Thursday, January 10, 2013
Before that baby’s even born, the physical and emotional upheaval of pregnancy keep us awake. Dreams, wild and sometimes theatrical, keep us from sleep. Joints and ligaments and body parts we never knew we had, are suddenly calling to us overnight.
Well-meaning people tell us, “When the baby comes, you can sleep when they sleep!”
Once the sweet bundle of joy is placed in our arms, a whole new reason for our sleeplessness appears. Absolute dependence shines from those sweet eyes. When they do sleep, we find ourselves watching them, guarding against the night. Or bathing. Or grabbing bites of lukewarm dinner. Or staring into space, wondering, “Why can’t I sleep?”
Toddler years, terrific and temperamental, show us how even the most exhausted of children won’t necessarily sleep when they’re tired. They fight, bleary-eyed and puffy-cheeked, against the rest that their parents desperately crave.
We briefly think, “We can rest now that they’re older!” when it’s time to send them off to school. But, alas, we are mistaken. They have sleepovers , stomach bugs, school projects and insomnia. They wake us on Saturdays for sports and to share the dreams of the night before. Tossing and turning, we wait for nighttime interruptions.
Independent and growing fast, our children soon no longer visit us in the middle of the night. They sleep as late as we will let them, they have whole sections of their lives that don’t involve us (much). Do we sleep now, secure in their growing autonomy? No. Now we think about who their friends are. What their grades are. Their future, their present, the diaphanous and distressing unknown that arises as our children begin to stand on their own. We await curfew. People tell us, and we believe, “When they move out, you can sleep.”
I have come to suspect, though, that parents are never going to rest well. We will never consistently lay our heads down at night, safe and secure and utterly at peace. Once our kids move out, we think about college, and safety, and whether they’re happy. We dissect conversations, life choices, events and aspirations… The phone rings with a wrong number, at the dreaded darkest hour, and we lie awake wondering if it might have been them. If they are okay.
If they, in turn, are sleeping.