The dazed look of a new mother is expected by, pretty much, all of society. Because you have a newborn, no one cares if you send unintelligible emails, flip out for no reason, or fall asleep during conversations. But, as your child gets older, people just assume that your kid sleeps more like a normal human being and you gradually get your life back together.
These people have apparently never interacted with a 3 year old boy. Or maybe, I am the crazy one that has a child that just never needs any sleep. Maybe, my kid is the anomaly that has somehow evolved to a level where unlimited energy actually gets stronger and more potent the less sleep he gets. It certainly feels possible.
I just don’t understand how a 40 pound child can run (and, when I say run, I mean “Watch how fast I can run!” and “Look mom! I’m the Flash!” and “Hey! Let’s race all of the time but you better let me win or I’ll throw a tantrum” kind of running) all the time. Always. And yet, he rarely sleeps. Matt and I have to bribe and beg to get him into the bed by 9pm. We have set up schedules, routines, story time, relaxing bath soaps, night-lights, and more “incentives” than I care to admit. (I bought a Glow Worm the other day, in the infant section, seriously.) And he still won’t fall asleep until 10pm, wakes up 2 to 3 times throughout the night, and still refuses to nap during the day.
So, I challenge the notion that parents of newborns are more tired than parents of toddlers. And I would argue that I now have the bodily evidence to support this assertion.
About a month ago, after multiple nights in a row of getting up 4 or more times for bad dreams, to be covered up, to take him to the potty, or because “Mommy, I just want you,” it was Sunday night. I had read (what felt like) 16 books and I sang “You Are My Sunshine” so many times the tune kind of sounded like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Farmer in the Dell” mixed together. My eyes were so puffy and strained that the glow of the night light gave me an instant headache.
I finally decided he was completely asleep so I stood up to tiptoe out of his bedroom. On my way out, I noticed a bunch of extra cups and snack bowls laying on the floor so I picked those up too. I crept as quietly as possible out of the room, eased the door shut as gently and slowly as possible, winced every time the floor creaked ever so slightly under my feet, and turned around to go downstairs and drink a much needed glass of wine.
Apparently, however, I didn’t realize how close to the top of the stairs I was (how could I realize anything since I hadn’t slept in 6 months!?). I felt my right foot desperately grasp for the top stair only to find empty air beneath it. My left foot followed suit and went flying as well. My entire body is falling fast and yet it totally felt like everything was moving in slow motion. Next, my ass made a giant thud on the edge of the middle stair and sent throbbing pains up my back. Then, the back of my head cracked against the top stair, my glasses shot off of my face and ended up on the landing 7 steps down. When my head hit, I saw a flash of light that hurt way worse than the glow of the nightlight.
When I finished falling, I laid in a crumpled ball on the landing. Matt came rushing to me with a look of straight fear in his eyes. I laid there in silence for a good minute or two. And my first words to Matt were not about my throbbing ass, my fear that I had a concussion, or the state of my glasses. All I could think was whether or not I woke up the baby.
For those of you who haven’t seen the giant bags under my eyes and the giant yawns that happen throughout the day, you might not know how insanely tired I am. You might not be aware that, since August 2014, Matt and I have alternated nights putting Noah to bed which consists of multiple elaborate steps involving anywhere from 5 to 10 readings of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, a wide variety of requests for different (and very specific) toys located throughout the house, different beverages and snacks, and numerous trips to the bathroom where he may or may not need to pee.
Early on in this “adventure,” Matt and I both were able to outlast the kid and tip-toe out of his room some time before midnight (only to be beckoned back at 2:30am on the nose every time because he woke up in a panic because we weren’t there). We would end up going back in there and, instead of trying to figure out how to get him back to sleep and sneak out again, it just became easier to curl up and try to get at least a few more hours of sleep. As the months went by and nothing we tried worked, eventually the lack of sleep prevailed and we didn’t even try to get him to sleep in his room alone. We even moved a second mattress in so that we didn’t have to share a single twin bed with a twisty and wiggly 3 year old.
For the past 7 months, Matt and I have pretty much been working on auto-pilot because we have been so sleep-deprived. We snap at people and at each other over silly issues. Instead of talking to each other when we do have a moment alone (which is rare) we totally zone out and use as little energy as possible. And on the random nights when we could have probably convinced Noah to sleep in his room by himself, we were just too tired to even try to figure out how to go about doing something different so we just figured out whose turn it was and said goodnight.
Then one day, I got a call from a friend saying that she was getting rid of a really nice twin bed frame and she wanted to know if I wanted it for Noah. [We tried the whole twin bed frame thing in September but it was my bed frame from childhood- which was metal. Noah spent all night getting up and rummaging for toys to bang against it to see what kind of noise it made. That bed frame went back into storage with a quickness and we just put the box spring and mattress on the floor.]
We brought the bed frame home from my friend’s house and showed it to Noah.
Noah: “Mommy, I love it!!”
Me: “Do you know what this is?”
Noah: “Yeah, it’s a big boy bed!”
Me: “And, did you know that big boys who sleep in big boy beds sleep in their room by themselves?”
Noah: “Well, let’s just leave it in the garage then. I’m still little.”
So, all of the wind was knocked out of my sails until one day that same week, Noah started asking for a unicorn. Out of nowhere, he began asking us to get him a toy unicorn 3 or 4 times a day. I don’t know where this request came from but he wouldn’t give it up. So, because (as noted earlier) I am exhausted, I went out to the fancy toy store and bought a really cool unicorn figurine. I brought it home and, instead of giving it to him, I tucked it away with a plan.
The next morning:
Noah: “Hey mommy. Can I have a unicorn?”
Me: “You know, big boys who sleep in their rooms by themselves get unicorns.”
Matt: “Oh yeah! I heard that too. Don’t you have a big boy bed in the garage?”
Noah: [In a very whiney voice.] “Yeah. But I think regular boys get unicorns too.”
Well, we kept this conversation going for several days until Saturday rolled around. We put the bed together and let Noah use the allen wrench to tighten the screws. We didn’t let him take a nap so that he would be extra sleepy at bedtime. And, when bedtime approached, we made our way up to the big boy bed. We read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, had a few snacks and some milk, and, before I knew it, he was asleep.
I snuck out of the room more slowly than I have ever snuck before. I dared not to even tell Matt that Noah was asleep because I didn’t want to jinx it. We looked at each other with all of the passion and excitement of newlyweds. And then we immediately curled up in bed and got the best night sleep EVER!
The next morning, the first words that Noah said when he woke up were, “Can I have my unicorn now?” I have never been so excited to give someone a toy in all my life. The next night, it took a little more convincing but, eventually, he was sound asleep in his big boy bed and I was able to sneak out. This morning, Matt looked at me and said, “Do you realize this is the first time we have slept in the same bed for 2 consecutive nights?” In a really sad and desperate way, that is the sexiest thing he has said to me in 7 months. Cross your fingers for us.