Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Back on the horse, and Halloween Sleep

A couple of weeks ago was halloween. Some of my friends think it's nuts, but we don't limit how much candy the kids eat on halloween; we feel they need to experience the glory of gorging now and then, and the sickness of what happens after. If they don't do it now they certainly will do it later, so why not be present for the fall out.

But that's just the set up for what I want to talk about. The gorging, of course, took place late in the evening, after much tearing around the neighborhood in a frantic trick or treat blitzkrieg, when they usually would be going to bed. They aren't used to very much sugar in their little bodies, and certainly not so much chocolate-bound caffeine, and I was certain they weren't going to sleep very well.

Do you know about the Switch Witch? She has a very strong sweet tooth, or is perhaps quite greedy--hard to say--but if you leave your candy out for her she will take it in exchange for a toy. She browsed the aisles of Target a couple of days ago and the comedy is not lost on me that she emerged with a small Ninjago Lego set for Clark and a Barbie with a blue stripe in her hair for Frances. (A couple of years ago, wedded to the Waldorf Way, I would not have seen this coming. Funny how you don't know what kind of parent you're going to be.)

Nonetheless, the Switch Witch arrived, claimed her candy and delivered her gifts not long after the kids were asleep. Mitch and I stayed up for a long while after that, and then at midnight as we lay in bed talking, Clark awoke to use the bathroom. Mitch and I got quiet and listened (whispering that someone needed to put on some clothes), then huddled under the covers as Clark entered our room, eyes bleary and hair a mess, his lego set clutched in his hand. He clearly thought it was morning, and when we explained and then convinced by showing him the clock, he climbed into our bed beside me, pulled the covers up around him, and fell asleep.

Mitch and I stayed where we were and whispered for a good while, somehow got on the subject of when the kids were babies and no one ever slept through the night. How long did that go on, I wondered, the not sleeping? Was I sleep deprived for years on end? And why is it that I don't remember clearly? Because I was so sleep deprived? Or because of the general amnesia that comes with being a mom?

I remember this: when they were still nursing but no longer newborns, they woke once a night to eat, and then when they weened (they both self weened: Frances at 6 months (no idea why on earth..) and Clark at a year) they still woke and had to be helped back to sleep. What did we do? Rock them? Hold them? Why can't I remember? After talking a while with Mitch I did remember the sound of the cry rising up, a complaint, a whine, nothing too urgent at first. And Mitch or I would nudge the other, say the kid's name, and the other would roll out of bed and stumble into the hallway before opening an eye.

We played musical beds-- everyone started in his own, but sometime in the night a kid would cry and one of us would go to him, and lie down in his bed, and fall asleep there. This is why they both have full beds rather than twin. Or a kid would come to our room and want in bed with us. We tried to mostly take her back to her room and lie there with her, but sometimes that was too much to accomplish, and the kid made her way under our own covers. Two hours later, when I realized I was sleeping not even a little with a writhing slumbering child up against me, I would remove myself from my bed and retreat to her now empty child's one. Many a morning I woke there alone, the sun gleaming through her pink curtains. It's all coming back to me now.

For years I didn't sleep a full night. Years. It wasn't bad--it wasn't 4 times a night like some moms complain. I didn't think too much of it. There was a point with Clark where I did get desperate enough to ask advice on facebook about how to keep him in his bed, asleep, but for the most part I just took it as the texture of this chapter of our lives.

And now! Now everyone sleeps in his own bed. For the whole night. Every night. Every night except Halloween when some people wake to pee at midnight and think it's 7 am. Now everyone sleeps in his own bed every night and wakes in the morning and goes downstairs and pours his own cereal into bowls he himself has fetched from the cabinet. And I sleep on.

I wonder how much of my current parenting sanity has to do with sleep alone. It's impossible to say, but I wonder anyway.

There was a woman in Target day before yesterday with 2 babies in a stroller. I asked her how close in age they were, and she said 364 days. She was smiling, pleasant, didn't look strung out or unbathed or filled with rage. "How is it? Is it hard?" I asked. She shrugged. Shrugged! "It's great!" she said. "Well, they both sleep through the night, so that helps." "You must have lots of family to help," I said. "I do."

I've been teaching a writing class for over a year now, reading their stories and commenting, digesting and suggesting, and it's been making me want to write. I keep wanting to write, but I keep not writing. But here I am! Look at this! My blog--at least it's a start. Maybe it will be something larger next. It's like doing cartwheels after so long. A little dizzying, but the legs are straight I'm pretty sure. Cartwheels down the driveway and after a bit they curve and you lose control, there's only so many you can do in a row. But here I am. Showing up. Excellent.