I collapse into the smooth black leather Eames chair, the epitome of cool and comfort, bent plywood crafted into a squishy seat. I think this thing is so amazing, one of my kids shares a middle name with it. I can feel my body giving way to relaxation, as if bedtime granted voiceless permission. I notice the sensation of my breath for the first time all day, finally hearing my own thoughts, ginger chamomile tea in one hand and “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero in the other. Heh, am I? Yeah... no, absolutely not. I've been trying to get through this thing for an unjustifiable amount of time, just like the other six books that are scattered throughout the house, adorning toilet lids, kitchen counter tops, pantry shelves, and nightstand drawers. They're everywhere, just in case the rare moment arises where I can indulge enough to open one.
And then it begins. I should've known my solution would crash and burn after two days of short lived successes. She’s crying. My muscles tense back up immediately, cortisol coursing through my veins. It escalates quickly into shrill screams, “I waaaaant Mommmyyyyyyyyyyyy.” I decide I'm going to wait it out. I need this moment, and if I go upstairs, it's going to end with a toddler sleeping on my face, me in bed way too early, without any time to decompress from the constant parenting that just transpired all.day.long. I'll wake up exhausted, without any reserves to repeat the loop, patience lacking, quality parenting nonexistent.
My usual reaction to the onset of the tears is deep breathing and quiet acceptance, and sometimes she eventually succumbs to slumber. Otherwise, I kiss my husband goodnight, peacefully surrendering to motherhood, and make my way to bed without much complaint, not giving emotional energy to the sleepless night that lies ahead, reminding myself that this too shall pass. But, once or twice per year, I lose my shit.
Tonight is going to fall into that category. Sean is in his office, door closed, doing his buddy podcast. I've got the living room to myself, to act as irrational as I'd like, to be foul mouthed and full of lunacy. She's been screaming for 30 minutes now. It's clear that no one will be succumbing to anything tonight. I can feel the tension mounting, pity party assembling.
“What the f#%*k!” “Go to f#%*ing sleep!” “You're almost two years old!” I don't know who I'm yelling at, what I'm expecting from this solo, indulgent teenage-esque rant. Feeling ridiculous and completely aware of my absurdity, I continue, nonetheless. “Can’t I just get one kid that actually f#%*ing sleeps, just one!” I throw my hands up in the air, observing from the outside in, curious enough as to how far I'm going to take it, to allow more. “Eight years I've been dealing with this shit.” I halfway expect her to telepathically respond with silence. Foolishness, it doesn't happen.
Eight years of not sleeping for at least four of the seven nights per week. I'm starting to look haggard. Grey hairs and crows feet arrived with the third baby, seemingly overnight. My body broke its aging threshold after the second child, skin thinning as soon as he exited the birth canal. In my defense, all of my kids have sucked at sleeping, for the first three years of their lives, and as soon as I get one kinda doing their thing, I find myself knocked up again. I’m not cut out for co sleeping, except for the fact that I'm such a light sleeper, no one will dare get rolled over on, fall out of bed, or take a blanket to the face. But, I co sleep anyway, because I breastfeed long term, don't have consistent enough energy to sleep train well (due to said poor sleepers), and wallow in a guilty conscience.
It’s not all bad. The first 20 minutes are glorious, rife with snuggles and smooshy, pliable baby flesh… and then you want to sleep. Toddler co sleeping years are of a different breed. They still want to be on your person, simultaneously taking up all the prime real estate on the bed with the rest of their bodies, limbs strewn about, and there you are clinging to the edge, with a knee in your eye socket and toes in your mouth, wondering how you're going to survive 10 hours of this, because it's only 7 pm.
“Motherf#%*er!” “I can't believe this, I'm going to have to go to bed right now!” “Damnit, I just want to sleeeeeeep tonight.” “Whyyyy? What have I done to deserve this??”
We dismantled her crib three nights ago. I had a hairbrained idea that if we put her in the boys’ room, she'd fall asleep without crying for 45 minutes. My husband thought ill of it and via silent protest, just never took the crib apart. So, after weeks of waiting, I got out the hex wrench and started doing it myself, refusing his help, and assuming it would take 10-12 minutes, as I do for all projects. “We could take that wall out and realllly open up this space, in like 10 minutes.” “I'm going to paint the downstairs bathroom black, just give me like 10 minutes.” “Let's put reclaimed wood planks on the island in the kitchen. Should run us about 10 minutes.” I exaggerate of course, but not by much.
An hour and a half later, the very cute but very janky crib, crafted from pseudo lumber, has split in two spots. It's 8:30 pm, and we’re waiting for the wood glue to dry. My husband and I have had a shouting match over my idiocy and his selfishness. Things are going great. At 9:30 the circus is over, everyone is in their respective beds, and not a tear has been shed, other than by me. I go to sleep, silently triumphant, feeling justified for my transgressions, because it worked. The next night, it worked again. That catches us up to tonight and me aimlessly cussing at the coffee table like a drunken sailor, ten rums in, and looking to brawl.
I'm not going to tie this one up with a pretty bow. It won't be coming full circle with a parenting lesson at the end.
I make my way up the stairs, looking longingly over my shoulder at the empty chair, seat still taking the shape of my body, abandoned tea on the side table, and relinquish whatever badassery I thought I was going to pull off tonight. Cuz, she wants her mommy. I pull her from the crib, the crying ends so instantaneously, it's as if a switch has been flipped. All that remains are the sporadic heaves and huffs as her body recovers from the complete giving over of itself to a tantrum, not unsimilar to that of her mother’s tantrum moments earlier, both of us wrought with desperation, to different ends.
Her body pressed against mine, arms wrapped around me, I feel my resentment melting, the sweet smell of her hair infiltrating my nostrils, softening me further. We make our way to the bed, and she nestles on top of me, her position of choice since infancy. I gently rub her tiny back and fumble with a ringlet, caving to the moment, softly whispering “it's okay baby, Mommy’s here,” over and over again until she falls asleep.