It’s sometime in the middle of the night. I don’t really have a concrete conception of time, as I’m only half awake, but if I were to guess I would say 4am. Ish. It feels like the hour has edged closer to ‘time to wake up’ than ‘time to go to bed’, but not close enough that I’m willing to actually consider getting up. Not even remotely.
My semi-nascent consciousness assesses my situation. I am in Jacob’s room and he is nursing. I don’t remember how I got here. Someone else is lying beside me – it must be Hannah. She stirs and asks for a hug, and I am less than gracious. It is “I-don’t-really-want-to-know” o’clock, after all. I’m not at my parenting best. I tell her she can cuddle up to my back, and that she should go to sleep. And I drift off again.
I have worked very hard not to know the details of my night wakings. I have turned my clock radio around, so that I can’t see it from the bed. I just don’t want to know exactly how much sleep I am missing. Who needs the tension of realizing you’re awake for the third time that night and it’s only 3:15am? Those numbers mock me, stress me out, and make it all the harder to grab what little sleep I can. So I hide them from myself, when I might be tempted to sneak a peek.
Without a clock, and with a conscious desire to ignore sleep disruptions, many of my nights are a semi-conscious haze. I have some idea of what might have happened, but I don’t really know for sure. It does not mean that I am as nice as I could be when a little person interrupts my slumber. And it does not mean that I always feel completely well-rested. But it does lessen my resentment.
I think that not really knowing is a good model for parenting in general, no matter the hour. When I enumerate all of the ways that my children push my buttons, and keep track of every little slight, it’s really overwhelming. I start to suspect that they are purposefully trying to drive me insane. I start telling myself they should know better and I can’t hang on until bedtime. I get snappy and resentful and I jump down my daughter’s throat when she asks me for a glass of milk. Because, you know, she needs to just leave me alone for 5 minutes. Just 5!
Letting go, forgetting, not keeping track is my goal. It’s not easy, being the grown-up and the mature one, when everyone around you is screaming at deafening volumes and someone just spilled their drink and we’re out of the pasta I’d planned to make for dinner. Someone has to be the grown-up, though, and until an actual adult shows up that falls to me. So I try to live in this moment and forget all of the reasons I have to be resentful. I breathe in and I breathe out, and I turn my clock around. Dinner will be late whether I know what time it is or not, no reason to beat myself up over it.
I don’t enjoy the daily chaos. I don’t like being awake in the wee small hours of the morning. I miss having clothes without stains. But if I choose not to know, if I allow myself to forget, things are better. There is no way that this tally of slights can ever be evened out, that’s just not how parenting works. I am the one who prepares meals and wipes butts, and my children are the ones who draw on the wall. So I ditch the tally as best I can. I accept what is, at least sometimes, and choose not to count the number of times I’ve been woken up or picked that toy up off the floor today.
Now, tell me. When is an actual grown-up finally going to show up? I’m not sure I can pretend for much longer.