Sleepless Nights—by Jamie Levine
When I enrolled in graduate school, I opted for the Sunday program (which means that I go to classes from 8:30 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. every Sunday, in lieu of attending typical evening classes several times a week); as a freelancing, mostly-stay-at-home mom, I’m accustomed to being home for dinner with Jayda every night—and certainly in time to put her to bed. Sure, I do my share of going out during the week and dating, but I generally do my socializing after 8 p.m.—once Jayda is settled in bed, asleep, unaware that I’m not snoozing, myself, in the room next to hers. And when I do go out before Jayda’s bedtime, I make sure we have some quality time together before I leave so I can hear all about her day, and say a nice early “goodnight.”
Last week, I started a five-week session of classes which I’m required to complete in order to begin my externship in a public elementary school this fall. The classes aren’t challenging—but they’re annoyingly inconvenient because they’re only held from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. three days a week. This means that every Tuesday and Thursday, after I put Jayda on her camp bus at 8:30 a.m., I won’t see her until the following morning: I’m in clinic all day and go straight to my class—and don’t get home until well after Jayda’s asleep. Before these classes began, I decided that I’d let Jayda stay up a bit later on Wednesdays so that after her sitter gets her all ready for bed, I can race home and kiss her goodnight and let her fall asleep in my arms, as she generally does—simply so there won’t be three nights in a row of no contact between us.
Last Tuesday, my parents greeted Jayda’s camp bus, gave her dinner, and put her to bed; Jayda adores my parents, and like typical grandparents, they spoil her relentlessly, so I knew Jayda would be in good hands. However, when I left the house at 10 a.m., I felt a pit in the bottom my stomach: I’ve spent a few overnights away from Jayda, but each and every time, I saw Jayda in the late-afternoon or evening before I left, so it wasn’t a complete 24 hours that I missed her. Contemplating this, I joked with my mother that maybe I was too codependent, and just tried to shake off my insecure feeling throughout the day. And that night, after making it through my first hellish nine-hour shift, I opted to go on a dinner date, since Jayda was already asleep and I was out anyway. Ninety minutes into my meal—at around 10:15 p.m.—my cell phone rang: It was Jayda crying hysterically. Through her tears, she told me over and over again how much she missed me and that she couldn’t go to sleep. Oy. It sure put a damper on my evening. Later, when I got home, my mother told me that my daughter had been an absolute angel all evening—but when she’d gotten into bed, she’d become inconsolable, and wouldn’t/couldn’t go to sleep. Finally, after she spoke to me, she had passed out in my bed, exhausted.
The next morning, Jayda and I had a talk—and Jayda promised to go to sleep without me on Thursday if I came home Wednesday to see her; I did, and she was thrilled. However, when I came home on Thursday night around 9:30 p.m., my mother, looking exhausted (and frustrated!) herself, told me Jayda hadn’t gone to sleep until moments before I’d returned. Yet again, she’d whimpered all night long about her angst over not seeing me. And hearing this news made me feel awful.
Jayda and I spent a lovely long weekend together—I was home with her from Friday through Sunday—and she assured me that she’d try to go to sleep without me this Tuesday and Thursday (with one caveat: she has to be put to sleep in my bed). I’m hopeful, but not completely convinced. And I know that thousands of kids go to bed every night without seeing their mommies (especially kids of divorced parents who don’t see their mothers for entire weekends), but it still isn’t easy for Jayda…or, to be honest, for me. But as plenty of mothers of older girls keep assuring me, this, too, shall pass: Before I know it, Jayda will be an adolescent who won’t want to spend any time with me—and will be constantly begging me to leave!