talk about sleep. Sleep is essential for life. More importantly, it’s essential for Mommy’s sanity.
Mommy’s child development book says children under the age of 7 sleep 10 to 12 hours a night. But you’ve both been nonconformists. Who knew that, after your incredibly disorienting and sleep-depriving infant years, you would continue to wake up and call for water, for milk, for mommy, the bathroom and teddy bears, all at regular intervals throughout the night?
Last night was a great example. Just for fun, let’s rehash.
Toddler boy wakes up at 11:30 p.m. (approximately half an hour after mommy drifts into La-La Land). After 20 minutes of screaming, boy is allowed into mommy and daddy’s bed, where he kicks and cries until daddy leaves to get into boy’s trundle bed, leaving more room for boy, mom and the two cats. Although daddy’s curled into a small ball, he earns six straight hours of sleep. Smart daddy!
At 1 a.m., girlchild runs into mom’s room after using the potty (good girl). She’s so excited about the marble celebration planned for kindergarten the next day that she can’t get back to sleep Mommy, desperate not to reawaken boy, hustles girl back into her own bedroom. A 15-minute conversation ensues about how difficult it is to fall asleep. Finally, mommy threatens various creative punishments (none of which mommy will follow through on, as girl knows) if girl does not shut up and go back to sleep.
As mommy slides back into bed, boy cries out and rolls onto mommy’s arm. Mommy freezes. Boy doesn’t wake up. Mommy goes back to sleep with a 35-pound toddler on her left arm and shoulder. Houdini the cat takes advantage of mommy’s immobility and settles himself on her right shoulder.
At 3:30 a.m., boy awakens because his supposedly heavy-duty overnight diaper has leaked. His pajamas, mommy’s pajamas and the bed are soaked. Mommy strips off everyone’s PJs, puts a new diaper on boy, and lays towels down over the wet sheets.
Boy then begins shrieking for milk. Mommy runs downstairs (naked) and fills a Sippy cup with milk. Boy drinks, then insists on sleeping pressed against mommy’s back. Mommy stares at the clock for an hour as boy snores into her ear.
At 6 a.m., girl runs into the room. “Mommy, it’s six o’clock, can I get up now?”
“Don’t wake up your brother. Go downstairs and play,” mommy hisses. At 6:30 a.m., girl returns.
“Mommy, I’m bored,” she says. Boy wakes up.
Gosh, kids, isn’t it amazing that Mommy can remember the events of the night in such detail, but can’t remember either the day of the week or your names? When mommy forgets to pack any food in your lunchboxes, remember that she still loves you. She just hasn’t slept through the night in six years. And girl, if you ever again forget to turn on the coffee maker in the morning, I will write those letters to Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.
— Anne Fitten Glenn is a freelance writer based in Asheville. She covers a number of topics (including parenting) on her blog, EdgyMama.com.