Soren hasn’t been sleeping much, and this is hard for me. I like turning off my light and going off duty every evening. Do you know what I mean? I like when Soren goes to bed at a reasonable hour in the evening and stays there, uninterrupted, until a reasonable time in the morning (a “reasonable time” does not exist before 8 a.m.). This had been going reasonably well, until lately when Soren decided he doesn’t need to sleep.
Some days, he stays up until midnight. (We’re probably bad parents to allow this to happen, but I don’t know how you get a 3-year-old who doesn’t want to stay in bed to stay in bed, so it happens.) Some days, he goes to bed at a reasonable hour (I’m liberally construing “reasonable hour” as any time before 10) but then gets up an hour later and stays up for . . . however long he feels like staying up. Most nights, he gets up at a time between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m. and gets into bed with Ben and me. I don’t mind this at all on the rare occasions he gets in our bed and is normal. Most of the time, he fidgets, talks, makes noise, accidentally pulls my hair or lays (lies? I’m a professional editor and I don’t know this shit.) on my hair such that it pulls if I move, farts, is a 3-year-old, etc. When this happens, you tell him to go back to his bed. He doesn’t. If you insist, he’ll scream and cry for half an hour, and it’s just not worth it. Sometimes, he’ll decide on his own to go back to his bed, at which point you’re all, yessss!!!
Last night he came in during the 2s, I think, and was disruptive. I always tell him, dude, we’d let you stay in here all night — I even enjoy the snuggling — if you’d just be quiet and still. But no. Eventually, he sat up and said he was going back to his bed and I was all yessss!!! It takes me forever to fall back asleep but eventually I do and then eventually I wake up because some asshole cat is batting around something he knocked off the Christmas tree and it’s one of those loud and irregular noises through which I cannot sleep.
So I get up, and I’m not committed to being up so I don’t put my glasses on, and miraculously, even glasses-less I find the little candy cane thing that asshole is playing with, confiscate it, and peek into Soren’s room to see what he’s doing. He’s not there. I look again because I’m all glasses-less and WTF. Still not there. I then find the bathroom door closed and freak out for a second. Like, I think our house is safe enough for a 3-year-old who gets up in the middle of the night and wanders around but maybe it isn’t. I open the door and the lights are on and he’s lying on the floor. “Soren!” I yell and he wakes up. Holy shit I didn’t even know what to make of an unconscious blurry toddler on the bathroom floor at 6 in the morning for a second. He’s okay. But why in the hell is he sleeping on the bathroom floor with the light on?
I try to go back to sleep. This is one of my work-from-home days. Ben gets up to get ready for work and Soren talks to him constantly and I’m sleep deprived and grumpy. A few minutes later, I get up and grumpily move through my day, short-tempered and unforgiving.
This post was supposed to be about two things. The first was going be me being grumpy and short-tempered and having a bad day, and the second was going to be how I understand the profound ability parents have to affect the way their young children perceive events. At the end I was going to tie it together, saying that sometimes point 1 interferes with our ability to do point 2, but we can always do better tomorrow. But now I’ve spent so much time wallowing in grumpy I’ve completely lost point 2. I’ll take a stab at it for a second, anyway.
As parents, we have a profound ability to affect the way our young children perceive events. I came to really understand this before Soren’s last trip to the doctor. I talked it up. I even said, at one point, “Soren, if you’re not good tonight, you won’t get to go to the doctor tomorrow.” I carried on as if going to the doctor were the most awesome thing in the whole world.
As a result, Soren believed going to the doctor was the most awesome thing in the whole world. I shit you not, as we were on our way there, he enthusiastically asked, “Do I get to have a shot?!” and I was all, “Maybe, if you’re really good.” And he did get a shot, and he was the most amazing 3-year-old getting a shot ever, because he wasn’t scared of it and thought it was a good thing and it didn’t even occur to him that it would hurt. (FYI, he had seen the dogs get shots a few weeks earlier and I think it really helped that he knew he was getting a shot just like Sadie and Coltrane and Peaches.)
And I understand this power I have, but sometimes I’m too exhausted and fed up to use it. Those are the times I feel like a bad parent. Not that I am a bad parent, but sometimes I’m all, fuck, I’m terrible at this and can’t handle anything. We all have those feelings, don’t we? The best prescription for this is the same as the best prescription for any time you’re mad or sad or feeling out of sorts or have just been dumped or are on the verge of losing hope: Put on some headphones, crank Girl Talk’s All Day all the way up, and run as fast as you reasonably can for a while.
I did this today and felt much, much better. Then Peaches escaped from our fortified yard and I’m pretty sure I appeared to be an irresponsible, asshole dog owner to our awesome and helpful neighbor. Then I drove around the neighborhood with a shoeless and jacketless Soren, chasing the dog who suddenly decided she didn’t have to listen to me and looked at me like she didn’t even know me. I’d find her, pull the car over, get out, say “Peaches come!” and when she ran off, I’d get back in the car, find her, pull the car over, etc. I can think of two times a dog has gotten out of our yard in the past 5 years and it always freaks me out like nothing else. Dogs get hit by cars. This isn’t cool. You don’t really want a Rottweiler running around the neighborhood. I followed her and followed her until eventually she found something to eat in someone’s yard off Gilpin and something in the 20s and I got her. She was safe and we went home and then I cried for like half an hour while Soren said, over and over, “Don’t cry, mommy! Be happy!” This is the first time he’s seen me cry.
I can always do better tomrrow.