GUEST BLOG POST: Sleep Deprived….Still by Elise Mott
Anyone who tells you that your child will be sleeping through the night at age three was either lying or willing to lock their child in their bedroom (my friend claims it was with the blessing of her pediatrician). The lesson here, is that with every age comes a new stage and that applies to sleep as well. At forty two years old, I’m also at a new stage of sleep. I like sleep a great deal. I relish uninterrupted sleep even more. So this whole jumping out of bed to bunk in with mom and dad at 2 or 3am isn’t going over well.
It all started when Henry was born and we decided to give him a pacifier. Initially, he was not a huge fan, but after much coaxing from my noise sensitive nine year old daughter (stick a binky in it!) he began to get the hang of it. Three years later, there were subtle and not so subtle signs that it was time to get rid of “the plug.” Perhaps it was my brother-in-law’s scathing criticism of toddlers with pacifiers or my son’s teacher subtle look of horror when he brought it to school for nap. At any rate, we had no idea that losing the binky meant losing a month’s worth of sleep. Lacking a creative solution or at least the fortitude to follow through on one, my husband stealthily threw the binky away. It took Henry a few nights to miss it. When he finally realized that he needed to fall asleep without it, he was not a happy boy, and he had a plan to pay us back.
Now, it takes several attempts to get him in his bed, and many songs upon request to get him to stay in bed. After five hours, there is a distinct pitter patter of little feet running into our room. Next, it’s the shared bed experience. According to my husband, Henry and I snore at an alarming decimal directly into his left ear. At some point, one of us hauls H. back to bed only to repeat the same experience a few hours later. By 5:00am, my husband gives up and goes downstairs to make coffee. I usually sleep a bit longer with Henry kicking beside me. The end result is two tired middle aged adults who snarl at each other until we’re fully caffeinated. At forty plus, there isn’t enough under eye make-up to mask the puffy dark circles. When I’m tired, my motivation to exercise drains away and my need for sugary carbohydrates escalates. My husband tends to complain, but somehow, working at home, finds a way to nap for an hour. More snarling ensues.
I wish I could tell you that we’re really new at all this, but I would lying. I vaguely recollect that we went through the same thing with my daughter. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? The difference is that I was in my thirties when I had my daughter. I bounced back more quickly from the sleepless nights and I certainly didn’t feel the physical impact like I do now. Back then, I wasn’t sprinting to the coffee maker to insure that my husband wasn’t taking the last cup. In my thirties, I might have actually offered him the last cup with a cheery “sweetie” at the end of the sentence. Somehow, turning forty changed all that. I could apologize, but that would feel hollow. Instead, I will rely on my aged wisdom to brainstorm new solutions to my son’s sleep habits.
I recently posed as investigative reporter and interviewed every mother in “Jam Time” a new indoor play space about what they’ve done with sleep challenged children. One mom told me about a clock (invented by a mom who was fed up enough to apply for a patent) that turns green when the kids are allowed to come into their parent’s room. It stays blue when they need to be in their own bed. This mom said it worked like a charm on her angelic daughter. Somehow, I don’t think my son will comply. Still, I don’t have the heart to close the door to his room so he can’t get out. That seems drastic; and yet, being tired can wear you out. Perhaps, Henry will turn over a new leaf and move into a new stage soon. That might be misplaced optimism, but it’s all I’ve got.
Elise Mott is a fourth and eighth grade social studies teacher at an independent all boys school in Massachusetts. Elise lives in Concord, Massachusetts with her husband and two children; she had her nine year old daughter at age thirty-three and her three year old son at age thirty nine. Elise holds M.A.T from Smith College and has taught high school history in New Jersey prior to moving to Massachusetts. Her blog, http://www.sleeplesselise.com/, is a humorous look at parenting in an age of conflicting advice and making sense of the age gap between her kids. Elise enjoys the outdoors and skis and hikes in between grading papers, driving her kids to activities, writing, and hanging out with friends and family.