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Moms Talk: Who Needs Sleep?

Yeah. You're never gonna get it.

Daylight Saving Time. Might as well call it Cranky Insomnia Week.

I remember being annoyed by the time change before I was a parent. Sometimes I forgot to change a clock, and missed an appointment. Sometimes I overslept. Sometimes I was just tired the next day.

None of those times did I have to deal with a child who broke down crying for absolutely no reason in the middle of the afternoon, because she was an hour short of sleep. I hate envying my pre-child self, but for the few days after “Spring Forward,” I am retroactively green.

This, however, is a most minor of sleep issues. It will resolve within a couple of days. If I were a more organized person, and remembered to put her to bed an hour early on the Saturday before the time change, it might even be avoided.

What can’t be avoided is my own consistent shortage of sleep.

Sleep is the subject of the biggest of lies parents tell people that aren’t parents. Babies who always sleep through the night from the hospital on. Elementary school children who go to sleep with just a kiss and a cuddle. High school students who hop out of bed for before-school band practice. I have been subjected to the stories of these imaginary kids since I first admitted to being pregnant.

Lies. I do believe that these miracles exist, but not near the number that are claimed.

At the worst, if you get a really good friend with a couple of glasses of wine in her, she might admit to having a really hard time getting rest during the child’s first six weeks. With the frequent waking-up for feedings, middle of the night diaper changes, and jolting awake to the awareness that you are about to roll over onto a small soft thing that you’ve fallen asleep next to, people will admit that the beginning is hard.

But they tell you that it gets better quickly. “Six weeks. Two months at the max, and you’ll be in a rhythm.”

Lies, I tell you.

If it gets better that quickly, why are none of these women surprised when someone with a 2 year old shows up to a moms group event in pajama pants, mismatched socks, and her shirt buttoned wrong? We don't look shocked. We get that poor woman a coffee.

My infant daughter liked best to sleep touching one of us. We, on the other hand, preferred to sleep while not being kicked in the head by our child, who sleeps like the Tasmanian Devil travels. This was a slight conflict, which led to a lot of daytime naps lying on us while we did something else, and nights of sleeping in her own crib, which was literally right next to my bed. Separation anxiety from six inches away led to much crying, and a long bedtime routine to soothe her.

The bedtime routine remains long. Teeth, story, songs, cuddles…it’s a good half-hour before she goes down. And any minute we relax thereafter can be interrupted by the pat pat of small feet at the top of the stairs and the hesitant moment while she decides which name to call by looking at the stiffening parental shoulders to judge who will be less annoyed by the summons.

It’s no easier on the other end of sleep. My husband and I often look at each other when she crawls into bed with us at the crack of dawn to sing “Good Morning Starshine.” That look is a joke about how great it will be when she’s a teenager and sleeps 'til noon, and we are the ones that have to wake her. 

My experience, however, makes me believe that too will be a challenge when that time comes. Sleep is never easy when there’s a child involved.  I doubt that putting a 1 in front of her age will change that.

Sleep is a gift. As the Barenaked Ladies song says, “Be happy with what you’re getting. There’s a guy who’s been awake since the Second World War.”

I bet you that guy has a kid.

Margaret Santjer March 16, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Malia, I'm truly LOL. :) Thank you for sharing. Why do we think it's a reflection on us as parents when our kids don't sleep regularly? Yes, DST has completely messed us up this week. (And yes, that's just my latest excuse for why our toddler gets up at weird hours or struggles with naptime.)

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