Sleep, You Fickle Friend

Ah, sleep, how I adore you.

Twenty-something me was a sleeper. Even when I was living on my own, I knew the importance of a good night’s rest and would pack it in at nine or ten if I was tired. Pull an all-nighter to study for an exam? Me? My motto was I know what I know and staying up won’t cram any more psychology facts into this brain. May as well go to bed. Some roommates suggested it was an avoidance tactic, I preferred to call it strategic, peaceful oblivion designed for optimal test-writing performance.

I could drift off anywhere if I was tired. Loud party? Snoozing. Watching a squash game? Napping on the gym bags. As a child, my friends thought I was hiding so well that I didn’t want to give up my primo spot, but I had fallen asleep behind a chair and didn’t hear them declare that round of Hide-and-Seek was over.

Sleep and I were best friends. I could not relate to people who struggled to sleep well or, even moreso, those who deliberately chose to get up earlier than necessary. Sure, going for a predawn walk is good for you, but you know what else your body needs? Sleep. Yes, you can get a lot accomplished in the early hours of the morning, but you know what else you can do? Sleep.

My thirties came along and so did four adorable sleep robbers. My memories of these eight years are disjointed and vague. This could be due to the sleep deprivation or my tendency to squash any stressful memories into a teeny-tiny box, never to be opened, but who’s to say? I recall panicking and unable to remember where I put the baby that I was holding in my arms at the time. More than once I woke in the morning baffled as to why I was wearing a completely different set of clothes than the ones I had worn to bed. And then there is the repeated occurrence of being scared by creepy toddlers standing silently at my bedside.

As I entered my forties, my children entered their best sleeping years. No more middle of the night wake-ups. They could stumble to the washroom on their own. There were the occasional nightmares, vomiting, and nosebleeds, but for the most part, sleep and I were reunited. It was a glorious and brief season.

Friends who were ahead of me in life and the parenting journey tried to warn me, but I was in blissful denial. My children were independent and so now I would make up for all those years of choppy sleep. Ha ha ha. No.

Fun fact: as kids grow up, they stay up later. And later. And cook a full meal at eleven. AT NIGHT. They also have no idea how to do things, anything, quietly.

This was an unexpected turn of events, but I was up to the challenge. Hello, melatonin and earplugs. I still had back-to-school dreams and some mornings I was up much earlier than necessary (and completely against my will) but overall sleep and I were once again on friendly terms.

We are now the parents of teens. Teens who have part time jobs. Jobs we strongly encouraged them to get. We expected them to gain responsibility, work skills, life experiences, and a paycheque. They have. They never miss a shift and give us lots of notice of their schedule so we can give them a lift. I did not, however, expect that one of our children would be slotted for a nightshift from time to time. Goodbye, sleep, it was nice while it lasted.

A fun discovery of parenting teens is that I don’t sleep well when they aren’t home. I also don’t sleep well if I am worried about sleeping through my alarm (please see melatonin and ear plug reference above) to do an early morning pick-up. Some night shifts he can go home early if all the work is completed. On these nights we have a protocol:

  1. Text Mom for a ride.
  2. Text again if no reply.
  3. Call. The text notification has been incorporated into her dream.

Usually I sleep very lightly on these nights and there is no need to move to step two. However, we have this protocol for a reason and the other night it had to be implemented.

I’ve told you the truth, I am a very light sleeper. Until I am not. If I do get into that sweet spot of a nice, deep, sleep it is anyone’s guess what disoriented-me will do. So when the phone rang at 5:21am recently, I was certain it was my alarm and I frantically hit it so I wouldn’t wake the baby (the baby is eleven and sleeps soundly in his own room). It took me a full beat to comprehend my oldest was not already home and asleep, but was instead calling me for a ride. BUT I PULLED IT TOGETHER and groggily lied/exaggerated, “I’m on my way.”

I pulled on a hoodie, popped a piece of gum and was on my way. Another successful early morning pick-up complete. As the parents of teens who guided me years ago, gentle reader, this story has a few take-aways I will now pass along to you:

  1. Car seats are cold and thin pajama pants do nothing to mitigate that.
  2. Any street is creepy and full of potential serial killers at 5am.
  3. Gum does very little to rid you of morning breath.
  4. Check your camera roll and remove any evidence that you were anything but calm, cool, and collected when your child phoned you.

I definitely didn’t frantically hit all the buttons in an attempt to stop the noise.

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Author: Jan Moyer

Embracing my inner child since 2005.

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