I’m starting to worry. I need to sleep through the night and I need it yesterday. My usual remedy of doubling up on my thryoid medicine is not helping. I’ve been waiting patiently now for almost a dozen years; my kids are practically grown and I still rarely get a full night of sleep. The youngest two seem to think it’s an all night party. The older two, eleven and twelve (their ages, not their names) believe they invented bloody noses and that they go away quicker with an audience. My plea to “pinch and go back to bed” falls on deaf ears.
Question: Shouldn’t nocturnal interruptions have ended years ago? When my first child hatched, I plunged into sleep deprivation hell so surreal that I once forgot how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – halfway through the complex procedure. I remember a sudden feeling of hyper-consciousness, aware that I was holding a knife and a jar of peanut butter, but unable to figure out why. It was just the four of us, including the bread, alone in the universe with no purpose or attachment to anything – not even each other. Turns out that unless one is purposely trying to zen out, it can be a little scary. Either way, it was the closest thing to amnesia I’ve ever had, except for when I’m in the grocery store with my kids and pretend not to know them.
Anyway, I told no one. Not even my husand (now ex-husband, keep reading) who was very busy sleeping in, going to his job as a bar manager at noon-ish (after surfing) and coming home at about the time I was going to bed for the third, though not yet final time of the night. I was too embarrassed and afraid to tell anyone about my momentary coma so I chalked it up to lack of sleep.
Fast-forward a few years. Nighttime feedings were replaced by other, more complex needs: cough medicine, the fan turned on, the fan turned off, a hug, the blankets pulled up, the blankets pulled down, etc. The little people, their feet flying, bounced into my room at all hours with endless, sadistic requests. Good thing they were still little, soft and smelled good. Tucking them in, even an hour before dawn, felt satisfying.
Now, it’s a little different. We’re currently in the sleepwalking years: new husband, a blended family and increasingly inventive ways to prevent a full night’s sleep. Closet monsters and wayward blankies have been replaced – last week it was with the sound of Santa and his reindeer in one of the children’s closet. Turns out it was the eight year old doing a midnight search for her bicycle, which she explained she must have in order to go to Paris. Other times a nine or ten year old might pop up at the foot of our bed asking if we know where Larry is. One of us gently nudges the miniature somnambulist back to bed, assuring her that Larry will be right back – he’s probably catching a nap somewhere. Some nights we simultaneously drop back into bed, exhausted and share our adventures:
“Where ya’ been?” I ask groggily.
“I had to get in the airplane (bean bag) and land it safely so the boy from 14F would go back to his seat (bed). What about you?”
“Just some general hysteria. A little involuntary farting. That’s about it,” I mumbled.
Our fate as permanently addled zombies was sealed last summer when we made the tactical error of getting a dog. Not just any dog, but a beagle. Beagle owners out there, wipe that smirk off your face. For the rest of you, the question, “What could a dog possibly do between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. but slumber?” is contained in the following list, for starters: skunk interaction, shocking intestinal distress, sleep barking/farting/whimpering, endless self-gratification (licking).
I guess several nights in a row of solid sleep will just have to wait until they are all out of the house – the college years. Then, we can lie awake at night wondering not just what they’re doing, but where and with whom they’re doing it.
Many years ago, when sleep was what you did after you got laid and before you snuck out of someone’s apartment, I thought I understood Warren Zevon’s plan to “sleep when I’m dead.” It was an option I exercised. Little did I know that one day I’d be penciling “sleep” into my color coded, month-at-a-glance day planner under the heading, “To Do (After I Die).”