Last night something a little strange happened. At approximately 3:34am, I was woken up by a little person standing beside my bed ‘rowing’. Yes, rowing. Little hands flapping madly, face intense. At that speed, he would have overtaken the Awesome Foursome.
Me: What on earth are you doing?
Child: ‘Cause I like it.
I thought sleepless nights would be limited to the baby stage. Apparently not. I don’t know about other people, but I still get woken frequently for a variety of reasons, ranging from:
- There’s someone in the garage.
- I had a dream that you were eaten alive by a zombie/dinosaur/giant moth.
- There’s a kid at school called Jonah/Ben/Oliver who… (insert badly constructed story with absolutely no point)
- I think there’s someone in the garage again.
After I instructed my child to row back to bed, I found myself recalling their baby years. I have friends going through it now, and I feel that nothing- not all your biggest nights out of your 20s combined- can prepare you for the exhaustion that a sleepless baby can cause.
The difference is that this kind of exhaustion is deeply emotional. You know that you love this little screaming demon. You tell yourself over and over that you’re an excellent parent, as you pace the hallway trying to chase away thoughts about the ridiculous things you could do to stop this baby crying.
I know this isn’t popular material, but I’m putting it out there anyway. Because like me, there are women who see people pushing prams at the shops with blissful smiles on their well rested faces, and wonder if they are somehow broken. At the height of my sleepless delirium, I legitimately considered anonymously dropping my bundle of babies back to the hospital for a night. They’d be safe, and I would go to a hotel room nearby, have a bath and SLEEP.
My hands would twitch nervously every time I went past the hospital exit. The delirious little daydream would play out in my mind, and I would exhale like an athlete from the exhaustion of not succumbing to temptation. I never would have done it of course (partly because I was always appeared in handcuffs on Chanel 7 at the end of my daydream). But this, and many other scenarios where I’ve been a less than perfect parent have created something very important in my life: opportunities to forgive myself and grow.
Now that my children are older and I am functioning with slightly less sleep deprivation, my weaknesses as a parent are sadly more visible to my sons. There are times that I shout, that I’m tired, inconsistent, preoccupied, dramatic and rough. I feel terrible shame; but I do believe that there is so much power in a parent’s genuine apology to a child.
It tells them two things:
It’s ok to be wrong sometimes.
And you are important enough for me to admit it.
(sorry boys about wanting to return you to the hospital)