|Photo Credit – The New Yorker|
There comes a point in parenting when you look around and think, “What the HELL have I done?” Generally, this is around 3:30 a.m. when the world is asleep. The entire world except the small world you have created in your home. And, at this point, you think about choices you’ve made and consider when you last cleaned the fridge or really looked in a mirror. All the while, a bundle of your genes taunts you from your hip. And, you just know. You can tell. This is it. You are never going to sleep again. Ever. Because, that’s the deal. You didn’t really know this at the time you decided to become a parent. You thought it was a joke. It was just something people said like, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!” or “A stitch in time saves nine.” and, you thought, “What do these even mean? Relevance?” I’ll tell you what it means. It means you are never sleeping again. Professional, long-time parents always laugh about it. Tears of a clown? Good samaritanship? An attempt at a moral boost for the next generation of parents? Why make it worse than it is? Here’s a thought – Why make it better because seriously and please, hear me – You are never going to sleep again.
It starts out normal enough. You’re at the hospital, you’re in love and you don’t even care that you’re not sleeping, but, sleep always wins or at least tries to. Just when your goo-goo for you eyes start to close, the baby will inevitably cry because it is hungry or wet or cold or wants to know the meaning of life or has a stray diaper fiber stuck to its inner thigh or is curious about how snakes molt. Who knows? I don’t, but, I know one thing. You are never going to sleep again.
Then, they are 2 and you are still not sleeping because, by this point, they have you pegged. They know that if a monster suddenly shows up, and they always do, you will be there with some canned air freshener, I mean, “monster spray”. You are not union so the hours are undesirable. Monsters show up on weekends, holidays and always between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. NO, you do not get sick time. Yes, you have to kill them all. Closet. Bed. Windows. Every damn monster in the house. Yes, that’s right…you are never going to sleep again.
Then, that baby is 6 and you are still not sleeping because, by this point, you’ve probably been a genius and had one or a few more. “You weren’t sleeping anyway!”, the laughing people say. You are so tired that you forget your childrens’ names and your address and why you are holding a package of stamps in one hand and an empty ice cube tray in the other. And, you think, I’ve hit rock bottom. We can only go up from here. So, you start doing research on the NASA mattress partially because the people in the commercial look so fantastically well rested and partially because you always wanted to jump on a bed and use the other half of the mattress as a giant coaster for your nightly bottle of wine. Yes!, you think. This is it! Only up from here. You are wrong. Please remember, you are never going to sleep again.
Then, there is the inevitable curfews they are sure to break and the worry and the still checking to see if they are breathing, even when they are 14 and the friends and phone calls and music and your general inability to sleep because the damn flyer is due for the school committee you signed up for. It’s always someone’s snack day and cupcakes don’t make themselves and you’re out of milk…again and you are now buying face lotion made out of Preparation H and stardust found in one of the moon’s darkest craters to cover the dark craters that used to be eyes. You look at old pictures, before kids, and the only thing everyone says is: “Look at how young you look!” which you know is code for , “You were a hot number back when you were sleeping!”
Years pass and still, you do not sleep because of costumes, hemlines and broken hearts that need mending and financial aid packets and college trips and shopping for their first apartment and, like that, they are gone to start their own noisy, sleepless lives filled with children and the sounds of home. You have all the quiet in the world, but they are gone and the quiet is deafening. It is too quiet to sleep. And, you remember…that was the bittersweet deal. You are never going to sleep again. The laughing people were right. It was worth it.