As cyclic a change as the seasons or even the days of the week, so is the sleeping and rest routine in our house. I imagine the situation mirrors the millions of other families out there with children under the age of 10.
For a few nights in a row, my schedule relents, the baby sleeps, and The Narrator won’t have any nightmares. We awake refreshed and ready to start the day.
Then, a shift in the paradigm. The planets lose the required alignment for rest and respite. The tides change and the winds of discord blow through the hallways of our domicile.
Someone will get sick. I work a double. The baby has another tooth shearing through the flesh that are his gums. Ambulance call. Fire call. Early morning rises for work, appointments, a nightmare, someone else gets sick, everyone else gets sick, another double….
All with such head spinning and gut-wrenching rapidity that before very long you realize that your total hours of sleep over the last three days are still hovering in the high single digits. Night time becomes a blur of restlessness, half-sleep, and care giving. Days morph into lurching movements, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and a constant flow of coffee, tea, and cough drops. The television drones nearly constantly in an effort to distract the children long enough for you to sneak a shower. Hours at work become a smudged line of meaningless numbers on a clock which you stare at relentlessly wondering when, Oh God When, are you allowed to go home? Your hope of return is dashed as the cold water of reality strikes your face as you realize that when you get home, the cycle of hellatious nights and impossible days will only continue.
The coughing goes quiet. The tooth cut through. The nightmare doesn’t come. The pagers stay quiet, and the schedule slackens. For the first time since what seems like the dawn of time, the coffee pot lay silent, resting. The baby monitor fails to elicit squeals of agony or irritation from the bundle of joy. The oldest child has brushed his teeth without the threat of global conflict and fell asleep halfway through story time.
You slump on the couch knowing that your beautiful bed is just a few rooms away. The pillows invite you with songs of temptation reminiscent of the mythical sirens, the blankets promising a comfort you haven’t felt since you yourself were in the womb. And yet… and yet you can’t go. The paralysis of exhaustion seizes your being and you lose consciousness on the couch or love seat, wrapped in a blanket that smells like cheerios and apple juice to the sounds of prime-time television shows. The bliss of bed, mere moments away has nothing on the sheer, unadulterated ecstasy that is immediate sleep.
Thus is the cycle of parenthood. Thus is the circle of sleep. You know someday you’ll be able to crawl into bed at a decent hour and get a good night’s rest on a regular basis, but for now….you’ve grown used to the random hours of sleep you can grab on the peaceful nights, and the random minutes you can get on the terrible ones. It isn’t so bad. Being tired at this point is as much a part of your life as breakfast is. Unless of course you skipped breakfast because you slept through the alarm clock. Or forgot to set it in the first place.
I promise, you get used to it.